Everything You Need to Know About Princess Diana's Wedding Dress

It's arguably the most iconic gown worn by a royal bride.

David Levenson

Can you name a more iconic look than Princess Diana's wedding dress? Before Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, there was the "people's princess"—the incomparable and inimitable Lady Diana Spencer. Lady Di famously became Princess Di on July 29, 1981, in what was dubbed the Wedding of the Century. And while other royal brides have come after her, none have come anywhere close to topping Princess Diana's wedding dress on the most trend-setting of all time.

Princess Diana's Wedding Dress

princess diana wedding dress
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As seen on season four of The Crown, after a 20-year-old Diana first appeared wearing an 18-carat oval sapphire and diamond engagement ring from Prince Charles (the ring now sits on Princess Catherine's finger), she became the girl who nabbed the world's most eligible bachelor. And her wedding day was absolutely, 100 percent fit for a princess. Over 750 million people all over the world tuned in to the first televised royal wedding, and of course all eyes were on the bride.

More than anything, people tuned in for a glimpse at Lady Di's awe-inspiring wedding dress and its long train, created by former husband-and-wife duo David and Elizabeth Emanuel. The silk-and-taffeta creation took the breath away of aspiring brides the world over. Hand-embroidered with mother-of-pearl sequins and an estimated 10,000 pearls, the gown took the designers months to prepare.

princess diana wedding dress sketch
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“She was just lovely, really kind of easy going. We never had any special instructions about how to make the wedding dress. That added a bit to the fun of it all, made it bit of an adventure,” Elizabeth Emanuel told People of working with the famous princess.

And they did so in complete secrecy (much like Sarah Burton did with Kate Middleton's Alexander McQueen wedding gown) code-naming their famous client "Deborah" and hiring security to keep Princess Di's design under wraps. Most famously, the 25-foot long train, adorned with lace that once belonged to Queen Mary, defined a decade of brides in the 1980s, who all longed for that show-stopping dramatic entrance. In fact, a sister dress was discreetly made for Princess Di's royal wedding in case the original sketches went public.

Yes, that's right—the People's Princess had a secret back-up edition of her famed puff-sleeve wedding dress, which she surprisingly never even knew about. "At the time we wanted to make absolutely sure that the dress was a surprise," David told People. "We didn't try it on Diana. We never even discussed it. We wanted to make sure that we had something there; it was for our own peace of mind, really."

David had previously opened up to Express regarding his inspiration for Diana's wedding gown. "I wanted the dress to reflect that she was going in as Lady Diana Spencer and coming out as the Princess of Wales," he said. "St Paul’s Cathedral was very grand."

"It was all about drama and making Diana a fairytale princess," he told British Vogue last year. "The gown was typical of early '80s style – overblown, romantic, flouncy – but we had to get it right because we knew it would go down in history." 

Princess Diana's Wedding Shoes

William Thomas Cain

Royal cobbler Clive Shilton created the matching shoes, which featured the letters C and D (you guessed it, for Charles and Diana—so sentimental) in pearl-encrusted lace floral appliqués.

Princess Diana's Wedding Tiara and Bouquet

princess diana tiara and bouquet
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Princess Diana completed the famous look with the Spencer family tiara atop her 40 foot-long veil. The cascading bouquet of gardenias, stephanotis, freesias, orchids, lily of the valley, Earl Mountbatten roses (a tribute to Charles's late uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten), ivy, veronica, and myrtle (a royal wedding tradition), set the tone for 1980s brides looking for that royal touch.

Much like Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge's long-sleeved lace Sarah Burton creation, Princess Diana's wedding dress sparked a thousand knockoffs—with the first copycat design hitting a department store just five hours after the royal ceremony. Princess Di's big-shouldered dress still stands the test of time and continues to inspire brides, and royal wedding aficionados alike, all over the world.

With the latest season of Netlfix's The Crown prominently featuring Princess Diana and Prince Charles's royal wedding day, it's clear that more than three decades later, the world's fascination with the people's princess lives on.

Princess Diana's Second Wedding Dress

Though the bride had no idea, the Emanuels confirmed that they actually created a second, backup wedding gown for the princess in case something went wrong. The backup wedding dress was nowhere near as ornate as the original, the gown's iconic lace and embroidery were not replicated for the second dress.

Though Diana's second gown was never finished, the Emanuels admitted it existed and was very similar to the one she famously wore. But where is that dress now? "I don't know if we sold it or put it into storage," Emanuel shared with the Daily Mail before Meghan and Harry's royal wedding. "It was such a busy time. I'm sure it'll turn up in a bag one day!"

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