Most famous wedding dress ever did not disappoint

06/20/2011 6:32 AM

06/20/2011 6:32 AM

Count me in among the millions who always have had a fascination with the late Princess Diana.

Yes, I was one of the people who got up at dark-o-thirty to watch her marry her prince on July 29, 1981.

I couldn't wait to see the dress that had been kept top, top secret like none other.

And all of a sudden, there it was. Yards and yards of taffeta and yards and yards of tulle.

When I heard the dress was going to be part of "Diana, a Celebration" — an exhibit at Union Station in Kansas City, Mo. —I wasn't about to let it leave the area without seeing it. And neither was my friend Paula Morris.

Even when the GPS lady tried to lead us astray, we managed to get there in good time. And we had a good time.

The jewelry was amazing, the home movies were fun to see, the items from Diana's school days were interesting. But when we turned the corner and saw the dress, we both stopped dead in our tracks.

"There it is!" we said in unison. And there it was. Yards and yards of taffeta and yards and yards of tulle.

Right there, within easy reach if it hadn't been for that darned glass case. It was so much fun to see the dress that was designed and made by relatively unknown designers Elizabeth and David Emanuel.

As we stood and stared, we listened to a recording of Elizabeth telling about the four-month experience. She explained that she was in her studio doing a fitting when the phone rang. She thought about ignoring it but, after several rings, decided to answer. The person on the other end of the line was Lady Diana Spencer asking if the Emanuels would make her wedding gown.

Elizabeth said she felt sick and nearly fainted. She had to sit down. She knew it was a phone call that would change their careers and their lives.

It's one thing to see numerous photos of the most famous wedding dress, but it's another to see it up close. The number of details is amazing. The 25-foot-long train is edged with sparkling lace. Tiny mother-of pearl sequins and pearls were hand-embroidered on the veil.

The dress combined nostalgic elements of the 19th century with a fairy-tale fantasy.

Paula, a fellow shoe fanatic, and I also were thrilled to see the wedding shoes. The dress has been seen in photos. The shoes have not. They are ivory silk, decorated with mother-of-pearl sequins and pearls. Nearly 150 pearls and more than 500 sequins decorated the heart-shaped motif. The heel is only an inch high. The soles were made of suede so the princess wouldn't slip. I wanted to try them on.

After we had looked over every inch of the wedding gown, we moved on to the rest of the fashions on display. It was so interesting to see the drastic change in Princess Diana's taste. Her style really changed when she became a divorcee.

The purple silk crepe evening gown by Gianni Versace she wore in 1996 was a far cry from the royal blue evening dress with pink polka dots by Bruce Oldfield that she wore in 1987.

Chic describes the tailored suits and day dresses, with hats made for each outfit.

What a wardrobe. Yet in the photos, she also looked perfectly comfortable in the jeans and white shirts she wore traveling in Angola and Bosnia doing charity work.

Even though I have many books about Diana in my personal library, it was a special experience to see part of her wardrobe and to take a bit of an inside look into her life.

As we left, hoping we could remember where we parked the car, Paula and I wondered what Princess Diana would have thought of all the people looking at her grade school report cards, smiling at the home movies of her young life and reading personal correspondence with family members.

Conclusion: It's good to be a commoner.

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