Princess Diana’s Iconic Wedding Dress Had 1 Handmade Accessory That Was Never Seen

Princess Diana wore her fairy-tale wedding dress 40 years ago when she married Prince Charles on July 29, 1981. The royal wedding was broadcast to millions around the globe. And Diana’s gown became one of the most iconic wedding dresses of all time.

But according to designer David Emanuel, the dress had one handmade accessory that fans never saw.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles return to Buckingham Palace by carriage after their wedding, waving to onlookers.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles | Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Princess Diana’s wedding dress was ‘the most closely guarded secret in fashion history’

According to Tatler, Princess Diana’s wedding dress was often dubbed the “most closely guarded secret in fashion history.” Until she made her debut in the dress on her wedding day, very few details were shared with the public.

Diana chose David and Elizabeth Emanuel — a young husband-and-wife design team — to design her dress. They created a silk-taffeta fairy-tale gown for the young bride with puff sleeves, 10,000 mother-of-pearl sequins and pearl embellishments, antique lace, and the longest train in the history of royal wedding dresses at 25 feet.

The dress reportedly cost around £90,000, which in 2021 would be equal to £310,000 (approximately $430,000).

“The dress had to be something that was going to go down in history, but also something that Diana loved,” David Emanuel said, per Diana: The Portrait. “And we knew it was going to be at St. Paul’s, so it had to be something that would fill the aisle and be quite dramatic.”

‘She looks like a movie star’

When she started dating Prince Charles, Diana made an appointment with Emanuel to try on his dresses for public appearances. He said she initially had three or four gowns made for formal occasions, and they helped transform her public persona.

“The first time the public saw her in one of my gowns they were quite shocked,” Emanuel told Woman’s Own via Tatler. “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.'”

Diana’s iconic wedding dress had a handmade accessory that no one saw

When Charles and Diana’s engagement was announced, Diana immediately turned to the trusted designer to make her wedding gown. Emanuel said Diana’s wedding was “an extraordinary occasion” and designing her dress was the “biggest job” of his career.

“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,” Emanuel said.

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Emanuel also revealed that he attached a good luck charm to the label: an 18-carat gold trinket studded with white diamonds. And he designed a matching accessory: an umbrella just in case it rained.

“It was made of such light material that it certainly wasn’t waterproof…it wouldn’t have done her much good!” the designer admitted.

‘Diana, you look beautiful’

Emanuel said they got an early start at Clarence House on Diana’s wedding day. Everything was laid out while Diana was getting her makeup done with her hair in rollers.

“At the time she was called shy Di and if she said anything, she would blush. She was just magical, very special,” Emanuel revealed. “It was hair and make-up done then a split-second fit into the dress.”

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

Princess Diana’s wedding dress is now on display at Kensington Palace

For the first time in decades, royal fans can now see Princess Diana’s wedding dress in person at the Royal Style in the Making exhibit at Kensington Palace. Prince William and Prince Harry have loaned the gown to the event, which highlights the designers, courtiers, and tailors who have made clothing for the British monarchy over the years.

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Diana’s wedding gown — as well as her go-away dresses — will remain on display until Jan. 2, 2022. Entrance to the exhibit is included when fans book a tour of Kensington Palace.