Six secrets behind Princess Diana’s wedding dress

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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 years old, Lady Di had turned into an overnight fashion icon once the couple’s engagement was announced — and the fever surrounding the wedding and what the soon-to-be princess would be wearing swept Britain (and the entire world).

While their marriage was not to last, the image of Diana’s extravagant puffed-sleeve wedding dress has stayed with royal fans for decades.

Here, we take a look back at the late Princess of Wales’ wedding gown — and some little-known facts about the iconic look.

Her dress designers initially thought the job request was a joke.

David and Elizabeth Emanuel
British fashion designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel became the lucky ones to create Lady Diana Spencer’s gown.
Getty Images

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 ultimately selected to design her gown — and the pair actually thought they were being pranked at first.

Although the couple had made several outfits for the soon-to-be bride in the run-up to the wedding, they never expected to design for one of the biggest royal events in history.

“We got a call to say, ‘Would you do the honor of making the wedding gown?’” David told Hello! in 2020. “But when we weren’t in the running in the press, I thought, gosh, perhaps it was a hoax call? But later, she did ring back, it must have been a month or so later.”

Unlike Kate Middleton or Meghan Markle’s wedding dress designers, which were kept fiercely under wraps until the morning of those nuptials, information about Diana’s was released to the press.

“When it was finally announced, my tiny little studio got besieged with cameras in a matter in minutes,” David said, sharing that he “raced around to a store on Oxford Street to order roller blinds quickly and the roller blinds went down and stayed down until the day.”

Diana’s gown wasn’t actually white — and for good reason.

Princess Diana wedding gown
A sketch of the wedding gown by the Emanuels.
PA Images via Getty Images

Featuring huge puffed sleeves, bows, lace and 10,000 seed pearls, the silk taffeta gown inspired bridal trends throughout the 1980s — and endless copies rolled out so that eager brides could get the look.

The dress’ ivory shade “was so flattering to her English rose complexion,” Elizabeth Emanuel told the Daily Mail. “I find that white lace tends to look cheap. Ivory enhanced Diana’s pale, natural beauty.”

As for the style’s over-the-top, poofy silhouette, she told the publication that “inspiration came from everywhere.”

“I tracked down every book I could find on royal weddings from history: Queen Victoria; her daughter, Princess Beatrice; Queen Mary,” she said. “And I watched all my favorite old films: ‘The Leopard,’ ‘Gone With The Wind,’ ‘Barry Lyndon.’”

Its train was the longest in royal history.

Princess Diana wedding gown
Diana’s dress wowed royal fans with its jaw-dropping train.
Getty Images

The Emanuels set out to make a splash when it came to Diana’s gown, and they certainly delivered — its 25-foot train is the longest of any royal wedding dress in history.

“St. Paul’s is enormous, huge – you couldn’t do a low-key little gown,” David Emanuel told The Guardian.

While researching royal wedding gowns, the couple “found out the largest royal train was twenty foot,” David told Today — so they set out to make one even longer.

“I remember giggling to Diana and saying, ‘Oh gosh, we’ve got to beat that!’ And she said, ‘Oh, okay, shall we make it 23 foot? Shall we make it 25?’ We arrived at 25 foot!”

In fact, the train was so long that the safe the Emanuels stored it in every night couldn’t fit through the door of their studio, so the couple ended up having “to hire a crane.”

“They had to take out the window, sail it into the building,” David told Today.

The designers were “horrified” about the gown’s wrinkles.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles
Princess Diana’s gown was incredibly wrinkled after her carriage ride to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Getty Images

One of the aspects of Diana’s dress that’s often criticized is how wrinkled it looked on her wedding day.

Speaking during a 2018 ITV special called “Invitation to the Royal Wedding,” Elizabeth said (via The Mirror) that the pair figured “it would crease a bit,” but not to the extent it did while Diana was traveling to the church.

“When I saw her arrive at St. Paul’s and we saw the creasing, I actually felt faint,” the designer recalled.

“I was horrified, really, because it was quite a lot of creasing. It was a lot more than we thought.”

A backup dress existed that no one knew about.

The princess’ gown went on display at Kensington Palace in 2021, but there’s actually a secret second version that was never used.
Samir Hussein/WireImage

When it came to Diana’s dress, the Emanuels weren’t taking any risks — so they created a second, different gown just in case.

As Elizabeth told the Daily Mail, the backup style was similar to Princess Di’s original, but slightly more simple; it lacked all the lace trim, and featured a shorter sleeve and different bodice.

“It was only three-quarters finished — we simply didn’t have time to make it in its entirety, so none of the embroidery or finishing touches were done,” she explained to the publication.

“At the time we wanted to make absolutely sure that the dress was a surprise,” David added in a People interview.

“We didn’t try it on Diana. We never even discussed it. We wanted to make sure that we had something there; it was for our own peace of mind, really.”

So, where is this mysterious gown now? No one actually knows.

“It was hanging up 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 into storage. It was such a busy time. I’m sure it’ll turn up in a bag one day!”

Diana stained her dress with perfume right before the wedding.

Diana clutched the front of her wedding dress to hide a perfume stain.
Getty Images

According to People, Lady Di chose Quelques Fleurs ($285), a romantic scent from Parisian perfumer Houbigant, for her big day.

However, the perfume — which requires “more than 15,000 flowers” to create a one-ounce bottle, according to the brand — ended up all over Diana’s dress just minutes before she walked down the aisle.

“I’ve just put my perfume on and I’ve 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.

Panicking that “they’ll kill me!” the bride turned to Daly, who tried to remove the stain without success.

Although Elizabeth Emanuel told the Daily Mail they created an extra skirt that could have been attached over the gown “just in case she spilt something down herself on the day,” it turns out there wasn’t enough time for that.

“Do you think if I just tuck the front in they’ll never notice?” Diana asked her makeup artist, per the book; Daly agreed that the royal bride should hold the front of the dress to conceal the stain, pretending like she was trying not to trip on the long hem.

Luckily, it worked, and no one was the wiser about the royal spill.


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