Princess Diana's mysterious second wedding dress is missing

Princess Diana's backup wedding dress is nowhere to be found

HRH Prince Charles marrying Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul's Cathedral, London, 29th July 1981. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Princess Diana had a backup wedding dress in case of emergencies - but nobody knows where the gown is today. 

Princess Diana’s wedding dress is so iconic that it’s hard to imagine the stunning bride saying ‘I do’ in anything else - but it wasn’t the only option on the big day.

The designers of the taffeta ivory gown reportedly had an alternative piece ready to go, just in case anything went wrong with the original garment. However, almost 40 years later, the location of this never-before-seen dress remains unknown. 

According to Chloe Savage, who worked on the bridal gowns of both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, it is very common to prepare a backup dress for royal weddings. The understudy outfit is an essential reserve if the dress were to be damaged or if photos of the design were leaked to the press before the big day. 

"It only takes one person to ruin the surprise,” she told Insider. “For a day like that, when it's going to be so big, you really do need an emergency backup in some format." 

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Despite the importance of Princess Diana’s second wedding dress at the time, its whereabouts today is a mystery. Elizabeth Emanuel, who co-designed both the original and the substitute dress with her brother David, has admitted that she can’t remember what happened to the backup. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 29: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a wedding dress designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel and the Spencer family Tiara, leave St. Paul's Cathedral following their wedding on July 29, 1981 in London, England.

(Image credit: (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

"I don't know if we sold it or put it into storage," she told the Daily Mail in 2017. "It was such a busy time. I'm sure it'll turn up in a bag one day!"

Without the primary source for reference, royal fans must rely on Emanuel’s memory to envision the almost-famous dress. And if the British designer’s description is anything to go by, the creation was far less spectacular than the original dress. 

As it was made under a strict deadline, it lacked the extravagance of Princess Diana’s show-stopping dress.  

"It was only three-quarters finished - we simply didn't have time to make it in its entirety," Emanuel explained. 

The dress consequently looked like a draft of the final piece, sharing the same outline without the intricate details. Unlike the bridal gown we all know and love, the alternative had no lace or embroidery. Princess Diana didn’t even try it on, as it was only to be worn as a last resort. 

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

We’re quite relieved the lackluster design didn’t make it down the aisle, but that hasn’t stopped us from wondering - where on earth is this royal artifact hiding? 

Emma Dooney
Lifestyle News Writer

Hailing from the lovely city of Dublin, Emma mainly covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health and wellness feature. Always up for a good conversation, she has a passion for interviewing everyone from A-list celebrities to the local GP - or just about anyone who will chat to her, really.

Emma holds an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London, and a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.