Heritage

The Fascinating Story Behind Duplicate Royal Wedding Dresses

Who knew there were so many priceless gowns floating around?
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Meghan Markle wowed everyone this spring when she wore not one but two gorgeous wedding dresses to marry Prince Harry, but she's not the first royal bride to have multiple gowns.

Sarah, Duchess of York, along with Diana, Princess of Wales, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, also had their designers seeing double — but not for the reason you may think. Instead of creating alternative looks for the reception, each of the couturiers made an exact replica of their iconic dresses for a special exhibit at Madame Tussauds in London.

THE REPLICA OF SARAH FERGUSON'S WEDDING DRESS


Madame Tussauds opened an exhibit in 2000 that showed Sarah, Duchess of York, wearing a replica of her wedding dress made by the original designer.

In Fergie's case, up-and-coming London courtier Lindka Cierach created both gowns in complete secrecy in advance of her July 23, 1986, nuptials to Prince Andrew.

"Cierach and her five-woman team worked for four months in the sunny fourth-floor studio of her home in London’s Fulham section," People reported at the time. "They listened to Chopin and Beethoven, ate constantly, and giggled relentlessly as they stitched two identical bridal dresses (one for Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks), four bridesmaids’ outfits, and several evening gowns."

Fergie's actual dress cost a reported $45,000, but it's unclear if the same quality of the materials were used on the dupe. (We feel pretty confident that the wax museum didn't get the same diamond tiara.)

That dress went on display with the other replicas as it was intended in 2000. The story behind Princess Diana's dress is a little more complicated, however. 

THE REPLICA OF PRINCESS DIANA'S WEDDING DRESS


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The exhibit with the wax figures of Diana, Princess of Wales, Sarah, Duchess of York, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex wearing their wedding dresses.

Elizabeth and David Emanuel, the creative team behind the design, have confirmed that they gave a duplicate copy to Madame Tussaud's directly after she married Prince Charles. But in 2005, the museum decided to sell the gown — and claim that the princess had worn it during fittings. 

"This dress was kept until the last minute in case the original was damaged or stained during the day's proceedings and Diana needed to change," Christina Bennett, curator for Madame Tussauds in 1981, told CBS News at the time.

The Emanuels disputed that telling of events; however, claiming their hands were full just fitting the first version.

"Diana never tried the dress on, it was never a backup dress," Elizabeth said. "David and I were there. Unless I am having a brain seizure, trying on a second dress was the last thing Diana would have done. ... She was so busy, we had to fit all our fittings around her schedule. There was absolutely no way she could have tried on that dress."

To her point, Diana did stain her dress on her wedding day by spilling perfume down the front, her makeup artist Barbara Daly revealed in Diana: The Portrait, and she still wore it the rest of the day.

Auctioneers Cooper Owen went ahead with the sale though, as the museum wanted to make room for "more interactive displays that people can touch." It sold for $175,000, (twice the pre-sale estimate) to an anonymous buyer, despite it missing the antique Queen Mary lace on the front and having a train one-third the length of the original, TODAY reported.

THE OTHER PRINCESS DIANA WEDDING DRESS

To make things even more confusing, there's even talk of a third gown that mysteriously disappeared. This one began as a potential decoy in case the design of the main dress leaked to the press before the wedding. However, Diana never tried it on or even really knew about it, Elizabeth Emanuel told People in 2011.

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The alternative design featured a more pronounced V-neck with similar ruffles as the original, but lacked the signature lace down the front. But the main reason it didn't have the wow factor is that it was only partially completed.

"We simply didn’t have time to make it in its entirety, so none of the embroidery or finishing touches were done," Elizabeth told the Daily Mail. "It was hanging up in the studio for a long time, and then it disappeared. I don’t know if we sold it or put it into storage. It was such a busy time. I’m sure it’ll turn up in a bag one day!"

Today, Diana's original gown is on display at her family home of Althorp Estate, where she was also buried. The location of Sarah Ferguson's gown is unknown, but she's likely still holding onto it herself. Who knows? Maybe Princess Eugenie will use an element of it in her own wedding dress when she marries Jack Brooksbank this October.

From: Good Housekeeping US

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com

*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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Caroline Picard
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