Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images; Netflix
They couldn’t not recreate the iconic silk taffeta and lace gown designed by David Emanuel and then-wife Elizabeth Emanuel that Princess Diana wore on July 29, 1981, when she married Prince Charles at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Assistant costume designer Sidonie Roberts said that they had David’s blessing to copy the dress, which in real life took three months of round-the-clock work, starting from the time the royal-to-be showed up for her first consultation at the Emanuels’ modest studio in London’s Mayfair district. The couple and their assistants proceeded to toil away in utmost secrecy, throwing out sketches lest they be glimpsed by the voracious press, blacking out their windows and employing all sorts of subterfuge.
“It was a magical time,” David recalled to E! News in a 2017 interview. “She was young, she was beautiful, so how to start to design for someone like that?” He said there was “no red tape” or limitations from the palace and they had “utterly free reign” to collaborate with Diana alone on the dress.
However, regarding the materials, “everything has to be British, British, British,” David said. “We’ve got the [silk]worms and they’re British, we’ve got the taffeta coming, we’ve got the lace.” The prior record for a royal wedding dress train was 20 feet, so they decided to blast past that and make Diana’s train 25-feet-long.
“Halfway through we realized, ‘We’re not going to finish this.’ There was a little bit of panic,” the designer remembered. Diana had a wonderful sense of humor, he shared, but “behind the scenes we’re thinking, ‘Maybe we’ve bitten off too much…keep sewing!'”