Skip to Content

The Dress That Shocked Us

The Dress That Shocked Us

A friend recently told me he disagreed with something I wrote in one of my articles: He doesn’t believe what we wear reflects our personality, and strives to be as intuitive as possible when dressing, and I thought that was exactly an example of reflecting a  personality.

Through history, fashion has been used to promote beliefs – political, sociological, personal. And pioneers were and still are beloved celebrities, some of which have truly altered the course of history, even if we are yet to see that.

The fashion industry has been setting the rules of engagement and then abolishing them in a couple of decades’ time: Don’t wear white after labor day – turned into winter white aesthetics.  Don’t wear sporty sneakers with dresses – whoopsie, now we do. 

And there was a time not too long ago when seeing a pregnant woman’s bare belly in public was no less than a profanity (if we don’t count those tactfully orchestrated, professionally taken pictures of pregnant celebrities posing naked for prestigious magazines, and I don’t believe we should). 

Rihanna – The voice of women 

Let’s take a stroll down the memory lane: The year is 2002, it’s the eighth season of Friends and Rachel is about to have a baby with Ross (spoiler alert, but is there a person alive who hasn’t seen the show by now?). She’s past her due date which is naturally making her irritable. They’re about to go to a doctor’s appointment when Ross says he will wait for her so she can change into something more appropriate. 

Naturally, she tells him where he can stick his grapes because it’s the first time she’s felt somewhat comfortable in weeks. The show goes on to depict her as neurotic and irrational throughout the whole episode.

It’s 20 years later, Rihanna announces her pregnancy while casually strolling on the streets alongside partner ASAP Rocky, her bare baby bump showing through a hot pink Chanel parka.

All throughout her first pregnancy she kept proudly showcasing her changing body as she appeared on events, went out to dinners and overall was living her best life.

A trailblazer in many things she did and continues to do, I personally am the most grateful for this one. In a society that traditionally worships naked female bodies, we’ve been awfully quiet about pregnant female bodies.

She didn’t stop there: Just last month Riri did the Super Bowl half-time show wearing an outfit that, as the first time, unambiguously announced that she was pregnant with her second child. Not only did the beloved singer and business mogul say to the world that showing pregnant bellies is okay, but she performed pregnant, sending a message directly to the philosophy of patriarchy: Women can do anything, even sing and dance on stage while growing another human life. This doesn’t make them the second sex, but the stronger one. 

As women, we sort of owe her a thank you. A thank you for using her voice to give a voice to other women, for owning her own body and telling women it’s okay to own theirs, too; a thank you for sending a message that dressing as you like is not about how different your body is. It is yours and you hold the right to bedazzle it as you see fit, or, speaking in baby steps, at least don’t have to hide it.

Lady Diana : The ‘not-a-victim’ dress

On the 29th of June 1994, an unprecedented interview in which Charles, the Prince of Wales talked about his infidelity to Lady Diana was broadcasted. The same night Lady Di made history.

By then, the couple had been separated for two years and Prince Charles had had his share of bad press, so he decided to try and salvage some of his public image by speaking candidly about his broken marriage to Jonathan Dimbleby. In the interview, he admitted to have cheated on his wife, which enraged her fan base.

But, Lady Di had an idea. Having worked out that press coverage is the bread and butter of the Royal family business, she knew the only way she could take the narrative into her own hands was to shift the spotlight onto herself.

So that is exactly what she did. She had been invited to a fundraising dinner, and at first she declined. But, two days prior to the broadcast of Charles’ interview, she changed her mind, RSVPd and sported this showstopper. 

A dress that became so well-known that it has its own Wikipedia page (I’m serious) ensured that Diana’s pictures were on all newspaper’s covers the very next day. She had successfully made Charles’ bombastic interview ‘other news’.

What I found interesting was that she had this gorgeous Christina Stambolian dress in her closet for some time, but had previously decided it was ‘too risqué’ for a Royal to wear. However, once her soon-to-be ex-husband decided to admit to having had an affair, she knew it was time to pull out the big guns. She didn’t want to be pitied, she went ahead of the game and just was a bombshell instead.

Diana knew just how loved she was by the public, and the truth is, she could have easily emerged out of that limo wearing a paper bag – the reactions would have been the same. It did help that it was a stunner, knee length, off-the-shoulder black dress. 

If We Ever Broke Up…

What is the reasoning behind the so-called revenge dressing? Do we, regulars who will not end up in newspaper headlines, really benefit from it?
In a broader sense, probably not. But, it’s the rush of dopamine from wearing something that we feel great in that will go directly to our brain, and make us move mountains – something we need in the post-breakup period.

The ‘I’m not the victim’ dressing can almost be therapeutic, like shedding skin, leaving behind the old and embracing the anticipation of the unknown.

“It’s pretty evident that as we discard our old selves that once held us back, the clothes we then pick and how we choose to style them can speak volumes on their own. “, says Jharna Pariani, the author of the ‘Fashion is Psychology’ article.

Whatever it may be, your best not-a-victim outfit plus drinks with friends topped off with a night of dancing will speed up the mourning process for at least… 30 percent? Not too shabby, I’d say. 

Harry Styles: The blue Gucci gown

Harry Styles published his debut album in 2017, the first one since he left his alma mater – boy band One Direction. Since then, he’s been in the limelight for both his music and his memorable fashion sense. 

His looks keep taking us aback, and this inclination towards unconventional expression through clothes helped him cultivate a very recognizable style. It also prompted fashion lovers to look forward to Harry Styles’ next public appearance because he won’t fail to deliver.

Wearing clothes typically associated with women’s fashion is not the first time a man has done so, but it is the first time that somebody very proper (and it doesn’t get any more proper than an ex-boy band, blue-eyed lad) has experimented with fashion in this manner.
What do I mean by this?

Famous musicians such as David Bowie and Freddy Mercury have certainly experimented with the fluidity of style, but both were at the time considered to be to say the least eccentric, so it was easy to wave off their fashion choices as ‘oh that bloody Bowie wearing silver eyeshadow’ or ‘Freddy’s band is dressed in women’s clothes again’. Moreover, Harry Styles’s golden boy image and his mainstream music (sorry Harry, but it is) ensure that his fan base is pretty large, so the fashion (and other) statements he makes will resonate with more people.

His fashion expression has raised some controversy, and in 2019 he was asked by The Guardian whether he dressed this way because he was a “straight dude, sprinkling LGBTQ crumbs that lead nowhere”. Harry replied that he wasn’t trying to be ambiguous in order to be more interesting and that he simply wore things because he liked them, which ends up being the only thing that matters. 

In the era of TikTok cores changing biweekly and trying to impose on the whole of humankind, all anyone can really do is stay one of a kind and make our own kind of music.

When all is said and done, I stand by what I said: The clothes we choose to wear do reflect our personalities. Whether it is a woman who stands up against centuries of oppression against women, a Princess who was able to find a way to send her message out from a gilded cage, or a golden boy who refuses to be put into a box.