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The Story Behind Princess Diana's Iconic Wedding Dress

The designer opens up about creating the iconic gown.

Contributing Writer
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Photography by: Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

It's hard to believe that Princess Diana was still a teenager when she first headed into designer Elizabeth Emanuel's studio for her first wedding dress fitting, but the 19-year-old was already becoming the woman the world would watch walk down the aisle on her wedding day. And Emanuel, who now runs her own fashion line, is sharing exactly what it was like to work with the future princess.

 

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It turns out that when the then-Lady Diana Spencer first called the studio, Emanuel made a mistake about her name–and was completely surprised when the king's fiancée walked in for that initial meeting. "There was instant recognition when she walked through the door," the designer shared, according to People.

 

Emanuel and her husband David went on to create the iconic gown in complete secrecy, and Emanuel notes that their decision to make Diana's bridal train as long as possible was largely because "St. Paul's Cathedral is a really big area to fill." "She was just lovely, really kind of easy going," she said of the princess. "We never had any special instructions about how to make the wedding dress. That added a bit to the fun of it all, made it a bit of an adventure."

 

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And as for the big day itself? That low-key approach remained consistent. Bridesmaid India Hicks shared that Diana wore jeans and watched TV while her tiara was placed on her head, and Emanuel recalls a similarly put-together princess. "She was incredibly together and wasn't panicking," the designer recalled. "But I was really worried about all things that could possibly go wrong. We'd taken smelling salts, glucose tablets–what if she feels faint? What if she passes out? Spills something down her skirt? I had this kind of horror that maybe the train would drop off. We sewed her into things, we pinned her into things."

 

Fortunately, the big moment passed without incident. "It's always been about a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis," Emanuel said. "And that is her story, really. She was emerging into a new world, a new life's adventure."

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