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Charles and Diana's Wedding: See the Original Dress Sketches

The gown that launched a thousand copycats.

It's been called "the most closely guarded secret in fashion history." The details of Princess Diana's wedding dress for her June 29, 1981 nuptials to Prince Charles were so hush-hush, they were distributed to the press in sealed envelopes only to be opened at the exact moment the bride stepped into her coach bound for St. Paul's Cathedral. The designers, David and Elizabeth Emanuel, made a spare just in case the design was leaked. Today, the puff-sleeved confection is one of the most famous (albeit devisive) wedding gowns of all time, but, back in 1981, most reporters got their first glimpse of it (and the rest of the wedding party outfits) on a slip of paper. Here, those sketches and their real-life counterparts.

DIANA'S DRESS — THE SKETCH DIANA'S DRESS — THE SKETCH The gown, which barely fit in the carriage she rode in to the ceremony, was described thusly in the original press release: "The wedding dress is made of ivory pure silk taffeta and old lace, hand-embroidered with tiny mother-of-pearl sequins and pearls. The bodice is fitted and boned with a wide frill around the gently curved neckline, and intricately embroidered lace panels on the front and back. The sleeves are full and gathered into a taffeta frill at the elbow, with an elaborately embroidered lace flounce underneath. Another lace flounce surrounds the neckline, with a taffeta bow to match those on the sleeves. The skirt of the dress is full, worn over a crinoline petticoat consisting of many layers of ivory tulle, and is trimmed around the waist and hem with embroidered lace. The sweeping train, 25 feet long and detachable, is trimmed and edged with the same sparkling lace." DIANA'S DRESS — THE REAL THING DIANA'S DRESS — THE REAL THING Moments after the dress made its debut, manufacturers went into high gear producing knock-offs. At the time, one Welsh firm said it hoped to have a $467 version available for purchase within 48 hours. After Diana's untimely death in 1997, the gown became part of a touring exhibit, "Diana: A Celebration," before being returned to Princes William and Harry in 2014, per Diana's request that certain personal items be given to her sons after both turned 30. DIANA'S SLIPPERS — THE SKETCH DIANA'S SLIPPERS — THE SKETCH Chief among Diana's accessories were her ornately decorated slippers, which took six months to make from start to finish. Here's how the press release described them: "These unique hand-made wedding slippers, created by Clive Shilton, have a tiny fluted heel complementing the elegant line and softly pointed to. The ivory silk is entirely top-stitched in a diamond design and a mother-of-pearl sequin is hand-knotted in each centre. The lace rosettes have ruffled edges surrounding a heart-shaped centre piped in gold, with delicate pearls and sequins tracing the design of the lace. The slippers are piped and the sueded soles are edged in gold; finally the waist is intricately hand-painted with special motifs."

Diana also had a tiny diamond-studded horseshoe sewn into her dress for good luck and an umbrella prepared in case it rained.
DIANA'S SLIPPERS — THE REAL THING William Thomas Cain/Getty Images DIANA'S SLIPPERS — THE REAL THING "Her main [desire] was that she wouldn't appear taller than Prince Charles, and because she was very tall — 5 feet 10 inches — the shoes would have to have a low heel," Shilton recently recalled of his handiwork to the Daily Mail. The slippers would also become part of the touring exhibition commemorating the people's princess. LADY SARAH ARMSTRONG-JONES' DRESS — THE SKETCH LADY SARAH ARMSTRONG-JONES' DRESS — THE SKETCH Armstrong-Jones, daughter of Princess Margaret and cousin to Prince Charles, was one of Diana's five bridesmaids. Here's how her dress was described: "The five bridesmaids' dresses are based closely on the wedding dress itself, and are made of the same fabric in a lighter weight. Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones wears a full-length dress with a double-tiered skirt tried in lace and pearls. The neckline is gently scooped with a taffeta frill, and the bodice is fitted and boned with a panel of old lace on the front and back, hand-embroidered with pearls. The full sleeves have both a taffeta and a lace flounce at the elbow. The sash is made of old gold silk taffeta, with a bow at the back, and the shoes are made of a matching twill." LADY SARAH ARMSTRONG-JONES' DRESS — THE REAL THING Keystone/Getty Images LADY SARAH ARMSTRONG-JONES' DRESS — THE REAL THING QUEEN ELIZABETH'S DRESS — THE SKETCH QUEEN ELIZABETH'S DRESS — THE SKETCH The Queen's dress, designed by Ian Thomas, was described in the press release thusly: "A dress, coat, and hat of aquamarine silk crepe-de-chine. The coat is pleated from a yoke and is fastened with a row of small covered buttons. The dress is of simple design with a belt composed of narrow rouleaux, their ends embroidered with pearls and crystals. The hat is of matching crepe, the timing composed of rushed aquamarine gauze, sprigged with tiny satin flowers and crystals." QUEEN ELIZABETH'S DRESS — THE REAL THING Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images QUEEN ELIZABETH'S DRESS — THE REAL THING FRANCES SHAND KYDD'S DRESS — THE SKETCH FRANCES SHAND KYDD'S DRESS — THE SKETCH Here's how Diana's mother's dress, designed by Bellville Sassoon, was described in the press release: "Hyacinth blue chiffon dress with bias skirt, bodice has long sleeves and double tiered low necked collar, cuffs, and hem edged with matching satin. Worn with a straw brimmed hat with crown of flowers. Hat by John Boyd." FRANCES SHAND KYDD'S DRESS — THE REAL THING Tim Graham/Tim Graham/Getty Images FRANCES SHAND KYDD'S DRESS — THE REAL THING
PRINCESS ELIZABETH'S DRESSPrince Charles' mother, Queen Elizaebth II, was known as Princess Elizabeth at the time of her own wedding, in 1947. Learn the story behind her wedding dress, above.

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