For the first time in 25 years, the dress Princess Diana wore to her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981 will be available for public viewing at Kensington Palace. The ivory silk taffeta gown with lace, sequins, and 10,000 pearls created by David and Elizabeth Emanuel was called the “most closely guarded secret in fashion history”—a safe was even installed to keep its design a secret! “It sounds a bit over-the-top, but it really did seem like people would go to any lengths to find out what the dress looked like,” Elizabeth said.
Left to the sons
Prince William and Prince Harry agreed to loan the dress for public viewing as part of the “Royal Style in the Making” exhibit from June 3, 2021 to January 2, 2022. It will be displayed at the royal residence in west London where their late mother lived.
Princess Diana specified in her will that her dress must be given to her children after her younger son, Prince Harry, turns 30. Before it was passed on to them in 2014, Princess Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, looked after it for 17 years. The dress was also previously put on display at the museum in Althorp, the Spencer family’s stately home and estate.
The famous dress
The dress, named as one of the “Most Influential British Royal Wedding Dresses of All Time” by Time, is also known for having the longest train in the history of royal weddings. It had a 25-foot train, a 153-yard tulle veil, and an 18-karat gold horseshoe charm attached for good luck.
“Its gently scooped neckline and large puffed sleeves are trimmed with bows and deep ruffles of taffeta, a style popularized by the Princess in the early 1980s, while the full skirt is supported on a mountain of stiff net petticoats to create its famous silhouette,” Historic Royal Palaces said. A square of Carrickmacross lace that used to belong to Queen Mary, Princess Diana’s great-grandmother-in-law, was also stitched into the gown.
To match her dress, Princess Diana wore silk wedding slippers studded with 542 sequins and 132 pearls, and had an umbrella with more pearls and lace ready in case of a rainy day. Designer Elizabeth Emanuel said, “It was made of such light material that it certainly wasn’t waterproof… It wouldn’t have done her much good!”
Aside from Princess Diana’s gown, other items from three generations of royal women will be included, such as a rare toile from Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother‘s coronation gown. Original sketches, fabric swatches, and never-before-seen photographs will also be part of the display.