Princess Diana and Prince Charles's wedding may have been 35 years ago, and Diana's dress may be one of the most iconic of all time, but it turns out, there are a few things we still don't know about it. Now, the designer himself, David Emanuel, host of the British Say Yes to the Dress, is revealing a few never-before-known facts—including why he ripped up his original sketch!
Before Lady Diana Spencer became Princess Diana of Wales and made them famous for wearing their design, David and his then-wife, Elizabeth, were self-proclaimed "outsiders" to the fashion world. And when it was time to commission the most important dress of her life—her wedding dress—Diana herself called David, who of course said yes.
"We felt excitement more than pressure," David told Express.co.uk. "Then we heard nothing for two weeks. I wondered if that was part of a test to see if we would tell the media, but we kept shtoom. We didn't say a word and then we wondered if perhaps it was a hoax call and a bad joke." It wasn't. "Suddenly, Diana rang again and apologized as she'd been busy. But I had no idea how designing her wedding dress would have an effect on the rest of my career."
As you'd imagine, the process of creating a dress for a princess is pretty top-secret stuff. "She came by herself and after about three or four visits, she asked could her mother come? I said, 'yes, of course'," David said. "I showed her a sketch and ripped the sketch up because we didn't want it floating around." The result? An ivory silk taffeta and antique lace creation boasted a 25-foot-long train (which, fun fact, was wrinkled en route to the wedding!) and 10,000 pearls and sequins.
"She was ... delicious, wonderful, real and adorable," David said. "She was simply young and fresh. I wanted the dress to reflect that but she was going in as Lady Diana Spencer and coming out as the Princess of Wales. St Paul's Cathedral was very grand. If you did a subtle little number it's not going to work to an audience of seven hundred billion people! I was leaving my studio at six o'clock that evening and she rang me and said it was 'fabulous'. Job done! As long as she was happy, I was happy. It was a pleasure to do."
David said the mother-of-the-bride, Frances Shand Kydd, paid a "nominal" fee, "because how can you put a price on that dress?"
"And when Diana died, her brother swooped in to take the gown and it travelled around the world raising millions and millions [as part of the exhibition Diana: A Celebration]," David continued. "Then, when Prince Harry turned 30, the gown left the Spencers and went back to him and William. The last time I came face to face with it must have been four or five years ago."
Four or five years ago—right around the time Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (née Kate Middleton) wed Diana's son, Prince William, in a Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen gown, of which David was a fan. "The thing that shook me about [Catherine] was this confidence as soon as she got out of her car, it was sheer confidence. I thought, 'oh, she's got this worked out'. The dress is lovely," he explained.
As for the Duchess's sister Pippa's dress for her upcoming wedding? David sees her in something a little softer and more romantic. "As long as it's the complete opposite of her sister, because she's a different woman, she's a different body shape. I would do her very soft … because I think Catherine's dress was quite rigid and quite hard, so just the complete opposite and you shouldn't compare brides, you shouldn't compare women really."