Hhow the pandemic wiped out the “revenge dress”? This week, Kacey Musgraves teased her new album and short film. Star crusader. The releases come after their divorce and there are deep echoes of Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Billed as a “tragedy told in three acts”, the film uses fashion to tell the story of their breakup, but there is no “revenge dress” look.
Instead, we saw Musgraves in a series of outfits that seemingly symbolize a mix of tragedy and catharsis. There is a wedding dress that is worn subversively with some extra high heels and beaded eyebrows. There’s a bunch of red tulle, a ski mask, and some angel wings. A close-up image of a corset With a Small Sword Through It was posted on his Instagram page after the teaser was posted.
“The corset could be a reference to the confinements of what she perceives marriage to be,” says Dr. Dawnn Karen, author of Dress Your Best Life. In one scene, Musgraves is apparently equipped with a silver cuirass (echoing the one worn by Cardi B in Lizzo’s Rumors video). “Maybe they are sewing it so they can go out into the world again,” says Dr. Karen.
The term “revenge dress” was coined in 1994, in reference to Christina Stambolian’s black silk dress that exposed the shoulders that Princess Diana wore in a public appearance, when Prince Charles went on television to admit to infidelity in marriage.
“It’s a deeply conservative idea,” says Dr. Angela McRobbie, professor of communications at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She believes that the term Mills and Boon-ish connects to the pre-feminist narratives of Jackie magazine. “Within this claustrophobic world, the young woman who has been deceived cannot think of any other way to punish her untrustworthy lover than with extravagant displays of fashion and body.”
However, there was another layer to Diana’s visual message. “While Charles publicly admitted to his adultery with Camilla on the BBC, Diana wore a dress that completely undermined her power,” says Professor Andrew Groves of the University of Westminster. “In this dress, Diana is a woman with a new agency and authority, astute as ever in understanding the importance of images over sound in a mediated society.”
In the poster for Spencer’s movie, starring Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana, we see her burying her face in the nest of what appears to be a wedding dress. For Groves, it marks a turning point in the wardrobe. “What strikes me about this image is that Diana is drowning in this dress; it is flooding it, ”he says. “But his bulky quality is also what allows him to hide. This dress embodies the fairy tale role that the palace, the nation, and to some extent, she wished to play. It depicts a moment when she realized that instead of playing the role she was expected to do, she could take control of her own narrative and that the way she dressed could be a powerful weapon in making this a reality “.
During the Star-Crossed clip, Musgraves asks, “What if our greatest tragedies turned into our greatest triumphs?” What if, like Diana, the clothes we wear in our darkest moments became part of what helped us get through them? But there is a catch. “As we later found out with Princess Diana, there was someone incredibly unhappy and tortured beneath her expertly constructed self-presentation,” says Groves.
Years later, it was Beyoncé who developed the idea of the “revenge dress.”
In her 2016 audiovisual infidelity tour de force, Lemonade, Beyoncé changed the visual language around revenge clothing. Through the lens of black feminism, the singer incorporated elements of athleticism and prairie dress into videos for songs like Sorry, 6 Inch, and Pray You Catch Me. But it was Roberto Cavalli’s canary yellow dress that was linked to the story of Jay-Z’s supposed romance with “Beckie with good hair.” But the meaning of that is more complicated than we think.
“I don’t feel like Cavalli’s dress completely overlaps with that term other than telling a specific narrative wrapped in a historical blanket of art,” says fashion historian Darnell Jamal Lisby, who has done extensive research on the style behind Lemonade. “Cavalli’s dress could be considered a ‘revenge dress’ from a theoretical perspective because it fits with this story that she was using to communicate her frustration.”
It says that the yellow dress is a specific reference to the Nigerian goddess. Oshun and talks about bigger issues beyond revenge. Along with the lyrics and scene of Beyoncé walking, jumping down the street and smashing cars, the dress, through her West African leanings, emphasizes the rebirth she experienced as a woman not blinded by her partner’s facade, while supporting anger after discovering infidelity in their relationship. “
The conceptual idea of ”revenge clothes” still exists, but it has evolved beyond the singular. “There have always been acts of revenge, dressing up and shopping, but they used to be individualistic – people expressed themselves based on their unique personal circumstances,” says Professor Ashwani Monga of Rutgers Business School. “However, the pandemic is something that we are all going through collectively. So we are going through similar sets of emotions and we react in similar ways. “
This includes “revenge shopping” (originating in China, the idea was that people would rush after closing to buy luxury items) and “revenge dressing” (linked to dressing in flashy patterns and colors during boom times of the roar 20 years). “Revenge shopping is fad as retail therapy in general,” says Professor Groves. “Clothing has enormous power to affect how we feel about ourselves and how others feel about us. Like Princess Diana, there comes a time in life when you’re tired of being told what to do and want to indulge yourself, regardless of the repercussions. “
Professor Monga explains the thinking behind this: “If I shop for revenge, I am damaging my ‘virtuous self’ that reigned supreme during the pandemic, preventing me from spending money on frivolous and superficial consumption. Enough of that me of the good two shoes, ”he says. “At the same time, revenge shopping helps me reward my ‘vicious self’ who finally wants to let go, enjoy, and have fun after a long period full of misery.”
He says the pandemic has influenced the thought processes behind our shopping habits in different ways. “Some people have become more nihilistic, thinking that life is so unpredictable and meaningless that there is no point in planning, so there is no point in exercising self-control for a better future,” he says. “It’s best to do what you feel like doing in the moment, including revenge shopping. For them, nihilism offers a good excuse not to worry about the future, but to attend to the present ”.
Monga thinks the concept of the “revenge dress” has changed. “It is no longer about a position against other people. Rather, it is a stance against the ‘virtuous self’ itself that acted as an extravagant consumption restriction throughout the pandemic. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism