Princess Diana's Wedding Dress Defined a Generation

When Princess Diana and Prince Charles wed on July 29, 1981, the fresh-faced princess had just turned 20. She was optimistic about marrying Charles, though she did not know him that well. However, she was not at all prepared to be thrust onto the global stage.

The royal wedding was a complete frenzy with hundreds of thousands of people watching from the streets and millions of people from across the globe watching the televised event from their homes.

As royal fans watched the princess’ 25-foot train move down the aisle at St. Paul’s Cathedral, they had no idea what was to come. However, that massive wedding dress defined an entire generation of brides.

Princess Diana’s wedding gown was extremely detailed

Like she did when she chose her legendary engagement ring, Princess Diana very casually asked then-husband-and-wife design team David Emanuel and Elizabeth Emanuel to begin designing her royal clothes.

“Diana rang up like anybody else and made an appointment to try my dress designs—she initially had three or four gowns made for formal occasions,” David told Woman’s Own. After that, the princess asked the Emanuels to design her wedding gown.

The wedding dress which cost $115,000 in 1981 ($342,803 in 2020), was much more expensive than the $5,610 value of an average Emanuel wedding dress. According to Town & Country,

The ivory silk taffeta dress had 10,000 pearls attached to it, with appliqués cut from antique lace (the something old) at a British silk farm, as well as a square of Carrickmacross lace that once belonged to Queen Mary. There was a small blue bow sewn into the waistband, too (the something blue).

‘The Crown’s Emma Corrin said that 10 people had to help her get into Princess Diana’s wedding gown

Though Diana and Charles’ wedding is not shown in full on The Crown, however, the iconic wedding gown is present. Corrin, the actor who plays Princess Diana on the series, described the time and patience it took to get the gown. She told British Vogue,

The Emanuels, who designed the original, gave us the patterns, and then it was made for me. We were filming the scene when you first see her in the wedding dress – I think it was Lancaster House in London – and I had a team of about 10 people helping me put it on, because it’s massive. I walked out and everyone went completely silent. More than anything else I wear in the series, it’s so… it’s her.

On her feet, Diana wore ivory slippers handmade with 542 sequins and 132 pearls designed by Clive Shilton. She wore a diamond tiara owned by the Spencer family.

Princess Diana’s wedding dress with replicated throughout the ’80s

The Emmanuels went for a timeless look. “We just went for drama,” Elizabeth told BBC Designed in 2019. “It was everyone’s idea of a fairy princess. The time was perfect for that. It was a time of frills and flounces.”

It was so legendary that it was replicated throughout the decade. The Fashion Institute of Technology reported that the dress was being recreated within hours of the royal wedding for as low as $467. In 2018, Time said that it was “one of the most influential wedding dresses of all time.”

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