It’s been 42 years since Diana from Wales and Charles from England said “I do” at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Their link became the most watched televised wedding of the 20th century, being recorded in the collective memory of all those who enjoyed the royal wedding on July 29, 1981. But, without a doubt, the one who captured all eyes that day was the princess with her magnificent wedding dress with puffed sleeves, adorned with 10,000 sequins and mother-of-pearl pearls and her eternal train of almost eight meters. A dress that has gone down in history. More than four decades after this moment, the costume’s designer, Elizabeth Emanuel, has revealed one of the best kept secrets: Lady Di had a spare dress ready.
Design duo David and Elizabeth Emanuel made Diana the star in a dress that perfectly embodied the excesses of the 1980s and the majesty of royal weddings, but this historical image could have been very different. For the making of the suit, Queen Elizabeth II gave up an abandoned wing of Buckingham Palace to create it, since only there was enough space to shape the endless train. But as in everything that happens in royal houses, there is usually a plan B -and even C-. The bride and groom wanted to avoid any leak about what is always one of the best kept secrets of any wedding, and for this reason they decided to commission another design. “The replacement wedding dress was made in case details of the original were leaked. Fortunately, it was never used, ”he explained to Hello! magazine. 42 years later her designer.
This second suit was very different from the first option. “The dress was made of pale ivory silk taffeta with embroidered scalloped details at the hem and sleeves. Small pearls were sewn onto the bodice,” said Elizabeth Emanuel. The sketch of the original design and some images in which the dressmaker is seen working on that second dress have been transferred to the British magazine. In them you can see how some details of the original were maintained in that suit. Of course, that second option was more discreet, with a V-neckline with a ruffle trim, three-quarter sleeves and a wide princess skirt.
The Princes of Wales, Charles and Diana, leaving St Paul’s Cathedral on July 29, 1981. Hulton Archive (Getty Images)
Since that date indicated in the British calendar, nothing is known about what happened to that wedding dress. “It was just a backup of the original and I don’t know where it went. It just disappeared”, says the designer now. The same has not happened with the original, which was exhibited at Kensington Palace two years ago and remains kept among the treasures of the British royal house.
Four decades ago, all the media tried to get an exclusive on what was to be the dress of the century. It was Diana, personally, who asked the designers to take all possible precautions: “she asked us to keep it very, very secret. We did it”. Even so, the press wanted to know who was designing her wedding dress and they had to announce it before the big day. Then they were the ones who spoke to their team about the princess to avoid any leaks: “Our staff was wonderful and very loyal. We had the dress stored every night in a metal closet guarded by two guards, Jim and Bert. Someone was there 24 hours a day. We even put false colored threads in the dumpsters because people were going through them.”
Diana of Wales with designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel on August 6, 1986 at Kensington Palace. Tim Graham (Getty Images)
But the wedding dress was not the only design by Elizabeth and David for the celebrations for the marriage of Charles of England and Diana of Wales. The duo posed a dress for the pre-wedding ball that was held at Buckingham Palace. “Diana asked me to design a very sexy dress to surprise everyone,” explained the dressmaker. Four decades later, it is not known what happened to that suit either, but it is known that it was intense pink and that it fitted the figure of the princess.
The Princes of Wales, Charles and Diana, waving from Buckingham Palace after their wedding on July 29, 1981. Express Newspapers (Getty Images)
At only 20 years old, Diana of Wales became an icon and an inspiration for many (and continues to be so when the 26th anniversary of her death is about to take place, on August 31). Her outfits were commented on for years because of her great taste and today she is still on everyone’s lips. Many fell in love with her dressed in white, others did so in 1994, with what is known as the revenge dress, the outfit she wore the same day that her still-husband, Prince Charles, announced his adultery with Camila.
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