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Princess Diana’s Wedding Dress Designer Is Working On a Modern Interpretation of the Iconic Gown 43 Years Later – MarieClaire.com

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One of the most iconic wedding dresses in history is getting a modern refresh, 43 years after it was originally worn. Princess Diana’s July 29, 1981 wedding gown—designed by the husband and wife team of David and Elizabeth Emanuel—is getting what Elizabeth calls a “sequel,” People reports, adding that she is going to “climb back into the time machine” and make a modern interpretation of the dress.

Diana’s gown remains one of the most iconic wedding dresses of all time.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Princess Diana on her 1981 wedding day

It certainly was a dress of times, and redefined bridal style for the 1980s.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“I’m going to try and capture the spirit of the original—but through my eyes now,” Elizabeth said. “I want to preserve all the sparkles and pearls, but with a completely different vision.” She added, “It’s a really exciting thing because I often get asked, ‘Would you do the same dress again?’ Well, I wouldn’t change a thing on the dress in 1981, but if I was looking at it through my eyes now, there’s so many possibilities.”

Elizabeth Emanuel

The Emanuels in 1981, the year they skyrocketed to fame for designing Diana’s gown.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Elizabeth Emanuel

Emanuel in 2007, alongside a photo of one of her most well-known creations.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Diana’s original 1981 dress had a ruffled collar, puffed sleeves, a voluminous skirt, and a 25-foot train. Though Diana didn’t know it, the Emanuels—who are now divorced—actually crafted a second dress, just to be safe. “I was a bit neurotic, and I thought, ‘What happens if somebody breaks in and steals the dress or something spills or there’s a fire or it gets stolen?’” Elizabeth said. “So I thought, ‘I’m gonna make a backup dress.’”

Inspired by a pink gown she and David made for Diana to wear at a private ball a few days before her wedding, Elizabeth made the second dress, though it lacked a long train. The silk was white, “not the deep ivory that the royal wedding dress was made of,” and while Diana’s actual wedding dress had puffed sleeves, Elizabeth said the backup dress had “slim ones, more fitted to her arms” with frilly cuffs. 

Elizabeth Emanuel

Emanuel is redesigning the dress with a more modern interpretation.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The spare dress was never finished, and Elizabeth isn’t sure whatever became of it; that said, Elizabeth has reproduced it to exhibit at the virtual Princess Diana Museum. “We never got to see that dress on Diana and thought it would be lovely to envision it,” said Renae Plant, the museum’s director and curator. “You cannot put a price tag on history,” she added of the acquisition for an undisclosed sum.

Diana’s relationship with the Emanuels began shortly after they provided a blouse for a photoshoot marking Diana’s engagement to then Prince Charles in February 1981. A month later, Diana wore a black strapless gown created by the couple, and afterwards “She said, ‘Would you do me the honor of making my wedding dress?’” Elizabeth said, adding she was in a fitting with another bride when Diana called. “It was hard to control myself.”

Princess Diana on her 1981 wedding day

Emanuel said Diana wasn’t into fashion until they worked together; obviously, Diana ended up becoming one of the most stylish women of all time in the aftermath.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Princess Diana on her 1981 wedding day

Diana married Charles on July 29, 1981 after a five month engagement.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As her nerves mounted up in the run-up to her wedding day, Diana found the Emanuels’ design studio to be an “oasis of peace,” Elizabeth said. “She would go upstairs and chat with all the seamstresses. She loved browsing through the rails because this was a new world for her. I don’t think she’d been particularly into fashion before she met us.”

Unlike the wedding gowns of Kate Middleton in 2011 and Meghan Markle in 2018—where the designers of the brides’ wedding gowns were unconfirmed until closer to their wedding days—the Emanuels’ involvement with Diana was widely known far in advance, People reports. “When Diana came in for a fitting, there would be hundreds of people outside waiting to spot her,” Elizabeth said. “We had to put shutters up on our windows, and we used to put bits of fabric in different colors in the bins just to throw journalists off the scent.” 

Princess Diana on her 1981 wedding day

It was the wedding of the century.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Of Diana’s wedding day itself, Elizabeth remembered “We could hear the people outside cheering. Everybody was happy and smiling. It really was a fairytale wedding.”

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