In 1981, when soon-to-be royal family member Princess Diana commissioned young designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel to create her dream wedding dress, little did they know their creation would make a lasting impression on millions of young women. To keep Diana’s dress a secret, the couple not only worked tirelessly on the dress she eventually wore on her wedding day to Prince Charles but also on a backup dress that looked significantly different than the original.
The details regarding Princess Diana’s iconic wedding dress
Princess Diana’s dress embodied everything fashion was in the 1980s: flamboyant, larger than life, and stylish.
The ivory taffeta gown featured intricate embroidery with sequins, frilled lace, and 10,000 hand-sewn pearls.
A British silk farm specially spun the fabric. A small blue bow was sewn into the waistband, reported Town & Country.
Within the gown is a square of Carrickmacross lace attached to Princess Diana’s dress that once belonged to Queen Mary.
The Emanuels attached an 18-carat trinket studded with white diamonds to the gown’s label as a good luck charm.
However, the grandest part of Diana’s gown was its 25-foot train.
The Princess of Wales’ tulle veil exceeded that length, at 153 yards long. The veil connected to an heirloom Spencer family tiara.
Princess Diana had a backup wedding dress that disappeared
The husband-and-wife design team knew they had to keep the dress design a secret. Diana planned to reveal the gown emerging from her coach to enter St. Paul’s Cathedral and marry Prince Charles on July 29, 1981.
However, the British press was determined to get a sneak peek at the now infamous gown ahead of the wedding day.
Therefore, the couple installed a safe where they keet designs and fabric swatches for the royal wedding gown.
The couple went to extreme measures to ensure the secrecy of the outfit and made a second dress similar but with significantly different details for their peace of mind.
Elizabeth Emanuel told People Magazine, “At the time, we wanted to make sure that the dress was a surprise. Had the secret of the real dress got out it’s possible that Diana would have worn this one.”
The backup dress featured the same ruffles around the neck as the original but without the signature lace detailing.
Elizabeth later told The Daily Mail that the copy has since gone missing.
“We simply didn’t have time to make it in its entirety, so none of the embroidery or finishing touches were done,” she explained. “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’s wedding dress was not the first gown the Emanuels dressed her in
Ahead of her wedding gown, Princess Diana made a splash for her first official function as the fiance of Prince Charles and the newest member of the British royal family.
The U.K. edition of Vogue Magazine said the first gown the couple outfitted Diana in caused just as much of a stir as her wedding dress.
The striking design featured a dramatic train. It was hanging on a rack when Diana saw the black gown and instantly fell in love with it.
However, the dress caused a firestorm because it was black, and members of the royal family typically did not wear the color unless they were mourning.
Subsequently, its silhouette featured a form-fitting bodice and a shoulder and cleavage exposing top.
Elizabeth Emanuel told Vogue that Diana, “fell in love with it and didn’t care that someone else had already worn it to a charity ’do.”
“We didn’t even consider whether the dress was right for the occasion. We just thought Diana looked fabulous,” the designer concluded.
Subsequently, Diana famously wore black at the end of her relationship with Prince Charles via a “revenge dress” after her husband’s 1994 interview with journalist Jonathan Dimbleby. Charles alluded to being unfaithful to his wife.