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A changemaker of a dress


This is the wedding dress that launched “Shy Di” as a global icon who captivated the last two decades of the 20th century.

750 million people watched the televised marriage of Lady Diana Spencer to Prince Charles of Wales in London’s St Paul’s Cathedral on 29 July, 1981.

As the fictional Tseng Hsiao Ling says in “She, You, I,” this was a dress that changed the world, at least of wedding dresses. Designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, it was made out of ivory silk, taffeta and antique lace and featured an astonishing 7.6 metre train and a 140 metre tulle veil. It was decorated with 10,000 pearls and sequins, and an 18 carat gold horseshoe was stitched into the petticoats for luck.

Huge secrecy surrounded the design of the dress. Copies were available within hours from dressmakers, and Elizabeth Emanuel reportedly received orders for Princess Di dresses up till 2011.

According to Diana’s biographer, Andrew Morton, the designers forgot to allow for the small size of the carriage, and they had difficulties fitting in the dress, train and veil for the journey from Clarence House to the cathedral.

The Emanuels separated shortly before their famous client’s marriage collapsed. After Princess Diana’s tragic death, her wedding dress remained in the possession of her brother for 17 years. For more than a decade it was on display at the family home, Althorp House, in Northamptonshire. More recently it went on display at her former home, Kensington Palace.

Further information

Hardly a day goes by without the late Princess featuring in the media, and books about her are legion.


The definitive book about the dress was written by its designers, “A Dress for Diana” by David and Elizabeth Emanuel published by Pavilion Books, 2006

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