When a high-profile couple splits up, a media frenzy often surrounds them, and meticulous attention is paid to their every move. This includes who they’re seeing, what they’re eating (and if they’re losing weight) and—perhaps more than anything else—what they’re wearing.
After seeing a slew of recent headlines splashed across the Internet about stars post-breakup looks (“Taylor Swift‘s Revenge Cleavage Strikes Again!”), we decided to dig a little deeper. We observed stars who have recently gone through splits, analyzed their sartorial choices, hypothesized as to what exactly was behind their style evolutions, and even consulted a psychologist who specializes in breakups.
Obviously, splitting with a long term partner instantly incites the desire to change something. “When people are coupled, their styles often reflect their lives with their partners. In essence, style is a compromise. For example, a woman who dresses provocatively may tone down her look to please or not embarrass her partner,” said Dr. Irene Levine, Psychology and Professor of Psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. “Someone who tends to be conservative may dress more flamboyant to be part of a couple. A breakup might allow someone more freedom to dress or accessorize in a fashion that is truer to her sense of individual style.”
Some famous folks, like Swift, clearly embrace the philosophy that the best way to get over someone is to take pains to look their absolute best, and her recent wardrobe choices following her breakup with Harry Styles (which, in fairness to the aforementioned headline, have been particularly cleavage-heavy) reflect that.
“Swift is four years older than Styles. She may be trying to portray herself as a mature woman ready for a more mature relationship. Her cleavage display suggests that she is available—looking for new relationships and the interest of other men,” noted Levine.
While Swift’s “revenge style” is essentially focused around finding her next mate, others, such as Liberty Ross, take a different approach. After her husband Rupert Sanders was caught in the midst of an alleged affair with Kristen Stewart, Ross hit the town in ultra-chic ensembles that showed off her enviable figure, and she even hit the catwalk for designer and close friend Alexander Wang during Spring 2013 fashion week in New York.
“Ross may have been trying to convey that she felt composed, self-confident, self-sufficient and not fearful about facing the public. Her behavior may also suggest she feels ready to assert her independence and move on. She didn’t remain crying and instead made public appearances,” Levine explained. Ross did manage to get one dig in there: She recently posed completely nude for Love magazine, and looked amazing.
Of course, jealousy can be a major motivator when it comes to post-breakup dressing. Take for instance Demi Moore who at 49 years old was publicly disgraced when her longtime husband Ashton Kutcher (16 years her junior) was caught cheating, and turned to age-inappropriate outfits, presumably to boost her confidence.
“When you have a humiliating, very public breakup, it can shatter your self-esteem. In the case of Moore, it may have made her more cognizant of the age difference between her and Kutcher. She may have started dressing younger to show the world that she still was a very attractive, desirable person,” Levine said.
Clearly, celebrities seek validation after the end of a relationship in many ways, but none as blatant as their style choices. In the slideshow above, we’ve compiled some of the best examples of revenge style—and what the ladies hoped to accomplish with their looks.