Exploring a memory: Designer recreates a dress for Diana | Lifestyle

LONDON (AP) — This is a dress with a story, and Elizabeth Emanuel wants to tell it.

Shocking pink with a plunging neckline, frill and body-hugging shape, the dress was designed by Emanuel for Lady Diana Spencer to wear to a party at Buckingham Palace days before her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981. It was a visual output. event for the future princess, until then largely known for her conservative sweater and pearls look.

“This was definitely not an off-the-wall dress,” said Emanuel, who also co-designed Diana’s wedding dress. “This was a dress to be seen and celebrated.”

It was also soon forgotten. In an era before smartphones put a camera in everyone’s pocket and social media made private events public, the dress was seen mostly by party guests, including Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Grace and Nancy Reagan, but no one else. Emanuel doesn’t know where it is, or even if it still exists.

So he recreated it, from bolts of shiny satin taffeta, cut and sewn to match the dramatic sketches he made more than 40 years ago.

Acting on an idea that took shape during the UK’s long periods of coronavirus isolation, she made it for herself, for her archive. But also because he wanted to show another side of Diana, which Emanuel believes has been misrepresented by “The Crown,” the popular Netflix series that brought the story of the princess and her ill-fated marriage to a new generation.

A fan of the show’s first three seasons, Emanuel said she found it hard to watch the last two because of how Diana was portrayed.

Creating a custom dress is a long process that requires several accessories that give the customer and the tailor plenty of time to talk. And throughout the hours they spent together, Diana emerged as a happy and vibrant young woman, not the shrinking girl that “The Crown” portrays as struck by events beyond her control, said Emanuel.

“It wasn’t like that,” Emanuel said. “She was always very optimistic. And, you know, I like to feel like I was close enough that if she was in huge trouble, we could have been aware of it at the time, because those fittings are pretty intimate.”

One of the things the series does well is retrace Diana’s style journey, from the cardigans and bows she wore when she first stepped into the public eye, to the frothy ball gowns with frills and frills, and in the later, to becoming a global fashion icon in Versace, Dior. and Chanel.

Diana grew up in the country, looking to her older sisters for fashion cues. This was a world of hunting, shooting and fishing, where Barbour coats and Wellington boots were worn every day. It was a culture where no matter how much you cared about your appearance, you had to look like you weren’t trying too hard.

Diana brought that sense of style with her when she moved to London after leaving school and soon became the archetypal Sloane Ranger, the media name for the rich young men who lived near London’s Sloane Square and cultivated the look of bohemian aristocrats.

She was, as former BBC royal reporter Michael Cole put it, “this Sloane Ranger with her pie collars and Fair Isle jumpers and rather voluminous skirts. She was a product of the English landscape.”

But after her engagement to the future King Charles III, she began to embrace the glamor of being a princess.

“It was actually a bit of an effort for her to adjust to that role,” Cole said. “She appreciated and came to understand the power of clothes, the power of image. It helped a lot that he had good taste and I think he had some good advisers.”

In other words, she evolved and learned to use clothes to project a message.

And maybe the journey started with the hot pink party dress.

After losing weight, Diana asked Emanuel, her ex-husband David and their team to create a dress that would show off her new supermodel figure and transform her image for celebrities and world leaders invited to the palace.

“She wanted to wear something really spectacular and eye-catching for it, because the whole world was going to be there at that party,” Emanuel said at her London studio.

“I think a message was sent with this dress, really. That she had previously been known as Shy Di, but in this dress she was definitely no longer Shy Di.”

But for Emanuel, the project is about more than simply setting the record straight. It’s about one friend who remembers another and the helping hand the princess gave her career.

There’s something poignant about the way she looks at this specimen and adjusts it on a mannequin roughly as tall as Diana, clearly remembering her famous client.

She recreated a dress that belonged to the Diana she knew, who broke the mold, who was brave, who was ready to take the stage. And while she was working, Diana was in her head all the time.

“As I look at it, I picture her face,” Emanuel said. “The last time I saw her in the dress was actually at that party and she looked so radiant and fantastic. And then all these years later, you know, recreating it again, it’s kind of weird.”

But that won’t stop her from continuing to explore her memories. She embraced the process of making the dress, of holding a memory in her hand.

Emanuel now has plans to recreate the alternate wedding dress he made for Diana – a backup created in case the tabloids somehow manage to get a photo of the primary dress before the big day. But the dress never leaked, and the spare one disappeared from public view.

“I want to see if I can do well and delve into all those memories,” she said. “I will have them. They will be there. They won’t just be imaginations or float around digitally. There will be real things I can remember.”

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