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Many of us have been ‘revenge dressing’ these last few months, maybe without even realizing it. I first heard the term while I was on a trip to NYC for Fashion Week, and it piqued my interest, so I did a little research. Turns out, revenge dressing is nothing new.

What is ‘revenge dressing’?

Today, revenge dressing is showing up in the way we are approaching style after the pandemic … COVID revenge. Our outfits are the outward expression of feelings shaped by experiences we’ve missed this past year-and-a-half. It’s dressing intentionally with outfits that are bold, extravagant, expressive, and definitely colorful. It’s dressing just a little ‘extra’ and ‘finished.’

Women are going out in style after staying inside and wearing loungewear or business casual from the waist up for the past 18 months. We are enjoying getting ready, looking forward to dressing for events, and pulling ourselves together in a big way.

Black dress and heels

The numbers don’t lie! Global fashion search platform Lyst recorded a 197% increase in online searches for high heels and a 176% increase in online searches for dresses in 2021.

Once I became aware of the concept, I realized many of us are revenge dressing, whether we intend to or not! We’re making up for lost time with our daywear, workwear, and dressy outfits. We’re celebrating the return of events and the opportunity to come out from behind our masks. As a result, fashion is bursting at the seams!

How It Started

The term ‘revenge dress’ first emerged in 1994 after Diana, Princess of Wales, first wore a stunning, low-cut black dress to a dinner at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens. (You know the one! Diana emerging from the back of a vehicle wearing said dress will forever be an iconic moment in fashion.) The dress has been interpreted as having been worn “in revenge” for the televised admission of adultery by her husband Charles that very evening.

Fast forward to 2021, and revenge dressing has emerged as a fashion statement. But, instead of sticking it to Prince Charles, women are dressing to the nines to make up for lost time.

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How It’s Showing Up

Lots of Color, Texture, and Self-Expression!

Many women are taking more fashion risks, determined to have a little fun with their choices — whether they’re trying colors they never would have worn pre-pandemic, or pulling out all the stops with high-end pieces they’d previously reserved only for special occasions.

Bold red jumpsuit set from Alice + Olivia

Revenge red! She’s looking powerful, decked out head to toe in the bold color of this season. Image: Alice + Olivia

Metallic shirt and jacket showing revenge dressing trend

Don’t be afraid to shine! Metallics are a great way to infuse a little polished fun into an otherwise neutral look. Images: Alice + Olivia and AllSaints

Woman in Longline Plaid Coat

This longline coat brings a little extra attitude! Image: A.L.C.

Neutral blazer and neutral leather pants

Skip the yoga pants! Opt for polished daywear looks with neutral pops for a ‘finished’ daytime look. Images: Veronica Beard and FRAME

Green leather dress from REVOLVE showing revenge dressing trend

Vegan leather is opening up a world of options with easily accessible animal-inspired textures and colors! Image: REVOLVE

Faux fur coat from Saks Fifth Avenue

Pull out the stops with faux leather and fur. Don’t be afraid to double up! Image: Saks Fifth Avenue

Model wearing snail-shaped purse from Kate Spade

Self-expression … the perfect revenge! Image: Kate Spade

Dresses and High Heels

Google defines pandemic revenge dressing as ‘melodrama and excess,’ and this is actually backed by financial data on ‘revenge shopping’ habits. Global fashion search platform Lyst recorded a 197% increase in online searches for high heels and a 176% increase in online searches for dresses in 2021.

Dressing up is BACK!

Green Bergdorf Goodman dress showing revenge dressing trend

This dress features a rich color with lace overlay and a flowing velvet belt. Image: Bergdorf Goodman

Bright blue satin dress from ZARA

This striking blue dress is ideal for an elevated casual occasion. Image: ZARA

Fringe bootie from Bergdorf Goodman showing revenge dressing trend

High heels and fringe give this boot loads of character, while the neutral color makes it a versatile choice. Image: Bergdorf Goodman

Mach and Mach pearl heel from Nordstrom

This perfectly fancy heel is from Nordstrom’s new line, Mach and Mach, is lined with pearl and rhinestone details. Image: Nordstrom

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Eye-Catching Accessories

Over-the-top statement accessories are showing up in current trends, and these are a few favorites I’ve seen lately. They are definitely a little excessive — but fabulously so. Major revenge!

Moschino hairdryer purse showing revenge dressing trend

This snap-closure blow dryer novelty bag from Moschino is a little on the wild side, but so much fun! (And our blow dryers are seeing more action these days, too!) Image: Moschino

Furry Tibi heel

This fur shoe takes revenge dressing into the cooler months. (Be sure to check the weather forecast before rocking a shoe like this one!) Image: Tibi

Black and pink rain boot for revenge dressing trend

Even practical staples like rain boots are having a little extra fun! Image: Nordstrom

Revenge dressing embraces our feelings of joy, hope, and confidence through fashion. We’ve missed a lot, and revenge dressing is a trend we are embracing — even if merely by accident. It feels great to get out, live life, and make a bold statement with our style. Embrace it!

Cynthia can be found online at cynthiakelleystyle.com or on Instagram. Got a burning question for an upcoming Style File? Email us at [email protected].

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