The secrets of Princess Diana’s wedding dress
When Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles on July 29, 1981, the world waited with bated breath to see the wedding dress that would become one of the most famous of all time.
At just 19, Lady Di had become an overnight fashion icon once the couple’s engagement was announced – and the fever surrounding the wedding and what the future princess would wear swept across Britain (and the world ).
While their marriage was not to last, the image of Diana’s extravagant puff-sleeved wedding dress remained with royal fans for decades.
Here we take a look at the late Princess of Wales’ wedding dress – and some little-known facts about the iconic look.
Her clothing designers at first thought the job application was a joke.
While many expected Diana to choose a more established British fashion house for her big day, the young husband and wife team of David and Elizabeth Emanuel were eventually selected to design her dress – and the couple actually thought that they were trapped in the beginning.
Although the couple made several outfits for the bride-to-be in the run up to the wedding, they weren’t expecting to design for one of the biggest royal events in history.
“We got a call and said, ‘Do you want to do the honor of making the wedding dress?'” David told Hello! in 2020. “But when we weren’t competing in the press, I thought, gosh, maybe it was a hoax? But later she called back, it must have been a month later .
Unlike Kate Middleton or Meghan Markle’s wedding dress designers, who were fiercely kept secret until the morning of those nuptials, information about Diana’s was leaked to the press.
“When it was finally announced, my tiny little studio was besieged by cameras within minutes,” David said, sharing that he “ran to a store in Oxford Street to quickly order roller shutters and the roller shutters went down and stayed on until daylight.
Diana’s dress wasn’t actually white – and for good reason.
Featuring huge puff sleeves, bows, lace and 10,000 seed beads, the silk taffeta dress inspired bridal trends throughout the 1980s – and endless copies were rolled out for eager brides can get the look.
The ivory hue of the dress “was so flattering to her English rose complexion,” Elizabeth Emanuel told the Daily Mail. “I find white lace tends to look cheap. Ivory enhanced Diana’s pale, natural beauty.
As for the style’s exaggerated, poofy silhouette, she told the publication that “inspiration came from everywhere.”
“I tracked down every book I could find on royal weddings in history: Queen Victoria; his daughter, Princess Beatrice; Queen Mary,” she said. “And I watched all my favorite old movies: ‘The Leopard’, ‘Gone with the Wind’, ‘Barry Lyndon’.”
His train was the longest in royal history.
The Emanuels decided to make a splash when it came to Diana’s gown, and they certainly did – her 25ft train is the longest of any royal wedding dress in history.
“St. Paul’s is huge, huge – you couldn’t make a low-key little dress,” David Emanuel told The Guardian.
While researching royal wedding dresses, the couple ‘discovered that the largest royal train was twenty feet long’, David told Today – so they decided to make an even longer one.
“I remember giggling with Diana and going, ‘Oh my God, we have to beat this!’ And she said, ‘Oh, okay, are we going to do 23 feet? Are we going to do 25 feet? We got to 25 feet!
In fact, the train was so long that the safe the Emanuels stored it in each night couldn’t fit through their studio door, so the couple ended up having to “rent a crane.”
“They had to take the window out, get her into the building,” David told Today.
The designers were “horrified” by the wrinkles in the dress.
One aspect of Diana’s dress that is often criticized is how wrinkled it looked on her wedding day.
Speaking on a 2018 ITV special titled ‘Royal Wedding Invitation’, Elizabeth said (via The Mirror) that the couple thought they ‘would wrinkle a bit’, but not to the extent that Diana went to church.
“When I saw her arrive at St. Paul’s and we saw the crease, I actually felt weak,” the designer recalled.
“I was horrified, really, because it was a lot of creases. It was a lot more than we thought.”
A backup robe existed that no one knew existed.
When it came to Diana’s dress, the Emanuels weren’t taking any chances — so they created a second, different dress just in case.
As Elizabeth told the Daily Mail, the backup style was similar to Princess Di’s original, but slightly simpler; it was missing all the lace trim and featured a shorter sleeve and a different bodice.
“It was only three-quarters complete – we just didn’t have time to do it in its entirety, so none of the embroidery or finishing was done,” she explained to the publication.
“At the time, we wanted to make sure the dress was a surprise,” David added in an interview with People.
“We haven’t tried it on Diana. We never even discussed it. We wanted to make sure we had something there; it was for our own peace of mind, really.
So where is that mystery dress now? Nobody really knows.
“It hung in the studio for a long time and then it disappeared,” Elizabeth told the Daily Mail. “I don’t know if we sold it or put it in storage. It was such a busy time. I’m sure it will end up in a bag one day!
Diana stained her dress with perfume just before the wedding.
According to People, Lady Di chose a romantic fragrance by Parisian perfumer Houbigant, Deux Fleurs ($285), for her big day.
However, the scent – which takes “over 15,000 flowers” to create a one-ounce bottle, according to the brand – ended up all over Diana’s dress minutes before she walked down the aisle.
“I just put my perfume on and spilled some on the front of my dress,” Princess Diana told makeup artist Barbara Daly in an excerpt from “Diana: The Portrait” shared by the Daily Express.
Panicked that “they’re going to kill me!” the bride turned to Daly, who tried unsuccessfully to remove the stain.
Although Elizabeth Emanuel told the Daily Mail that they had created an extra skirt that could have been tied over the dress “just in case she spilled something that day”, it turns out that there was not enough time for that.
“Do you think if I just tuck in the front they’ll never notice?” Diana asked her makeup artist, according to the book; Daly agreed the royal bride should hold up the front of the dress to conceal the stain, claiming she was trying not to trip over the long hemline.
Luckily, it worked and no one knew about the royal spill anymore.