June 21, 2024


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The Crown: Behind the creation of Princess Diana’s iconic wedding dress

On Thursday 20 August, Netflix shared a first look at the upcoming fourth season of The Crown, which is due to be released in November this year.

The teaser treated fans to a glimpse of Gillian Anderson’s transformation as the Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher, and insight into how Lady Diana Spencer will be portrayed in the historical drama.

The new season will document the beginning of her relationship with Prince Charles and their wedding, which took place at St Paul’s Cathedral on 29 July 1981.

The 33-second clip ends with a striking image – the future Princess of Wales (played by Emma Corrin) standing alone in a grand room with her back to the camera, the 20-year-old swamped by her huge wedding gown, which would go on to influence bridal trends for years to come.

From the concept behind the design to the impact it has had in the 39 years since it was unveiled to the world, here is everything you need to know about the creation of Princess Diana’s iconic wedding gown.

Who designed the wedding dress?

Princess Diana’s wedding dress was created by design duo David and Elizabeth Emanuel.

David and Elizabeth Emanuel met while studying at the Harrow School of Art, going on to marry, have two children and launch their fashion house Emanuel Salon in 1977.

During the early stages of his career, David Emanuel worked for royal fashion designer Hardy Amies, who began working with Queen Elizabeth II in the 1950s.

He told Woman’s Own in 2016 that Princess Diana called up the fashion designers to make an appointment for her wedding dress “like anybody else”, having previously had “three or four gowns made for formal occasions”.

Members of the public were reportedly surprised by Diana’s decision to choose the Emanuels, it states in Diana: The Portrait, a book written by Rosalind Coward and endorsed by the estate of the late Princess of Wales.

“Fashion was not her thing at all; it was something that was really forced upon her because she had to dress up for the part,” Elizabeth Emanuel said.

“The dress had to be something that was going to go down in history, but also something that Diana loved. 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.”

Elizabeth Emanuel added that the process of designing the dress “didn’t take that long”, but the process of creating the garment “took forever”, one of the reasons being that Diana lost weight during her engagement, so the garment had to be resized.

What details were included in the gown?

The wedding dress was made using ivory silk taffeta, with the neckline and mutton sleeves designed with lace flounces, a feature particularly fitting for the bold fashion of the 1980s.

It also featured hand-embroidered mother-of-pearl sequins and pearls, which came together to form a heart motif on the gown.

The Princess of Wales in her bridal gown at Buckingham Palace after her marriage to Prince Charles at St. Paul’s Cathedral (PA/PA Archive/PA Images)

On the royal family’s official website, it states that the embroidered lace panels on the bodice utilised lace that had previously belonged to Queen Mary, the grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II.

The ivory silk tulle veil also featured mother-of-pearl sequins, while the Princess completed her bridal ensemble with a diamond tiara from the Spencer family’s personal collection.

The gown also featured a 25-foot train, which became crumpled when the bride travelled to St Paul’s Cathedral in a glass coach with her father on her wedding day, making it the longest royal wedding dress in history.

Were there any other dress options?

Diana also had a back-up dress on hand for her nuptials, in case the design of her wedding gown was leaked.

“At the time we wanted to make absolutely sure that the dress was a surprise,” Elizabeth Emanuel told People in 2011.

“Had the secret of the real dress got out it’s possible that Diana would actually have worn this one.”

In an article published in The Press Courier the day after the royal wedding, it stated that Princess Diana’s wedding dress was “probably the most closely guarded secret in fashion history”.

What influence has Princess Diana’s wedding gown had since?

With the designers hoping the garment would go “down in history”, it certainly did, as one of the most recognisable gowns ever worn by a royal bride.

In 2018, it was chosen by Time magazine as one of the “most influential British royal wedding dresses of all time”, and for several years it went on tour as part of the Diana: A Celebration exhibition.

A first look at Princess Diana wearing her wedding dress in the upcoming season of The Crown (Netflix/The Crown)

Dressmakers were reportedly hard at work creating copies of Princess Diana’s dress “within hours” of the lavish ceremony.

In 2014, the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex received possession of their mother’s wedding dress, with Prince Harry taking ownership of the gown and Prince William obtaining the late Princess of Wales’s engagement ring.

In July 2020, Eleri Lynn, former curator of the Diana: Her Fashion Story exhibition, stated that the dress is now “part of the private collection of the Dukes of Sussex and Cambridge”, implying it may never been seen by the public again.

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