The design for a burqa-style dress was never shown to the princess – and the outfit was never made, designer Elizabeth Emanuel tells PEOPLE

By Simon Perry
August 31, 2018 11:15 AM
Credit: Courtesy RR Auction

A sketch of a burqa-style dress for Princess Diana to wear when she visited the Gulf States in the mid-1980s has emerged.

The sketch was created by one of her design teams, David and Elizabeth Emanuel, in preparation for the official tour that included Saudi Arabia alongside husband Prince Charles in 1986.

But it was never shown to the princess – and the dress was never made, Elizabeth tells PEOPLE.

“It was not included in the final bundle we presented to her, as by then we had a better idea of what was needed,” Elizabeth, who helped design Diana’s wedding gown in 1981, adds.

Today is the 21st anniversary of the princess’s sudden death following a car crash in Paris.

Credit: Courtesy RR Auction

The 1986 sketch — marked “reserve outfit” and showing the burqa complete with a very ’80s, very Diana, bow on the side — is now for sale, along with notes and other sketches that have been provided by a private collector. The set is expected to fetch up to $30,000 at auction next month. RR Auctions in Boston is handling the sale.

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An outline of the commission is included in the sale from Diana’s lady-in-waiting Anne Beckwith-Smith says, “Certain special requirements concerning dress need to be observed and I am writing to ask if it would be possible to submit to The Princess of Wales a few sketches for day and evening wear from which Her Royal Highness could select items for this tour.”

She adds, “Their Royal Highnesses will be visiting Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia … In all cases modesty is the order of the day.”

Credit: Courtesy RR Auction
Princess Diana in Saudi Arabia in 1986
| Credit: Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Also included are copies of the Emanuel invoices, which describe the dresses in detail.

“Princess Diana tried to conform to local customs by wearing concealing clothes, but still exposed her neck and left her head uncovered — notably, she did not have to wear the ‘Reserve Outfit’ burqa depicted in this archive,” RR Auctions says. “At evening banquets, she appeared in the long-sleeved demure dresses made especially for the tour. A remarkable, comprehensive archive from the famously stylish royal.”

Credit: Courtesy RR Auction
Credit: Courtesy RR Auction
Credit: Courtesy RR Auction
Credit: Courtesy RR Auction

Elizabeth, who has her own line, Emanuel Mayfair, adds, “The sketch was done when we first had the commission. We had never made anything for the Middle East before and didn’t know what the customs were.”

She is surprised that it has come up for sale. “I don’t know where this has come from – it was all such a long time ago.”