In the weeks leading up to Princess Diana and then-Prince Charles’ wedding, there wasn’t a moment to waste in Elizabeth and David Emanuel’s shop on Brook Street, Mayfair.
The former couple, who were fresh out of college, had been tasked with creating the late Princess of Wales’ wedding dress – a project they took very seriously. Not only did they hand-embroider 10,000 mother-of-pearl sequins and pearl embellishments, but they also ensured they had plenty of contingencies in place should anything happen to the main gown. This meant creating a “spare” wedding dress in case the secret design was leaked and even an extra skirt!
“We made an overskirt in case anything was spilt down in front of the dress and we had a parasol made in case it rains,” Elizabeth exclusively told HELLO! to mark what would have been Charles and Diana’s 42nd anniversary.
But this begs the question: why did Diana reportedly walk down the aisle in a stained bridal gown? Rumour has it that the Princess suffered a last-minute fashion mishap as she was moments away from leaving Clarence House for her ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral on 29 July 1981.
The then 20-year-old was already dressed in her puff-sleeve bridal gown when she accidentally dropped some perfume, Quelques Fleurs, down the front of the dress and stained the fabric.
Luckily, the mark went largely unnoticed by the 3,500 guests and 750 million people who tuned in to watch on TV. Her makeup artist Barbara Daly explained in the book Diana: The Portrait that the royal bride cleverly concealed the stain by placing her hand on that part of the fabric as though she was holding up the front of her dress to walk. We wonder if it was too last-minute to use the aforementioned overskirt!
Elizabeth opened up about the process of designing and making Diana’s gown, which featured puff sleeves, lace-trimmed sleeves, a ruffle neckline and a 25-foot train.
“We had a final fitting at Buckingham Palace where – for the first time – we were able to unravel the train, because our showroom was very small. So we had to wait until we went to the Palace and use one of the corridors to unroll the train, which is 25 foot long!” she said.
The 70-year-old, who has worked with Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor and Priyanka Chopra, added that tweaks were made until the very last moment. “It was being altered continually because Diana did lose a lot of weight. So we didn’t cut into it until the last moment. And we also made a back-up dress just in case the secret came out which fortunately it didn’t,” Elizabeth said.
On the subject of the spare dress, she explained: “It was similar in certain respects and both had the big skirt, but everything else was different. So it was really just a back-up to the original and I don’t know where it went. It just disappeared.”
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