Everything to Know About Princess Diana’s Wedding Dress – Brides

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Lady Diana Spencer became Diana, Princess of Wales in what was dubbed the “Wedding of the Century” when she married Charles, Prince of Wales (now King Charles III) at St. Paul’s Cathedral on July 29, 1981. Over 750 million people tuned in across the globe to watch the royal celebration on television, while a reported 600,000 people gathered on the streets of London to personally witness Prince Charles and Lady Diana tie the knot. But that’s not the only reason why everyone tuned in: More than anything, the world wanted to catch a glimpse of Princess Diana’s awe-inspiring wedding dress.

Today, the late princess’ wedding ensemble is known as the most trendsetting and iconic bridal dress of all time—and while other royal brides have come after her, none have come close to topping the impact and cultural relevance of her sumptuous gown. It’s not just the grandeur of her getup that’s iconic, however: The history and details behind her royal frock—like how it was made, who designed it, and the second gown that was created in case of an emergency—sets it apart from the rest.

Here, we’re sharing a comprehensive look back at Princess Diana’s wedding dress. From behind-the-scene quotes from her dress designers to information on the accessories she wore, here’s everything you need to know about the former Princess of Wale’s world-renowned getup.

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Details on Princess Diana’s Wedding Dress

After 20-year-old Diana Spencer announced her engagement on February 24, 1981—wearing an 18-carat oval sapphire and diamond engagement ring (the ring now sits on Princess Catherine’s finger)—Lady Di became the girl who captured the heart of the world’s most eligible bachelor. What the world didn’t realize, however, is that the soon-to-be royal’s wedding dress would surpass her bauble’s fame, becoming one of the most influential and recognizable bridal pieces to date.

Designed by former husband-and-wife duo David and Elizabeth Emanuel, the silk-and-taffeta wedding dress was hand-embroidered with mother-of-pearl sequins and an estimated 10,000 pearls. It also featured lace-trimmed puff sleeves, a ruffled neckline, a ball gown silhouette, and an awe-inspiring 25-foot train—a detail Lady Di didn’t see until days before the big day!

During an exclusive interview with Hello!, Elizabeth shared that the design team wasn’t able to fully show Diana her dress (and train) until the final dress fitting. “We had a final fitting at Buckingham Palace, where—for the first time—we were able to unravel the train because our showroom was very small,” the designer explained. “So we had to wait until we went to the palace and use one of the corridors to unroll the train, which is 25 feet long!” Though Princess Diana and her mother were stunned at first, they eventually expressed their happiness with the “theatrical” and “dramatic” look. “She was just lovely, really kind of easygoing. We never had any special instructions about how to make the wedding dress. That added a bit to the fun of it all, made it bit of an adventure,” Elizabeth told People in another interview.

David also opened up to Express regarding his inspiration for Diana’s wedding gown, sharing, “I wanted the dress to reflect that she was going in as Lady Diana Spencer and coming out as the Princess of Wales,” he said. “St Paul’s Cathedral was very grand.” He even told British Vogue, “It was all about drama and making Diana a fairytale princess. The gown was typical of early ’80s style—overblown, romantic, flouncy—but we had to get it right because we knew it would go down in history.” What’s most impressive, though, is that David and Elizabeth designed Princess Diana’s gown in complete secrecy, code-naming their famous client “Deborah” and hiring security to keep the princess’ design under wraps.

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Details on Princess Diana’s Wedding Accessories

Princess Diana tapped royal cobbler Clive Shilton to create matching shoes that featured the letters C and D (you guessed it, for Charles and Diana) in pearl-encrusted, lace floral appliqués. She then completed her famous ensemble with the Spencer family tiara atop a 40-foot-long veil, which was hand-embroidered by Peggy Umpleby and featured more than 450 feet of tulle and 10,000 micro-pearls.

According to Vogue, since the Emanuels were the only people who knew about Princess Diana’s dress, they helped conceptualize the design of her jaw-dropping veil. “I asked that the tiny mother-of-pearl sequins looked as if they were scattered on the tulle,” Elizabeth shared about the instructions she gave Umpleby. “As the sequins were almost transparent, only the sparkles of light would be visible, creating a fairy dust effect. We used the same sequins on the gown itself, so that it would also sparkle as Diana walked down the aisle.”

Aside from her fashion accessories, Princess Di also donned a cascading bouquet of gardenias, stephanotis, freesias, orchids, lily of the valley, Earl Mountbatten roses (a tribute to Charles’s late uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten), ivy, veronica, and myrtle (a royal wedding tradition).

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Details on Princess Diana’s Second Wedding Dress

Did you know that the Emanuels created a second, backup wedding gown in case their original creation was leaked to the press? “At the time we wanted to make absolutely sure that the dress was a surprise,” David told People. “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.”

“The dress was made in pale ivory silk taffeta with embroidered scalloped details on the hem and sleeves,” Elizabeth told Hello! about the dress look. “Tiny pearls were sewn on the bodice.” An image of the second dress was also shared with the publication, highlighting details like a V-neck with ruffled trim, three-quarter-length sleeves, and a ball gown skirt (a similar—but not identical—design to the ensemble the princess actually wore).

Where is that dress now? “I don’t know if we sold it or put it into storage,” Elizabeth shared with the Daily Mail before Meghan and Harry’s royal wedding. “It was such a busy time. I’m sure it’ll turn up in a bag one day!” However, the designer has since recreated a version of the backup dress to be viewed at the virtual Princess Diana Museum.

Much like Catherine, Princess of Wales’s long-sleeved lace Sarah Burton creation, Princess Diana’s wedding dress sparked a thousand knockoffs, with the first copycat design hitting a department store just five hours after the royal ceremony. Her big-shouldered dress continues to stand the test of time and inspire brides, and royal wedding aficionados alike, all over the world.

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