In the summer of 1981, many of us were immersed in the frenzy surrounding Lady Diana and Prince Charles’ royal wedding. Of particular interest was the speculation as to which designer would have the opportunity to design the dress for the wedding of the century. Publications like Women’s Wear Daily proclaimed they had the inside track, and even published an illustration of Diana’s dress that was completely different from what became the most famous of all wedding dresses.
On the day of the royal nuptials, with over 750 million people watching, Lady Diana arrived at St. Paul’s Cathedral in a glass carriage right out of a fairy tale. Unfortunately, the carriage was too small for Diana, her father and the dress. It seemed as if Diana exploded out of the carriage in a dress made of silk taffeta with exaggerated puffed sleeves, an embellished V-neckline, decorated lace, hand embroidery, sequins, 10,000 pearls and a 25-foot train. The chosen designers were Elizabeth and David Emanuel, who began their relationship with Diana with a romantic, high collared blouse she wore for a Vogue magazine photo shoot. They were also responsible for the daring black strapless dress Diana wore for her first public event after the couple announced their engagement. It caused an international stir with its revealing neckline.
From the moment of the wedding, Princess Diana became the most photographed woman in the world, and a fashion icon. Diana’s hairstyle was copied for decades, from her Shy Di layered bangs to the more sophisticated styles she wore in the 90’s. Her hats rejuvenated the millinery business worldwide. The glamorous dresses she wore for royal events were covered on a daily basis by newspapers and fashion magazines. She earned the title “The People’s Princess" with her dedication to charitable causes, and her knack of getting the press to cover her appearances. We not only connected with her style, but followed her life full of joy and sorrow, and watched with tears on the day of her funeral.
While visiting London and Kensington Palace in 1993, I was able to see the famous dress up-close and personal. What struck me was that with all of its volume and over-the-top detail, it suited the 20-year old nursery school teacher. Her request to the Emanuels was to design a dress for a fairy tale Princess; and as she walked the aisle of St. Paul’s, all eyes were on Diana Princess of Wales.
On April 29, 2011, almost 30 years after the royal wedding of the century, Diana’s son William will marry Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey. There is much chatter about whom Kate will choose to design her dress. Press speculation has covered almost every major British designer, from John Galliano to Stella McCartney, and even Victoria Beckham. The odds favorite seems to be Bruce Oldfield, who ironically was one of Diana’s favorite designers.
Judging from Kate Middleton’s style, it seems that whoever does the designing, Kate will have much to say about what could become the second most famous wedding gown in the world. I’ll have my alarm clock set for the 3am wakeup call so that I don’t miss a single minute of history and fashion in the making.