Long before the world anxiously waited to see what dress Meghan Markle would wear for her wedding to Prince Harry, everyone’s eyes were on his mother, Princess Diana, on her own big day. Rumors about designers and style choices began flying as soon as Prince Charles and Diana announced their pending nuptials. When she finally revealed the famously lacy and puffed up gown as she made her way to the altar on July 29, 1981, it became an instant classic. But that fervor to sneak a peek at the dress before the wedding could have potentially caused Diana to walk into the church with a much different look.
David and Elizabeth Emanuel, the husband and wife design team who created Diana’s gown, once told People just how seriously they took keeping the dress a heavily guarded secret. So much, in fact, that they even whipped up a second dress for Diana to wear in case the word got out too soon and they needed to slip in a substitute. Apparently, that second gown was even more of a secret, to the point that even Diana herself had no idea it existed (unlike the second bouquet Queen Elizabeth advised her to keep on hand in case the first one went missing). The designers explained that it was really only for their own peace of mind. They never discussed the backup gown around Diana or even had her try it on.
The second dress was similar to the one she actually wore, only slightly more simple. It featured the same ruffles around the neck, but lacked the lace details. That’s because it also remained unfinished, probably because the designers were able to focus on her actual dress as they got closer to the wedding without anyone spilling the beans. After all of these years, it’s hard to imagine looking back and seeing Diana in anything other than the grandiose gown we all know and love. Sure, it might have been a little over the top and even a tad wrinkled from the carriage ride over to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, but it is forever undeniably part of Diana’s image.