Princess Diana's wedding dress designer Elizabeth Emanuel was 'horrified' when she saw the iconic gown on the big day

Throughout the decades, a number of outfits have earned their place in history, standing the test of time as iconic symbols of yesteryear. 

From Jennifer Lopez's plunging jungle-print Versace dress at the 2000 Grammy Awards to Rihanna's yellow fur-trimmed gown by Guo Pei at the 2015 Met Gala (immortalised by omelette memes), to Angelina Jolie's posed leg peeking out of a thigh-high split in 2012, there are numerous examples of ensembles that remain imprinted on our collective memory (try forgetting Lady Gaga's meat dress anytime soon).

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the late Lady Diana Spencer cultivated a reputation as a fashion phenom. From her Christian Stambolian 'revenge dress' in 1994 to her sweatshirts and cycle shorts (which are still on-trend today), Princess Diana is regularly regarded as among the most stylish women in recent history. 

One of the late royal's most iconic looks continues to be her wedding dress, worn during her ill-fated nuptials to Charles, Princes of Wales on July 29, 1981. The 20-year-old emerged from her carriage at St Paul's Cathedral wearing an ivory silk taffeta and antique lace gown, the brainchild of husband-and-wife designer duo David and Elizabeth Emanuel. The meringue-like creation - that featured 10,000 pearls and a 25-foot hand-embroidered silk train - inspired a generation of brides, with its impact on bridalwear still evident today.

However, not everyone was satisfied with Diana's dress on the big day. 

Despite spending months on the top-secret gown, which remained shrouded in mystery until the day of the wedding, the designers were "horrified" when their creation finally made its highly anticipated debut. 

During an appearance on ITV's Invitation to the Royal Wedding, Elizabeth Emanuel recalled the moment she saw Diana step out of her wedding carriage - and her gut-wrenching shock when she saw how creased the dress had become.

"We did know it would crease a bit, but when I saw her arrive at St Paul's and we saw the creasing, I actually felt faint," Elizabeth recollected, as reported by the Mirror.

"I was horrified... it was quite a lot of creasing. It was a lot more than we thought."

Princess Diana and Prince Charles on their wedding day, July 29, 1981.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles on their wedding day, July 29, 1981. Photo credit: Getty Images

Although there had been a dress rehearsal beforehand, the designers had opted for a different material - meaning they had no clue how easily crumpled the actual dress would become on Diana's big day.

Since that historic day more than 40 years ago, more information has continued to come to light about the iconic gown - including that an exact replica was also created in case of an emergency.

Speaking to People, David Emanuel previously revealed: "At the time we wanted to make absolutely sure that the dress was a surprise. We didn't try it on Diana. We never even discussed it.

"We wanted to make sure that we had something there; it was for our own peace of mind, really."

Additionally, the designers also created an emergency parasol featuring the same lace as the dress, as well as hand-embroidered pearls and sequins - just in case of bad weather. Thankfully, she didn't have to use it.

"It was probably a good thing. It was made of such light material that it certainly wasn't waterproof," Elizabeth previously told the Daily Mail. "It wouldn't have done her much good!"

Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Photo credit: Getty Images

Also in an interview with People, Elizabeth recalled that the young bride-to-be had lost a dramatic amount of weight in the lead-up to her nuptials, meaning alterations were required. It's known that Diana's years-long battle with bulimia began shortly after she became engaged to Prince Charles. 

And if the creasing didn't alarm the designers enough, Diana's makeup artist also claims the young princess spilled perfume on her gown moments before walking down the aisle. 

According to People, Barbara Daly revealed that Diana accidentally splashed her favourite scent - Quelques Fleurs - on her dress when she tried to apply some to her wrists.

Daly claims she instructed the princess to hold the damp spot on her dress to make it appear that she was lifting the gown as she walked. She was even spotted trying to cover the stain with her hand as she approached the altar.

Speaking to Hello! in 2020, David Emanuel revealed that Diana had called him following the ceremony to thank him and his wife for their work on the now famous gown.

"It couldn't have been more special for me to hear from the client," he told the magazine.

"When you design for a bride you want her to be happy. As long as the bride is happy that is all that matters. The fact she took the time before she went off on honeymoon... that's genuine kindness."