Royal lace: the wedding dress of Diana, Princess of Wales

The ivory taffeta wedding dress designed for Diana, Princess of Wales, remains an iconic garment in royal wedding dress history, with the bodice of the dress featuring a piece of antique Carrick-ma-cross lace that once belonged to Prince Charles’ great-grandmother, Queen Mary.

The wedding dress was on display in the exhibition Royal Style in the Making at Kensington Palace. 

The provenance of the historic lace is traced to a letter dated 8 July 1981 from Margaret Bartlett BEM, then Head of Work Room at the Royal School of Needlework and addressed to Diana’s wedding dress designers Elizabeth and David Emmanuel.

The Emmanuels, who had built a rapport with Bartlett through frequent contact with the Royal School of Needlework, were told the flounce of Carrick-ma-Cross lace was donated by Her Majesty Queen Mary.

Bodice of the wedding dress showcasing antique Carrick-ma-cross lace. © Historic Royal Palaces

Wedding dress bodice of Diana, Princess of Wales

Bartlett records the date of the gift is unknown but does offer some further detail about the donated laces, saying:

“These pieces of lace were given to the Royal School of Needlework for a lace fund set up during World War II to make up as articles, such as lace cushions, scent sachets nightdress cases etc. These items were sold and the proceeds were used for a fund for the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmens Association… If you have any of the lace over (which I doubt), I would be grateful if we could have those pieces back”.

This piece of historic lace formed the central bodice of Diana’s wedding dress and was enhanced with thousands of sequins, including mother of pearl and iridescent sequins.

Image: Diana, Princess of Wales in her wedding dress on the steps of St Paul's cathedral. © Getty

Detail of the wedding gown of Diana, Princess of Wales showing the lace on the dress.

Apart from the lace originally belonging to Queen Mary, the Emmanuels used their own antique lace to form the flounces in Diana’s wedding dress.

Roger Watson Laces, one of their regular suppliers, was commissioned to create an array of matching lace to form the trim and train of Diana’s wedding dress. This lace was also carried through in the bridesmaid dresses.

© Historic Royal Palaces

Kensington Palace exhibition trailer

The wedding dress of Diana, Princess of Wales, forms part of the key exhibits on display at the Royal Style in the Making exhibition at Kensington Palace.

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