Princess Diana's Daring Black Dress Up for Auction

06/08/2010 at 09:30 AM ET

Anwar Hussein/WireImage

It is the dress that launched the young blushing Lady Diana Spencer onto the world as not only Prince Charles’ fiancée, but also as a budding fashion icon who dared to break the royal rules by wearing black to a formal event other than a funeral. The black taffeta gown, worn by Diana in March 1981, also put the young design team of David and Elizabeth Emanuel on the map, beginning a partnership that culminated in the princess-to-be’s much-copied wedding dress. Today, the gown–and a prototype of the fairytale bridal dress–are being auctioned off in London and estimated to fetch up to $150,000. Posing with the black dress Monday, Elizabeth Emanuel reminisced to PEOPLE of the night that the 19-year-old Diana became a front-page star as she joined Prince Charles for her first official appearance with him. “This was really a shadow of what she was to become in terms of a fashion icon,” Emanuel says. “It was the first time that people had seen her looking like a princess. Like a movie star. And grown up.” Despite there being a big political story that day, the emerging Diana “took over all of the front pages,” Emanuel recalls. Soon, it became obvious that the palace would have to confirm what the Emanuels already knew — that they were to make Diana’s wedding dress. And, the history of that creation is included in the sale going live this morning, via London’s Kerry Taylor Auctions. –Simon Perry

Joel Saget/AFP/Getty

FILED UNDER: Fashion , Royalty

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Showing 42 comments

d on

I loved her while she was alive, and still do, but what is so daring about this dress? Yes, it’s strapless, big deal.

B on

It doesn’t look like it now, but when she wore it in 1981, it was very daring given that “stuff upper lip” in Britain.

Lee on

Sure miss seeing her in all those fabulous dresses on the covers of magazines.

MissEvaRay on

Yes, d, there’s nothing particularly “daring” about this dress, but when Princess Diana wore it, it knocked everyone out. It was the first time anyone would think about any part of the royal family as a fashion icon. I remember so well that breath of fresh air! Very exhilirating! Princess Diana is still missed.

L on

Princess Diana was someone I still look up to. Her humanitarian ways made her a modern day hero. She was beautiful in anything she wore.

A on

The fact that it was a black dress is what made it so daring! She wasnt going to a funeral!

jody on

Being 19 and more shy than not, 1981, fiance to Charles, wearing black to a first formal royal function , she showed some billowing cleavage getting out of the car, it was daring. In an exciting way! :) In her books, she says she wanted to look grown-up. Also, that Charles loved it! :)

Lea on

It was a very sophisticated dress for a 19-year-old, too. That was part of people’s reactions.

L on

I loved Princess Diana then and still do today. I just bought her official tartan this weekend and if I could I would buy this dress too. I miss her as much today as I did the day she died. Thankfully she lives on in her boys.

San on

It was daring because wearing black to a formal dinner/party for the royals was highly frowned upon. You only wore black for funerals. Plus, it showed alot of cleavage and again for the royals that was a big no-no. She wore it because she was 19, thought it was appropriate – and Charles liked it and back then it was all about pleasing him by fitting in. I thought she was a beautiful person inside and out and she is missed terribly.

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