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Princess Diana's secret bridal hack at St Paul's Cathedral wedding rehearsals – exclusive

Prince William and Prince Harry's parents got married in 1981

Prince Charles whispering to Diana on their wedding day on the balcony of Buckingham Palace
Nichola Murphy
Nichola MurphyDeputy Lifestyle Editor
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For many brides, not just the royal family, the wedding look doesn't come together until the very last minute. 

This was the case for the late Princess Diana, who found a clever hack to ensure that her bridal dress and heels worked in harmony on her big day in 1981. How did she guarantee her wedding dress was cut to the perfect length for her heels? And how did she prevent any trips down the aisle in front of all of her friends and family?

Princess Diana's wedding slippers on display© William Thomas Cain
Princess Diana's wedding slippers went on display following her wedding

Diana's wedding dress designer Elizabeth Emanuel shared behind-the-scenes details of the royal wedding with HELLO!, from the "spare" wedding dress that was never pictured to the hot pink pre-wedding dress and, the one we're dying to know more about, the secret rehearsals. 

Next to a personal photo of a replica of Diana's shoes, she explained: "The original shoes worn by Princess Diana at all her fittings and rehearsals. They are covered in our original silk fabric and topstitched as in the actual shoes worn at the wedding but are a simple version. The original finished shoes are with Princess Diana's family. 

Princess Diana's bridesmaids' shoes© Elizabeth Emanuel
Elizabeth Emanuel shared personal photos of Princess Diana's wedding prep, including her bridesmaids' shoes

"The soles are slightly scuffed since Diana wore this pair every time she tried on her wedding gown and at the St Paul's rehearsal before the wedding. We used the shoes for her fittings so that we could get the length correct on the wedding gown and also to check that Diana would be comfortable wearing them."

The finished shoes worn by Diana featured the same low heel and luxe silk material, but they were also finished with the bride and groom's initials 'C' and 'D' on the sole.

Elizabeth Emanuel in 1981© Getty
Elizabeth Emanuel and her ex David designed Diana's wedding dress

Diana's shoes were largely hidden by her dress, which had been shrouded in secrecy in the lead-up to the wedding. Elizabeth and her then-partner David Emanuel designed a gorgeous puff-sleeve wedding dress adorned with 10,000 hand-embellished mother-of-pearl sequins and pearls and featuring a 25-foot train. So it's no wonder the British couturier described it as "controversial" and "very theatrical."

"There had never been a gown like that before. Mainly because we weren't given any constraints and we were out of college and we just loved designing and flamboyance and were all into lace and frills and ruffles, and it was the age of new romance," the designer told HELLO!.

Elizabeth Emanuel with Diana in her sitting room in 1986 looking at fabrics for a royal tour© Getty
Designer Elizabeth opened up about the secret preparations for the royal wedding

"There hasn't been a dress like that since. They are much more restrained, regal looking. Diana’s was a dress of the 80s really, and it was very theatrical, very dramatic. And we knew the wedding was going to be in St. Paul's. And that's huge inside so we wanted the dress to stand out, but also for Diana, we wanted to make her look like a fairy princess."

The Princess wore her blonde hair in a blow-dried pixie cut and added the glittering Spencer tiara and a custom 30-metre tulle veil hand-stitched by Peggy Umpleby of S. Lock, now Hand & Lock. 

Prince Charles and Princess Diana walking down the stairs at St. Paul's Cathedral following their wedding on July 29, 1981 © Getty
Prince Charles and Princess Diana got married at St. Paul's Cathedral in July 1981

Marrying the heir to the British throne, then-Prince Charles, came with immense pressure, but 20-year-old Diana made sure she enjoyed the planning process, according to Elizabeth, whose career has spanned over four decades.

"I think she really enjoyed it because I think it was her first foray into fashion. I don't think she’d really thought about it before," recalled Elizabeth, before revealing her delight that the royal bride had taken time out of her honeymoon to personally thank the designers. 

"She said she really loved it and what fun she'd had with us during the making process - and that made us feel a lot better!" Elizabeth said.

LOOK: Second royal wedding shoes: Meghan Markle, Princess Eugenie and more rarely-seen heels

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