We all have our opinions on Diana’s gown and while it may not have stood the test of time style-wise it deserves a place in history as an iconic royal wedding dress, am I right?
A couple of Christmases ago, I unwrapped the delightful book A Dress for Diana by David Emanuel and Elizabeth Emanuel, the young and fresh-out-of-school designers chosen to create Diana’s wedding dress. It’s a fun read with page after page of gorgeous photos and some interesting little known facts as well. So let’s take strip doing memory line, starting at the beginning.
Diana wasn’t the first royal that the Emanuels dressed. Princess Michael of Kent was an early client, and she brought in some other royal ladies as well, though the Emanuels don’t specify who.
Diana was first introduced to the Emanuels through a photo shoot that she did with British Vogue. Without revealing who the clothes were for, the magazine asked the Emanuels to send in some pieces that might be suitable. Much to their delight, Diana fell in love with this soft pink chiffon one and wanted to learn more about the designers. Voila, the road was set…
By the way, the photographer for the Vogue shoot was Princess Margaret’s photographer husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones and according to the Emmanuels it was done BEFORE the engagement was announced! Amazing that that didn’t get out in the press. So let’s figure this out: Charles proposed on the evening of February 6th after which Diana left the country, so when did she fit in this Vogue shoot and how did it not leak out into the press? Something does not measure up. Anyone have any thoughts?
Andrew Morton’s book Diana in Her Own Words explains that took off on a pre-arranged trip to Australia sometime around February 8th, 1981. She went with her mom and step dad went to their sheep station in Yass in New South Wales and later to a friend’s beach house for ten days of peace and seclusion. The book also has this quote from Diana:
I then went away two days later to Australia for three weeks to sort of settle down and to organize lists and things with my mother. That was a complete disaster because I pined for him but he never rang me up. I thought that was very strange and whenever I rang him he was out and he never rang me back. I thought ‘Ok’. I was just being generous – ‘He is being very busy, this, that and the other.” I come back from Australia, someone knocks on my door. Someone from his office with a bunch of flowers and I knew they hadn’t come from Charles because there was no note. It was just someone being very tactful in the office.
The book also says that there was a solitary phone call after she called him, which Charles alludes to in this video from when the engagement was announced on February 24th. Man, Diana must have been jet lagged, right?!
Anyway, that pink blouse from the Vogue shoot led to this black dress, which Diana wore with great fanfare to her first official engagement with Charles. Diana returned the dress after she started shedding a lot of weight, and the alterations were so extensive that the Emanuels just made her a new dress and kept the old one. Incidentally, that dress sold at auction in 2010 for $276,000.
The earrings Diana wore that night were her mom’s and she also borrowed them on her wedding day. Diana’s sister Lady Sarah seems to own them now, and she wore them to her daughter’s wedding in the summer of 2012. It was quite thrilling to see them out and about again – more about that in our post here.
So that dress led to Vogue asking the Emanuels to be one of 6 designers asked to submit designs for an article on how they would design Diana’s wedding dress if given the commission. This is what they submitted:
Not far off from what they actually designed, right?! It’s shockingly similar!
So Diana liked it and rang up the Emanuels to ask them to do the honours, and then Buckingham Palace called on March 10, 1981 to say they were being revealed as the designers in a press release being sent out that day. After that, the Emanuels did everything they could to keep the design a secret- they had a safe installed, and threw random bits of fabric into the rubbage bin outside to trick the press- even though the actual design was pretty much right there in Vogue!
As the work was underway, David and Elizabeth were delighted that they and three of their employees were invited to the wedding as guests. One of them was Rose Hoey, and her memory of a visit to Buckinham Palace for a fitting is just the best:
“Diana…she was such a wonderful lady – so down to earth. I remember once at Buckingham Palace saying to her that it was amazing to think I was on the inside, having stood outside as a tourist so many times. She laughed and said we should go out on the balcony and wave at all the people outside – and we did!”
OMG, OMG. Did any of the tourists outside that day get a picture of that and was it somehow captured in the press and escaped my notice all these years?? Here’s to hoping – that picture would be priceless!
The bridesmaids of course had lots of fittings as well, and on one occasion wore roller skates during the proceedings. Sadly, there’s no picture of that.
The Emanuels thought of a lot of other details as well. They went to St. Paul’s and lined up with tourists so that they could measure the length of the aisle to make sure they didn’t make the train too wide (yes, they were recognized). They also coordinated the design of the shoes, worked with the florists to make sure that Diana’s bouquet wouldn’t look puny with the big dress, and even created a matching water-proof parasol in case of rain.
They got the dress safely to Clarence House for the wedding day, and helped Diana get dressed. Evidently she was quite relaxed and was happily singing along to the “Just One Cornetto” jingle that had been playing on the TV as she watched wedding coverage.
Then it was off to St. Paul’s. his video has the dramatic moment when Diana arrived at St. Paul’s t the 2:38 mark… the enormous train kept coming out of the carriage and – eek!- it was all creased.
The book covers a lot more, and we recommend it for any Diana fans. What do you think of this dress – love it, hate it, or appreciate it for all of it’s cream puff glory?
We know that Mariah Carey loved it – she copied it for her 1993 wedding!