It’s incredible to think that nearly 40 years ago the young Lady Diana Spencer walked down the aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral in the most iconic wedding dress. The Elizabeth and David Emanuel design is now on display at Kensington Palace as part of the Royal Style In The Making exhibition.
The dress, on loan from Princes William and Harry, is displayed complete with its 25 feet sequin encrusted train, the longest in Royal history.
It features a fitted bodice with panels of antique Carrickmacross lace that had originally belonged to Queen Mary, Prince Charles’s great-grandmother. While the large puffed sleeves, scooped neckline, taffeta and bows were a style that Diana help popularise in the early 80s.
Also on display are the paper patterns from the Emanuel studio as well as Emanuel sketches and a Garrard gouache painting of Diana’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring, now worn by Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Sketches of iconic outfits worn by Princess Diana and designed by Belville Sassoon include her blue “caring” dress that she wore to visit a hostel for abandoned children in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in 1988, as well as The Lighthouse Project for AIDS victims in London in 1992.
Her pink outfit that she wore as a going away outfit is also on show. It became part of her working wardrobe and she wore it on a visit to Australia in 1982 and to open a hospital in Grimsby in 1983.
Matthew Storey, curator at Historic Royal Palaces, said: “Royal Style in the Making offers visitors the chance to discover some of the greatest talents of British design, whose work has helped shape the visual identity of the royal family across the twentieth century. The display features a host of designers visitors might know – such as Sir Norman Hartnell or Emanuel – but will also explore the work of Madame Handley-Seymour, David Sassoon and Oliver Messel, unpicking how the partnership between each designer and client worked, and revealing the story behind the creation of some of the most important couture commissions in royal history.
“While one of the highlights will undoubtedly be Diana, Princess of Wales’s showstopping Emanuel designed wedding dress, – which will be reunited at Kensington Palace with her going away outfit for the first time in 25 years – for me one of the true stars of the show has to be the gown created by legendary stage designer Oliver Messel, which provides a fitting finale for this dazzling display of royal style.”
The Messel dress was worn by Princess Margaret at a costume ball in 1964 and adds a lot of theatricality to the exhibition. It also features an exquisite black velvet evening gown with beaded shoulders and neckline, created by Sir Norman Hartnell in 1935 for The Queen Mother.
*Royal Style In The Making runs at Kensington Palace until 2 January 2022. Tickets: Adults £23.50; Children £12.70; hrp.org.uk/kensingtonpalace
Words: Contributing Editor, Margaret Hussey
Featured image: Royal Style in the Making exhibition at Kensington Palace 1 (c) Historic Royal Palaces
Images: as credited (top to bottom, L-R) Royal Style in the Making exhibition at Kensington Palace 1 (c) Historic Royal Palaces |Royal Style in the Making exhibition at Kensington Palace (c) Historic Royal Palaces| Norman Hartnell for The Queen Mother (front) CREDIT- Royal Collection Trust (c) 2nd Earl Snowdon & Lady Sarah Chatto | 18th-century style gown worn by Princess Margaret. CREDIT – Royal Collection Trust © 2nd Earl of Snowdon and Lady Sarah Chatto |Bellville Sassoon sketch for Diana, Princess of Wales’s ‘going away’ outfit (C) Historic Royal Palaces – Bellville Sassoon | Bellville Sassoon sketch for Diana, Princess of Wales’s ‘ca ring dress’ (C) Historic Royal Palaces – Bellville Sassoon