The next instalment of The Crown is currently in production, and if there were any doubts that season five of Peter Morgan’s Netflix drama would tackle Prince Charles’s infidelity, the latest shots of Elizabeth Debicki in character as Diana, Princess of Wales have put them to rest. Paparazzi captured the willowy Tenet star filming the late royal’s grand entrance at a Vanity Fair fundraiser for the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens in 1994, when she wore an off-the-shoulder chiffon dress by Greek designer Christina Stambolian and silk Manolo Blahnik heels, entrancing the media. Making her PR coup even more noteworthy? The fact that it drowned out all coverage of her estranged husband’s ITV documentary, Charles: The Private Man, The Public Role, which aired the same night and included his confession of adultery during their marriage.
According to Stambolian, Diana had originally purchased the so-called revenge dress back in 1991, but had deemed it too risqué to wear up until that point. “[The princess] chose not to play the scene like Odette, innocent in white,” she later reflected. “She was clearly angry. She played it like Odile, in black. She wore bright red nail enamel, which we had never seen her do before. She was saying, ‘Let’s be wicked tonight!’” The late Vogue editor Anna Harvey, who styled Diana for years, put it more succinctly: “She wanted to look a million dollars–and she did.”
Lending further credence to the theory that Diana intentionally blotted out coverage of Charles’s documentary with Jonathan Dimbleby? The fact that the princess originally turned down Vanity Fair. “She had declined the invitation until two days before the event until news of the adultery quote began to leak in promotions for the broadcast,” Tina Brown writes in The Diana Chronicles. “That’s when one of the gala’s organizers, an old family friend of Diana’s, got a surprise phone call: “She said she wanted to come after all. I said, ‘What are you up to?’ And she said, ‘You’ll see.'” According to reports, the princess actually had a different Valentino gown lined up for the evening, but sketches got leaked to the press–triggering the last-minute, headline-grabbing switch.
Originally published on Vogue.co.uk