Wedding dress of Lady Diana Spencer

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Wedding dress of Lady Diana Spencer
Princess Diana wedding dress.png
Diana wearing her wedding dress
DesignerDavid and Elizabeth Emanuel
Year1981 (1981)
TypeIvory silk taffeta and antique lace gown
MaterialSilk, taffeta, lace

Lady Diana Spencer's wedding dress was an ivory silk taffeta and antique lace gown, with a 25-foot (7.6 m) train and a 153 yards (140 m) tulle veil, valued then at £9,000 (equivalent to $36,700 in 2021).[1][2] It was worn at Diana's wedding to Charles, Prince of Wales in 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral. It became one of the most famous dresses in the world,[3] and was considered one of the most closely guarded secrets in fashion history.[4]


The dress was designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, who described it as a dress that "had to be something that was going to go down in history, but also something that Diana loved", and which would be "suitably dramatic in order to make an impression".[5][6] Diana personally selected the designers to make her wedding dress because she was fond of a chiffon blouse they designed for her formal photo session with Lord Snowdon.[7]

The woven silk taffeta was made by Stephen Walters of Suffolk.[3] The Emanuels consulted Maureen Baker, who had made the first wedding dress of Princess Anne, during their construction of the gown.[6] One observer wrote "the dress was a crinoline, a symbol of sexuality and grandiosity, a meringue embroidered with pearls and sequins, its bodice frilled with lace".[2] The gown was decorated with hand embroidery, sequins, and 10,000 pearls, centering on a heart motif.[8] An 18-karat gold horseshoe was stitched into the petticoats as a sign of good fortune.[9] The lace used to trim it was antique and hand-made and a square of Carrickmacross lace which had belonged to Queen Mary was attached to the gown.[10] A petite blue bow was also sewn into the interior of the gown's waistband as her "something blue". In contrast, the wedding dress of Catherine Middleton, for her marriage to Prince William, Diana's elder son, incorporated motifs cut from machine-made lace appliquéd to silk net.[11] The dress featured "lace flounces adorning neckline and sleeves".[8]

A replica of the dress at West Edmonton Mall, in Edmonton, Canada, in 2013

Fittings of the dress posed difficulties because Diana had developed bulimia and dropped from a size 14 to a size 10 in the months leading up to the wedding. Even the seamstress was concerned about her weight loss and feared the dress might not fit as it should.[12]

The twenty-five-foot train posed problems. According to writer Andrew Morton, in Diana: Her True Story, the gown's designers realized too late that they had forgotten to allow for the train's length in relation to the size of the glass coach Diana and her father rode in to the ceremony. They found it difficult to fit inside the glass coach, and the train was badly crushed despite Diana's efforts. This accounted for the visible wrinkles in the wedding gown when she arrived at the cathedral.[13]

Diana also had a spare wedding dress, which would have acted as a stand-in if the dress' design was revealed before her big day.[14] The Emanuels also created a parasol in a matching taffeta to be used by Diana in case the wedding day turned out to be rainy.[15]

Reception and influence[edit]

The dress set wedding fashion trends after the wedding. Large puffed sleeves, a full skirt and "soft touch fabrics" became popular requests.[16] Copies by other dressmakers were available "within hours" of the 1981 wedding.[17]

Many bridal experts considered the dress a "gold standard" in wedding fashion in the years after the wedding.[18] Continued appreciation for the dress was not universal. One 2004 bridal magazine listed it as "too much dress, too little princess."[19] Nevertheless, Elizabeth Emanuel noted in 2011 that she still received requests for replicas of Diana's dress.

In his 2003 memoir, A Royal Duty, Paul Burrell wrote that Diana had wanted the dress to be part of the fashion collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.[20]

The dress toured for many years with the exhibition "Diana: A Celebration", though generally it stayed for only part of the exhibit. Althorp House, Northampton was the prime display location for the dress.[21] Diana's dress transferred ownership from her brother to her sons in 2014 because she had requested that her belongings be handed back to them when they both turned 30.[22] Her engagement ring was given to Prince William, while the wedding dress' ownership was given to both Prince William and Prince Harry.[23][24]

In 2018, the dress was chosen as one of the "Most Influential British Royal Wedding Dresses of All Time" by Time magazine.[25] In 2021, it went on display at Kensington Palace as a part of the "Royal Style in the Making" exhibition.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "On this day:1981: Charles and Diana marry". BBC. 29 July 1981. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  2. ^ a b Denney, Colleen (April 2005). Representing Diana, Princess of Wales: cultural memory and fairy tales revisited. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-8386-4023-4. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  3. ^ a b Steele, Valerie (9 November 2010). The Berg Companion to Fashion. Berg Publishers. p. 218. ISBN 978-1-84788-592-0. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  4. ^ Johnson, Maureen. "Design of Lady Diana's wedding dress revealed". The Press-Courier. Oxnard CA. Associated Press. p. 11. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  5. ^ Coward, Rosalind; Mandela, Nelson; McCorquodale, Sarah (1 July 2007). Diana: The Portrait: Anniversary Edition. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-7407-6792-0. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  6. ^ a b McDowell, Colin (1 July 2007). Diana style. Aurum. ISBN 978-1-84513-200-2. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  7. ^ Moore, Sally (October 1991). The Definitive Diana: An Intimate Look at the Princess of Wales from A to Z. Contemporary Books. ISBN 978-0-8092-3948-1. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  8. ^ a b "Royal Wedding Dresses throughout history". The Royal Family. 11 May 2018. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  9. ^ Derschowitz, Jessica (16 November 2010). "Prince William Engagement: A Look Back at His Parents' Wedding". CBS News. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  10. ^ Vargas, Chanel (7 March 2018). "Every Detail About Princess Diana's Iconic Wedding Dress". Town & Country. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  11. ^ Alexander, Hilary. "Kate Middleton wedding dress is Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen". Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2 May 2011. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  12. ^ Paprocki, Sherry Beck (July 2009). Diana, Princess of Wales: Humanitarian. Infobase Publishing. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-60413-463-6. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  13. ^ Knight, Julian (22 March 2011). The Royal Wedding For Dummies. John Wiley and Sons. p. 68. ISBN 978-1-119-97030-9. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  14. ^ Peiffer, Kimberly (28 March 2011). "Princess Diana's Spare Wedding Dress Revealed". People. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
  15. ^ Goldberg, Carrie (16 October 2020). "Everything You Need to Know About Princess Diana's Wedding Gown". Harper's Bazaar. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  16. ^ Rodd, Debbie (June 1982). "Classic Wedding Ways". Orange Coast Magazine. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  17. ^ "Kate's wedding dress recreated in just five hours". The Herald Sun. AFP. 1 May 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  18. ^ Nixon-Knight, Lynnell (January 2007). "Natural Evolution". Indianapolis Monthly. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  19. ^ Armstrong, Colleen (Winter 2004). "Top 10 perks for 21st century brides". Cincinnati Wedding. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  20. ^ Paul Burrell (3 June 2004). A Royal Duty. Penguin Adult. p. 250. ISBN 978-0-14-101828-7.
  21. ^ "Kensington Palace - FAQs". Historic Royal Palaces. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  22. ^ "Princess Diana Wedding Dress Going Home". Hello Magazine. 1 September 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  23. ^ "What will Prince Harry and Prince William inherit from Princess Diana?". The Daily Telegraph. 1 September 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  24. ^ Picheta, Rob (27 April 2021). "Princess Diana's wedding dress to go on display after William and Harry agree to loan". CNN. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  25. ^ Lang, Cady (1 May 2018). "The 12 Most Influential British Royal Wedding Dresses of All Time". Time. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  26. ^ Turner, Lauren (2 June 2021). "Princess Diana's wedding dress going on display at Kensington Palace". BBC. Retrieved 3 June 2021.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Emanuels (2006). A Dress for Diana. ISBN 1-86205-749-4. (reissued in March 2011)

External links[edit]