One of my childhood memories is of the Royal Wedding between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. It was in the school summer holidays and even at the age of 7 and living nowhere near London, it was impossible to escape. The day before we had a new front door installed to our house then I was allowed to stay up late to watch the night for Royal Fireworks as a historic network of beacons spread across the kingdom.
One of the unforgettable elements of the wedding was of course the wedding dress that Lady Diana wore that day on Wednesday 29th July 1981 at St Paul’s Cathedral and for a few months you can see it in real life, as it’s part of a new exhibition called ‘Royal Style In The Making’ at London’s Kensington Palace, which launched on 3rd June and runs until 2nd January 2022. The exhibition explores the partnership between fashion designers and the Royal Family and explores how some of the greatest gowns in history came to be.
Of course the star attraction is the wonderful wedding dress of Princess Diana which anyone who saw it back then can never forget.
The iconic ivory gown was embroidered with sequins, lace and a humungous 10,000 mother of pearl sequins and pearls. The dress was designed by husband-and-wife team David and Elizabeth Emanuel and included a piece of Carrickmacross lace was attached to the dress that once belonged to Queen Mary.
Everyone is used to seeing weddings where brides have to take care fitting their dress into their car and carefully closing the door but Lady Diana actually struggled to fit into the carriage on the way to St. Paul’s Cathedral thanks to the vast amounts of fabric on her dress. The designers had to fold the fabric over the princess which caused wrinkles when she disembarked the carriage. This had been planned for however and upon her emergence outside St Pauls, the dress could be unfolded leaving not a trace of a crease or crinkle.
Great lengths were taken to ensure that Diana’s dress was kept a secret until it was unveiled to the world only on the big day. They even installed a safe to keep designs and fabric swatches, which was guarded 24/7 by security guards
The designers even created an alternate dress with a much more pronounced V-neckline and no lace which was kept on hand in case details of the original dress were leaked. They had other spare elements too and second guessed every conceivable problem right down to someone spilling a cup of a tea.
The dress’s 25-foot train was the longest in the history of royal wedding dresses, attached via a carefully crafted mechanism inside Diana’s sweeping skirts. But the tulle veil attached to her tiara was actually longer than the train, at a super impressive 153 yards.
Whilst all this was hard to miss, one of the things kept hidden from view was an 18-carat gold horseshoe, covered with diamonds that was stitched into the dress as a good luck charm.
And here it is!
Out of all the things in life, dresses aren’t generally something I’m at all interested in but it certainly is beautiful and just as I remember it. In 1981, I certainly didn’t envision that 40 years later I’d be looking at it again. Can you think of a 20th Century dress that made anything like as big an impact? Perhaps Marlyn Monroe and that dress!