Princess Diana is still to this day considered one of the most stylish women ever, and while many of her outfits made headlines, including her revenge dress and her wedding dress, it was actually an earlier outfit that literally stopped the press – and even UK politics.
The gown in question was also designed by the Emanuels, and the young Lady Diana Spencer wore it to her first official engagement with Prince Charles to attend the Gala Charity Concert at the Goldsmith’s Hall in London, in May 1981, a few months before the wedding.
It was a strapless gown featuring a sweetheart neckline, a nipped in waist, full train and plenty of ruffles. It made national headlines for being so daring, and marking a style departure for Diana.
Elizabeth Emanuel told Vogue the outfit choice happened by chance, at a fitting for the wedding dress, ‘She fell in love with it, and didn’t care that someone else had already worn it to a charity ‘do. We didn’t even consider whether the dress was right for the occasion, we just thought she looked fabulous.’
The dress caused somewhat of a controversy, with many writing to the design duo telling them it was too revealing (‘We hadn’t thought about what would happen when Diana got out of the car and leaned over.’)
However they did get plenty of compliments too, including from Lord Snowdon, who said that Princess Diana had looked ‘stunning’. And such was the impact of the dress in the media the next day, that the budget couldn’t be announced as planned.
‘We were so naive. There was so much press on Diana that they had to postpone the announcement of the budget until the next day! […] Life seemed to stop because of that dress,’ Elizabeth revealed.
She also added the gown was a significant moment for the Princess’ style, as she went from cute nursery teacher outfits to something more grown-up, ‘We witnessed the birth of a fashion icon before our very eyes’.