Taylor Swift has us thinking about revenge—more specifically, what we’d wear to commit it. The singer released her highly anticipated album Midnights last night at (of course) midnight. On the track “Vigilante Shit”, Swift returns to her Reputation-era themes of vengeance, with the refrain “lately I’ve been dressing for revenge”. Ah, the fantasy of looking absolutely perfect in front of someone who has wronged you. What could be more aspirational?
The ultimate revenge dress is, of course, the off-the-shoulder black Christina Stambolian dress that Diana, Princess of Wales wore while her former husband then-Prince Charles was admitting to an affair with current Queen Consort Camilla. Upstaging your ex on a national stage just by wearing a perfectly fitting LBD is a universal dream, even if the high stakes of Diana’s specific circumstances are a little less relatable.
Other entrants into the canon of revenge dresses include the black lace catsuit Bella Hadid was sewn into for the 2017 Met Gala. Semi-sheer and with a deep U-neck in the back, the look was a powerful statement on its own—but the deliciousness came from the fact that her ex, The Weeknd, was walking the carpet with his new flame, Selena Gomez, at the same time. (Who knows if this factored into Hadid’s decision to wear such a sexy catsuit, but it made for some thrilling celebrity theatre and Twitter speculation.)
In 1997, Mariah Carey appeared on the VMAs red carpet in a black two-piece crop top and skirt with a high leg slit (sense a theme?). She was recently separated from her ex-husband and Sony CEO Tommy Mottola, and that look represented her newfound sensuality and fresh public image.
So what makes the perfect revenge dress? Sultry, black, and revealing is a recurring formula, but Swift has chosen a different tactic for the Midnights promo tour. If we’re assuming she’s currently dressing for revenge on the red carpet—though who knows when she wrote the song—it casts the high-shine, disco glam ensembles she’s chosen in a different light.
Take the Oscar de la Renta mini she wore to announce Midnights at the VMAs in August: it looked like diamond necklaces wrapped around her body more than just fabric. Later that night, she stepped out in a deep blue Moschino romper with hot pants and a white faux fur jacket: perfect for Studio 54. For the Nashville Songwriter Awards in September, her most recent public appearance, Swift wore a black dress with a cutout at the waist and a leg-revealing skirt that could have been a descendent of Carey’s. These looks have clearly demarcated a new era for Swift—and if there was anybody who she was trying to send a message to, I’ll bet they heard it loud and clear.
This story was originally published on British Vogue.