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Princess Diana’s wedding dress designer, Elizabeth Manuel, was prepared for the worst when it came to the late royal’s big day.  

While the beaded, bow-adorned puff-sleeve masterpiece Diana donned to say “I do” to Prince Charles is still etched into the brains of many of Us, few know that Manuel, now 70, actually created a backup dress in the event that something happened to the original. (Charles, now 75, and Diana divorced in 1996. Charles became King after Queen Elizabeth II‘s death in September 2022.)  

“I was a bit neurotic, and I thought, ‘What happens if somebody breaks in and steals the dress or something spills or there’s a fire or it gets stolen?’ Manuel told People in a video interview published via YouTube on Wednesday, April 3. “So, I thought, ‘I’m gonna make a backup dress.”  

The “spare” look took inspiration from a pink dress Emanuel made for Diana to wear at a pre-wedding ball. Unlike the original dress, the backup was bright white in color and did not feature the 25-foot train. Other details included a ruffled neckline and slimmer sleeves that were “more fitted to her arms.” The backup design also featured an array of pearls throughout the bodice that fell into a billowing skirt with scallop embroidery.  

Although much thought went into the creation of the backup, the look never saw the light of day and wasn’t finished. Manuel told People that after realizing Diana would indeed wear the original design, the backup ended up on a sample rack “somewhere.”  

Designer of Princess Diana’s Wedding Gown Talks Creating Spare Dress

Elizabeth and David Emanuel in their London workshop in May 1981.
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Now, however, the spare is getting a second chance. Manuel has recreated the look to be put on display at the virtual Princess Diana Museum. 

“We never got to see that dress on Diana and thought it would be lovely to envision it,” Renae Plant, the museum’s curator told People. “You cannot put a price tag on history.” 

Because the first spare had been lost, Manuel recreated the second version mostly from memory.  

Designer of Princess Diana’s Wedding Gown Talks Creating Spare Dress
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“In order to do this dress, I had to go back in time through my memories, and I also found these photographs we took at the time. I wanted to get it as accurate as possible and make it in a way we would have made it then,” Manuel told People.  

Manuel later reflected on her time with Diana, sharing that the late princess contacted the designer herself and asked her to make her wedding dress. “I had to run out of the room. I was with a client. That’s how it all started … It was an amazing honor to make her wedding dress. ”

The two reunited again years later at a Christie’s auction, which was the last time Manuel saw Diana before her fatal Paris car crash in August 1997. 

 “She was lovely and she looked radiant,” Manuel added. 


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