The Real Story & Details Of Princess Diana’s Wedding Dress – Tatler


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‘It was an extraordinary occasion, she was beautiful, she was divine and it was just a simple phone call – would we do the honour of making her wedding gown’, David Emanuel told Tatler back in 2017.

Of course, Princess Diana’s wedding dress became one of the most iconic wedding dresses of all time, often dubbed the ‘most closely guarded secret in fashion history’ because few details were revealed until its debut on Diana’s wedding day.

Designed by husband-and-wife team David and Elizabeth Emanuel, a young designer couple who would suddenly find themselves propelled to the international stage, the choice was considered a patriotic one, supporting the UK’s fashion industry.

Detail of the wedding dress train

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The chosen dress was a silk-taffeta fairytale gown with Eighties era-defining puff sleeves and a 25-foot train, the longest in the history of royal wedding dresses, embellished with 10,000 mother of pearl sequins and pearls, reportedly costing an estimated £90,000.

As a good luck charm, the Emanuels attached an 18-carat gold trinket studded with white diamonds to the label and designed a matching umbrella in case it rained, although Emanuel later revealed, ‘It was made of such light material that it certainly wasn’t waterproof…it wouldn’t have done her much good!’

David Emanuel has spoken of the work ‘as the biggest job of my career.’ The designer, now divorced from former wife Elizabeth, revealed the story behind the making of the gown in numerous interviews.

‘Diana rang up like anybody else and made an appointment to try my dress designs – she initially had three or four gowns made for formal occasions,’ he told Woman’s Own.

‘The first time the public saw her in one of my gowns they were quite shocked. As a kindergarten teacher, people were used to seeing her in pretty blouses and pleated skirts. Then she got out of the limousine in a taffeta Emanuel gown and that’s when everybody said ‘oh my goodness, she looks like a movie star.”

Once her engagement was announced, Diana turned to her trusted designer with the big question.

‘Suddenly out of the blue, this phone call came into the studio and asked if we would do the honour of making her wedding dress, then it all happened very quickly.’

A sketch of the dress designed by Elizabeth Emanuel

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Emanuel had previously told Tatler that photographers would eagerly wait outside the studio following her car from the palace to dress fittings, trying to catch a glimpse of Diana’s dress as well as rummaging through the bins in the hope they’d come across the designs. However, the Emanuels were already briefed, designing a royal wedding dress required discretion like no other. Everything was locked up in a safe.

‘On the day we had everything laid out. Diana in one room, the bridesmaids in another. It was a very early start. Barbara Daley was there doing her make-up, all while her hair was in rollers. At the time she was called shy Di and if she said anything, she did blush. She was just magical, very special,’ Emanuel revealed.

‘I remember that Diana was sat in Clarence House watching a tiny portable TV, and out of the window the guards were marching by. It was hair and make-up done then a split-second fit into the dress.

‘There was a moment when I remember saying to Diana ‘did you check the hook?’ under her petticoat, and I then had visions of her dress falling apart down the aisle!’

The Prince and Princess of Wales

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He remembered, ‘She glided down the stairs, it was a magical moment when her father looked up at her and said ‘Diana, you look beautiful.”

The royal wedding day was Wednesday 29 July 1981, and much like Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding day, it was declared a bank holiday. Crowds and crowds lined the streets waving flags and an estimated 75 million people tuned into watch the ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral on the BBC which was broadcast all over the world.

Along with her dress, Princess Diana’s wedding shoes were also a big consideration. They were designed by celebrity shoemaker Clive Shilton and 20-year-old Diana was reportedly conscious not to appear taller than her husband-to-be, since her and Charles both stood at 5’10”.

Sketches of accessories by Elizabeth Emmanuel, which will be worn or carried by Lady Diana Spencer during her wedding

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After six months of collaborating with Shilton, they finally agreed on the design – satin and lace slippers, with a low-heel, intricately decorated with 500 sequins, 100 seed pearls and suede sole arches with a small ‘C’ and ‘D’ painted under the heel, a heart added between the initials.

The Wedding Shoes

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Back then, Diana probably never imagined we’d still be talking about her wedding dress in 2020 – but that’s the power of a history-defining dress, it has the ability to transcend through generations, remaining truly unforgettable.