Princess Diana startled dress makers after name error: ‘Imagine their surprise!’

The Crown: Elizabeth Emanuel on Diana's wedding dress

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The Royal Style in the Making exhibition, on display at Kensington Palace, runs from June 3 2021 – January 2 2022 and features Diana’s wedding gown, the Queen Mother’s coronation gown and work undertaken for the Queen. Diana’s gown, designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, is the centrepiece of the exhibition and considered one of the most iconic wedding dresses of all time. Its notable features include a silk-taffeta fairy-tale gown and 25-foot train, the longest in the history of royal wedding dresses.

The dress, which reportedly cost an estimated £90,000 has also been dubbed the ‘most closely guarded secret in fashion history’.

So few details were revealed until Diana’s wedding day on July 29, 1981 that some of the press were reportedly going through the Emanuel’s bins for details of the design.

In a special episode of the podcast Pod Save the Queen released yesterday, exhibition curator Matthew Storey told the story of how Diana’s name error startled the young dress makers.

Mr Storey said: “It started with a Vogue photoshoot.

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“Emanuel have their offices very near to Vogue and would often ring them up and say ‘we have got a photoshoot could you run something over for it’.

“So Diana was being photographed by Lord Snowden and she picked out a little silk chiffon blouse in pink.

“It became her engagement portrait – so that was her introduction to Emanuel’s work – wearing a little blouse in the photoshoot.

“She rang them up and asked if she could make an appointment to come and see them because she liked their work.

“And they actually wrote her name down wrong in the appointments diary so you can imagine their surprise when in walks the future Princess of Wales.”

The dress designers had only graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1977, four years before they were tasked with producing Diana’s dress.

The choice was initially considered a patriotic one in support of the UK’s fashion industry however, it was the start of a close bond between the designers and the future Princess.

Mr Storey said: “Of course, a really close partnership developed.

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“The Emanuels were very young, and Diana was also very young, so they built a connection.

“It was also a bold choice from Diana’s part [to commission the Emanuels].

“It shows how she did make confident style choices.

“It was a very new, very fresh, very young business and here the Princess of Wales coming in 1981 to give them this huge, life changing commission.

“They create something fashionable, but they also touch on something universal – a classic fairy-tale look.”

Mr Emanuel, now divorced from his former wife, considered the work “as the biggest job of my career”’

He told Tatler: “At the time she was called shy Di and if she said anything, she did blush. She was just magical, very special.

“I remember that Diana was sat in Clarence House watching a tiny portable TV, and out of the window the guards were marching by.

“It was hair and make-up done then a split-second fit into the dress.

“There was a moment when I remember saying to Diana, “did you check the hook?” under her petticoat, and I then had visions of her dress falling apart down the aisle!

“But she glided down the stairs, it was a magical moment when her father looked up at her and said “Diana, you look beautiful.””

Listen to Pod Save the Queen on all podcast platforms. 
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