Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but it pays to look hot when you serve it.
As Princess Diana knew well, nothing screams ‘look what you’re missing’ like a sexy little black dress. It’s why the short, off-the-shoulder black one she wore in 1994 is the most famous revenge dress in history.
Many women have tried to replicate Diana’s look in the intervening years, but its unique combination of slinkiness and sass has proved elusive. Until now. Thanks to the Swedish retail giant H&M, a dead ringer for Diana’s LBD by Christina Stambolian will soon be available on the British High Street, at a price far keener than the designer original.
The dress in question is by Mugler x H&M, one of the most hotly anticipated High Street/designer collaborations of the year. Nor is it the only item worth coveting from the collection, which launches on May 11.
Based on signature and archive pieces from Manfred Thierry Mugler, the visionary French designer who changed the face of fashion in the 1980s, the range of womenswear, menswear and accessories offers a rare opportunity for customers to shop the designer’s most iconic looks without breaking the bank.
Now 66, Jerry Hall looks sensational in Mugler x H&M’s version of Diana’s ‘revenge’ dress
As Princess Diana knew well, nothing screams ‘look what you’re missing’ like a sexy little black dress
If ever a woman was in need of a revenge dress, it is Hall. Not content with abruptly calling time on their six-year marriage via email, her ex-husband Rupert Murdoch (pictured together) announced this year that he was getting engaged
For those unfamiliar with Mugler’s style, this is the perfect time to get acquainted with his weird and wonderful world.
His life was as eccentric as his clothes, and he counted all the celebrities of the day as his friends. It’s no surprise that a promotional video for Mugler x H&M stars Jerry Hall, the supermodel who was the designer’s muse in his heyday.
Now 66, Hall looks sensational in Mugler x H&M’s version of Diana’s dress. Like the original, it is black, figure-hugging and falls just above the knee, with sleeves that tumble seductively off Hall’s shoulders, emphasising her shoulder bones and decolletage. ‘Oh baby, I feel so good,’ she purrs in the video. And she looks good, too.
Hall’s timing is impeccable, for if ever a woman was in need of a revenge dress, it is she. Not content with abruptly calling time on their six-year marriage via email, her ex-husband Rupert Murdoch announced this year that he was getting engaged.
Perhaps Hall’s revenge dress is imbued with special powers; shortly after she was shot wearing it, Murdoch’s engagement was called off. Could the 92-year-old media mogul be so stricken with regret at the sight of Hall that at this moment he is begging for forgiveness and sending dozens of roses to the Oxfordshire estate they once shared?
I jest, yet Hall certainly knew the connotations of the dress style she wore so well.
Never underestimate the power of a good frock. That was a principle Thierry Mugler, a designer far ahead of his time, understood, having created thousands. His shows were carefully choreographed spectacles, featuring eye-catching theatrics that might have been created for the social media age.
Dress, £149.99, hm.com; tights, £12.99, calzedonia. com
Top, £79.99 and trousers, £79.99, both hm.com; shoes, £59.99, mango.com
He also pioneered the idea of celebrity guests, sitting famous names from the day (Linda Hamilton, Grace Jones) in his front row, as well as enlisting them to model (Diana Ross, Brigitte Nielsen, Sharon Stone).
He was one of the first designers to treat his catwalk shows as entertainment. In 1984, he sold tickets for his show at the Zenith, then Paris’s biggest arena: 6,000 fans attended, making the event more like a rock concert than a preview of his new collection.
Unsurprisingly for a designer who borrowed much of his stagecraft from the world of musical entertainment, his clothes were hugely popular with rock gods and goddesses. David Bowie wore a pink Mugler dress in a video for his 1979 single Boys Keep Swinging.
Madonna and Celine Dion enlisted him to design their stage costumes, as did Beyonce, commissioning him in 2009 to make 58 outfits for her world tour. More recently, singers Lady Gaga and Cardi B chose to wear gowns from his archive on the red carpet.
Dress, 69.99, hm.com; shoes, £32.99, zara.com
The most iconic music marriage of all was surely Mugler’s contribution to George Michael’s 1992 Too Funky video, in which the supermodels of the day, including Eva Herzigova, Linda Evangelista and Tyra Banks, were costumed in his striking designs.
Musicians recognised that a Mugler outfit had a unique ability to make an impact. Subtle, he wasn’t; his favoured silhouette was an inverted triangle characterised by oversized shoulders and a narrow waist. Even in the era of power shoulders, Mugler’s stood out, literally. Woe betide any wearers trying to squeeze through a narrow door —they had to enter sideways.
His favourite fabrics further emphasised his eye-catching designs. He loved to work with leather, Latex and high-shine PVC, borrowing from the boudoir and using corsetry to emphasise a woman’s curves. His clothes clung to the body, highlighting its voluptuousness and power.
Blazer, £229, and trousers, £79.99, both hm.com; shoes, £100, dune.com
Dress, £119.99, hm.com; shoes, £59.99, mango.com
Under Mugler’s gaze, women looked like superheroes. He wasn’t interested in dressing waifs but gravitated towards strong, charismatic women. Those who fitted the bill would be called on to display his clothes, even if they weren’t models.
Mugler died in January last year, aged 73, leaving a legacy as important as that of household names such as Christian Dior and Gianni Versace.
A true pioneer, he was said to have invented the first ‘naked’ dress in 1995, sending supermodel Claudia Schiffer down his catwalk in a sheer mesh fishtail gown dripping with crystals. Other iconic designs included a ‘motorcycle’ corset whose bodice mimicked the front of a Harley Davidson (1992); trousers that revealed the wearer’s bottom (1995); a skirt suit made out of a rubber tyre (1997) and a metal bodysuit that made its model look like a robot (1995).
In 2019, he came out of retirement to dress Kim Kardashian for the Met Gala. Her skin-tight, wet-look dress took eight months to make and became the event’s biggest talking point.
Happily for those who lack the confidence of a Kardashian, there are no wet-look dresses in Mugler x H&M. But there are plenty that are just as eye-catching — and guaranteed to make an impact.
For those of a more practical bent, there are also everyday items including tailored jackets and trousers, as well as classics including a leather trenchcoat.
A classic black blazer is £149.99, a little black dress is £79.99 and Jerry Hall’s black velvet dress is £229.99.
These are clothes to see and be seen in, whether you’re dressing for the office, a party… or revenge.