Wedding dress of Lady Diana Spencer
|Artist||David and Elizabeth Emanuel
|Type||Ivory silk taffeta and antique lace gown|
The wedding dress of Lady Diana Spencer was worn by Lady Diana Spencer at her wedding to Charles, Prince of Wales, on 29 July 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral. Diana wore an ivory silk taffeta and antique lace gown, with a 25-foot (7.62 m) train, valued then at £9000. It became one of the most famous dresses in the world, and was considered one of the most closely guarded secrets in fashion history.
The dress was designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel and was described as a dress that "had to be something that was going to go down in history, but also something that Diana loved", and one which would be "suitably dramatic in order to make an impression". Diana Spencer had personally selected the designers to make her wedding dress as she had been fond of a chiffon blouse which they designed for her formal photo session with Lord Snowdon.
The woven silk taffeta was made by Stephen Walters of Suffolk. In the making of the dress, the Emanuels consulted Maureen Baker, who had made the wedding dress of Princess Anne. One observer wrote of the dress, "the dress was a crinoline, a symbol of sexuality and grandiosity, a meringue embroidered with pearls and sequins, its bodice frilled with lace". It was also decorated with hand embroidery, sequins, and 10,000 pearls. The lace used to trim Diana's wedding dress was apparently antique hand-made Carrickmacross lace. In contrast, that on the wedding dress of Kate Middleton in her marriage to Prince William, Diana's eldest son, incorporated motifs cut from machine-made lace appliquéd on to silk net.
The making of the dress posed difficulties, given that Diana had developed bulimia and had dropped from a size 14 to a size 10 in the run-up to the wedding; even the seamstress was concerned about her weight loss and that the dress would not fit as it should. Due to the length of the train, Diana's father found it difficult to fit inside the glass coach to accompany his daughter to the cathedral.
Reception and influence
After the wedding, few specifically wanted a dress in the same design, but large puffed sleeves, a full skirt and "soft touch fabrics" became popular requests. Copies by other dressmakers were available "within hours" of the 1981 wedding.
Even after the styles became dated, many considered it a "gold standard" in wedding dresses. However, continued appreciation for the dress was not universal: one 2004 bridal magazine listed it as "too much dress, too little princess." Nevertheless, in 2011, Elizabeth Emanuel noted that she still received requests for replicas of Diana's dress.
The dress has toured for many years with the exhibition "Diana: A Celebration", though generally it stays for only part of the exhibit. Althorp House, Northampton is the primary display location of the dress.
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In 2006, the Emanuels wrote A Dress for Diana (ISBN 1-86205-749-4). It was reissued in March 2011 in anticipation of Kate Middleton's marriage to Prince William.