It’s been more than 40 years since Princess Diana’s wedding to Prince Charles on July 29, 1981, and fashion lovers are still obsessing over every detail of the late royal’s chosen dress, accessories, and footwear.
On the day, the young princess wore a 25-foot ivory taffeta and antique lace train and a David and Elizabeth Emmanuel-designed wedding dress. The iconic gown was Diana’s something new, but sewn into it were elements of antique Carrickmacross lace, which had belonged to Queen Mary — wife of George V — as her something old.
One small (but no less significant) part of Diana’s wedding day outfit were her shoes. Even though they were hidden from view (they were covered by the wedding dress’ puffed skirt), they held an important hidden message for the big day.
Elizabeth Emanuel enlisted the help of celebrity cobbler Clive Shilton to create Diana’s exquisite shoes for her wedding. Shilton had to create a unique ‘last’ (the wooden mould around which he would create the shoes) for Diana; they could not be outsourced for fear of word getting out, per the Daily Mail.
“[Diana’s] main concern was that she wouldn’t appear taller than Prince Charles, and because she was very tall — 5ft 10in — the shoes would have to have a low heel,” Shilton told the media.
The shoes — which took six months to make — were crafted from a similar (but heavier) silk to that of the Emmanuel’s wedding dress design. “It was too fine — it would have crumpled across the instep,” said Shilton. He designed different trims for the shoes and presented them to Diana, who chose the heart-shaped design. The team then covered them in 542 sequins and 132 pearls.
The soles were crafted in suede so that Diana couldn’t slip on what would be the biggest day of her life, and the shoes’ arches were hand-painted with a foliage design and a secret message requested by Diana: the letters ‘C’ and ‘D’, for Charles and Diana, either side of a golden heart under the shoe’s arch. (You can just above see the top of the heart if you look carefully in the picture above).
“No one even saw the bottom of the shoes, but it was important to us that they looked fantastic,” said Shilton. “You would have seen much more of them if she’d tripped!”
Although Shilton has been kept sworn to secrecy, he admitted he charged a “basic price” for the royal wedding shoes. Thirty years later, in 2011, he went on to sell one of the spare pairs for £36,000 at auction, per Marie Claire.