Exploring a memory: Designer recreates a dress for Diana

This dress has a story, and Elizabeth Emanuel wants to tell it.

A stunning pink with a plunging, ruffled hem and a body-hugging shape, the gown was designed by Emanuel for Lady Diana Spencer to wear at a reception at Buckingham Palace just days before her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981. It was a standout look. the future princess, until then she was best known for her sweater-and-pearls look.

“This was not a floral dress,” said Emanuel, who also designed Diana’s wedding gown. “This was a dress to be seen and celebrated.” It was also forgotten. In an era before smartphones put a camera in everyone’s pocket and social media made private events public, the dress was mostly seen by party guests, including Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Grace and Nancy Reagan, but no one else. Emanuel doesn’t know where it is, or even if it exists.

So he recreated it, from bolts of shiny, satin taffeta cut and sewn to match the amazing paintings he made more than 40 years ago.

Acting on an idea that occurred during Britain’s long blockade, he did it himself, at his own expense. But also because he wanted to show another side of Diana, which Emanuel believes was misrepresented by “The Crown,” the popular Netflix series that brought the story of the princess and her troubled marriage to a new generation.

A fan of the first three seasons of the series, Emanuel said it was difficult for him to watch the last two because of how Diana was portrayed.

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Making a bespoke dress is a long process, requiring many fittings that give the customer and the dressmaker plenty of time to talk. And in all the hours they spent together, Diana came across as a happy, strong young woman, not the girl at the end of “The Crown” portrayed as being tormented by events beyond her control, Emanuel said.

“He wasn’t like that,” Emanuel said. “He was always healthy. And, you know, I like to feel that we were close enough that if he had had big issues we would have known about it at the time, because these guys are compatible.” One of the things that the series does well is to review the journey of Diana’s style, from the cardigans and bows she wore when she first entered the public eye, to wear frothy fabrics with frills and flounces and finally to her becoming a global icon in Versace, Dior. and Chanel.

Diana grew up in the country, looking to her older sisters for fashion cues. This was a country of hunting, shooting and fishing, where Barbour coats and Wellington boots were worn every day. It was a tradition that no matter how much you cared about your appearance, you had to look like you weren’t trying too hard.

Diana brought this sense of style with her when she went to London after leaving school and soon became the archetype of the Sloane Ranger, the name of the rich young people who lived near London’s Sloane Square and cultivated the appearance of bohemian aristocrats.

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She was, as former BBC royal correspondent Michael Cole put it, “this Sloane Ranger with her pie crust collars and Fair Isle sweaters and bright skirts. She was a product of the English countryside.” But after her marriage to the future King Charles III, she began to grow into the glory of being a princess.

“It was really about trying to get used to the job,” Cole said. “He appreciated and came to understand the power of clothes, the power of image. It helped a lot that he had good taste, and I think he had some good mentors.” In other words, he evolved and learned to use clothes to create a message.

And maybe the journey started with a hot pink party dress.

After losing weight, Diana asked Emanuel, her ex-husband David, and their team to create a dress that would show off her new classy figure and transform her image for celebrities and heads of state invited to the palace.

“She wanted something amazing and eye-catching to wear because the whole world was going to be there for that party,” Emanuel said at the London studio.

“I think there was a message sent by this dress, for sure. That she used to be known as Shy Di, but this dress was no longer Shy Di.” But for Emanuel, the project is more than just setting a record. It is about one friend who remembers another and the help the queen gave to his work.

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There is something touching about the way he looks at this copy and adapts it to a mannequin as tall as Diana, clearly remembering his famous client.

She recreated the dress that belonged to the Diana she knew, she broke the mold, she was brave, she was ready to go on stage. And when he was working, Diana was in his head all the time.

“When I’m looking at it, I’m imagining his face,” Emanuel said. “The last time we saw her in the dress was at that show and she looked really good and fun. And now all these years later, you know, making it again, it’s amazing.” in the hand.

Emanuel now has plans to redo one of the wedding dresses he made for Diana – a saree made just in case the tabloids somehow manage to get a photo of the first dress before the big day. But the dress never fell, and the spare disappeared from the people.

“I want to see if I can do it right and soak in all these memories,” he said. “I’ll have them. They’ll be there. They won’t just be fantasy figures or floating around digitally. They’ll be real things I can remember.”

(This story is not edited by Devdiscourse staff and is generated automatically from an integrated feed.)

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