Princess Diana's iconic wedding dress not only became an inspiration for generations of brides to come, but it also changed the life of the gown designer, David Emanuel, and it all started with a phone call from the then 19-year-old Diana.
A report in E! News features designer David Emanuel talking about how the off-white ruffled gown with voluminous sleeves, 10,000 pearls and 25-foot train became the fashion legacy for the ages.
"Hello, it's me," was the greeting that Emanuel heard on the line and his life changed forever. "Hello, me," he replied. The voice on the phone belonged to the newly engaged woman – who would go on to become Diana, Princess of Wales—calling to ask if Emanuel and his wife at the time, Elizabeth Emanuel, would design her wedding gown.
David Emanuel told the outlet that he gave the future princess a hearty yes, and then proceeded to say nothing, "absolutely nothing," to anybody about the call of a lifetime. He also recalled that so much time had passed before she called again, he started to wonder if it was all a prank. The phone "did eventually ring, thank God," he said, adding that Diana hadn't changed her mind.
Emanuel revealed to the website that although the Princess had to abide by certain royal traditions on her wedding day, she was open to ideas. "There was no red tape, there were no limitations" from the palace, Emanuel said. "We had completely, utterly free reign, and it was down to her, and her alone, that she had the confidence to select Emanuel and to believe in it."
They had three design consultations before Buckingham Palace officially announced that the Emanuels would be making the gown. David recalled, "And then the world changed. After the announcement, my tiny little studio and the roofs and every other conceivable building in the neighborhood were surrounded by paparazzi, long lenses, everything, every agency in the entire world" came to Emanuel in London.
He remembered running through the press' calls for comment. "We had every TV station you can imagine, and of course, working with couture clients I had learned, you don't give any details at all—and particularly not for a royal wedding."
Emanuel also shed light on how intricate it was designing the perfect gown for the royal princess and recalled "giggling" with Diana.
He explained, "It was a magical time. She was young, she was beautiful, so how to start to design for someone like that? So whatever you do, you have to make the gown young. But, she was going in Lady Diana Spencer, she's coming out the Princess of Wales, so this dress had to be young and sweet, but it also had to be glam because she was going to be a royal princess. She couldn't do a quiet-looking, low-key little gown. The pomp and ceremony and the whole thing, I remember giggling with her."
Moreover, "everything has to be British, British, British. We've got the worms and they're British, we've got the taffeta coming, we've got the lace." And then it was time to think about the train. After finding out that the royal wedding record was 20 feet, he suggested 25 feet train, hand-embroidered with sequins and pearls.
But the dress sewing process wasn't easy, as he recalled the panic. 'We're not going to finish this.' There was a little bit of panic." 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!'"
"Copious amounts of tea was drunk, copious amounts of coffee was drunk, you name it—keep going! And finally we could see the end," he added.
Diana made her debut, looking ethereal in the gown, in front of all her friends and family and the 700 million people around the globe who watched on television for her 1981 nuptials to Prince Charles at St. Paul's Cathedral.