Revealed: The Secrets Behind The Making Of The Wedding Dress of Princess Diana
Newbridge Silverware and the Museum of Style Icons (Co. Kildare, Ireland) has launched its extended Princess Diana Exhibition.
It contains never before displayed garments, patterns, toiles and pieces of Princess Diana’s wedding dress and opened to coincide with the late Princess’ birthday. Princess Diana is largely seen as one of the most influential fashion figures of the last century. And had she lived, would have celebrated her 59th birthday on 1st July.
Although it is almost 23 years since her death, her fashion legacy still endures. To remember her life in style and fashion, Newbridge Silverware and the Museum of Style Icons created an exhibition. Once that showcases some of the Princess’ most famous garments and personal effects. ‘Diana – A Fashion Legacy’ originally opened in 2017. It included some of Princess Diana’s most famous garments including the original toile of her wedding dress, co-designed and created by David and Elizabeth Emanuel. Now, the wedding dress section of this exhibition has been extended with never before seen exhibits being added. These new elements reveal the secrets behind the making of Diana’s wedding dress.
The new additions which have been resting in the Newbridge Silverware archives for many years include the highly valuable original brown paper patterns which were used to make the royal wedding gown, and a letter of authenticity signed by Elizabeth Emanuel. There are also two silk bodice toiles, a pair of calico sleeve toiles, a single slimmer alternative sleeve toile and three further calico / muslin bodice toiles. New to the display is a delicate petticoat. This would have allowed the Emanuel’s to see how the silk on the skirt of the dress would have fallen.
A toile is a dressmaker’s equivalent of a working document. Numerous bodice changes had to be made by David and Elizabeth Emanuel as Diana continued to lose weight in the weeks leading up her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981. The actual gown was only made up in silk based on this final toile as the last possible moment to ensure the most accurate fit and also as there was a limited amount of the special woven silk available.
In an age before Instagram and social media the allure and style of Princess Diana still made its way across the world with every outfit she wore being scrutinised and admired. Naturally the wedding was a huge affair. And it was televised with an estimated 700 million people worldwide tuning in to see ‘the dress’. Of course, it didn’t disappoint. It was made of ivory silk, pure taffeta and incorporated antique lace, 10,000 pearls and had a 25ft train.
“A style icon”
After the dress was made, some silk was left over. And the Emanuel’s made a miniature copy of the royal wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses (similar to the ones given to Princess Diana by Elizabeth Emanuel and David Emanuel in 1981). The miniatures were made at a scale of 1/8th of the original dress and were created using cut-offs from the original bridal silk and lace. They were mounted onto miniature mannequins. These perfect little dresses are also on display at the exhibition at Newbridge Silverware. They feature mini versions of the three bridesmaid dresses similar to those worn by India Hicks, Clementine Hambro and Lady Sarah Armstrong Jones. There were only ever two sets of the miniatures made. Princess Diana had one set, and the other is the one now at Newbridge Silverware.
Even though it is now almost twenty-three years since the Princess of Wales died. But the public interest in her, her style and persona has never diminished. In her short life, Princess Diana became a style icon. She was admired around the world for her grace, beauty, and impeccable taste. There is not a single item or specific look that sums up Diana and her style. She was a modern royal. A woman who broke the mould. And she was as happy in a black-tie gala dress as she was in jeans and a sweater.
“Romantic and innocent”
Her pre-wedding style was defined in her early years by frills, bows and whimsical details. It was a romantic and innocent look. One which was far removed from her later styles which at times were sexy, sporty and even androgynous. Princess Diana was a chameleon who understood fashion and the power of clothes. And she used clothes to communicate her mood and frame of mind.
As a public figure who embodied glamour, intrigue, duty and mystery, Diana’s wardrobe was one of her most powerful tools of communication. On the night that Prince Charles admitted his infidelity in 1994 Princess Diana wore a sexy, black off the shoulder dress by Christina Stambolian. The figure hugging dress, with its split up the leg showed off her toned figure and athletic body and was a regarded by many as a strategic dress, worn by the Princess to tell her wayward husband that she was strong and determined and would not be put down by his infidelity. The plan worked. And the next day’s papers showed pictures of a confident, beaming Diana arriving to the Serpentine Gallery in what would later become known as ‘The Revenge Dress’.
This dress is probably one of the most important garments in the Princess Diana collection at Newbridge Silverware. And it marks a major turning point in her life. Composed of black silk damask, the bodice is crossed with tiny pleats which continue over the dropped shoulder line. A figure hugging gown with diagonally swathed chiffon skirt, which culminates in the trailing side swag.
‘Diana – A Fashion Legacy’ is now one of the permanent exhibitions at The Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge Silverware. Entry to the exhibition and the museum is free of charge. For more see visitnewbridgesilverware.com