Meghan Markle may have turned to French fashion label Givenchy for her royal wedding dress, but her choice also pays tribute to her new British beginnings.
British designer Clare Waight Keller has served as Givenchy’s Creative Director since Riccardo Tisci’s departure in 2017, and is the mastermind behind Meghan’s now iconic gown.
For Meghan’s wedding to Prince Harry, Waight Keller created a gown out of pure white silk with an open neckline and slight A-line skirt. According to the release, her wedding shoes are “based on a Givenchy refined pointed couture design made of a silk duchess satin.”
The label adds: “True to the heritage of the house, the pure lines of the dress are achieved using six meticulously placed seams. The focus of the dress is the graphic open bateau neckline that gracefully frames the shoulders and emphasizes the slender sculpted waist. The lines of the dress extend towards the back where the train flows in soft round folds cushioned by an underskirt in triple silk organza. The slim three-quarter sleeves add a note of refined modernity.”
As for the veil, Waight Keller designed a romantic cathedral-length style “representing the distinctive flora of each Commonwealth country united in one spectacular floral composition” – in addition to one special flower embroidered into the veil, a California poppy. According to Kensington Palace, “The veil is five meters long and made from silk tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers in silk threads and organza. Each flower was worked flat, in three dimensions to create a unique and delicate design. The workers spent hundreds of hours meticulously sewing and washing their hands every thirty minutes to keep the tulle and threads pristine.”
She completed her look with a tiara from Queen Mary’s collection, borrowed from Queen Elizabeth II’s vault, plus earrings and a bracelet by Cartier and – finally – a Welsh gold ring given to her as a gift from the Queen.
Meghan follows in Princess Diana and Kate Middleton’s footsteps, who both collaborated with British female designers for their royal weddings (Diana with Elizabeth Emanuel, Kate with Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen).
Waight Keller began her design career at Calvin Klein and Gucci before taking the helm at British label Chloé in 2011. In March 2017, she was named the artistic director of Givenchy.
“Hubert de Givenchy’s confident style has always been an inspiration and I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this legendary house’s history,” Waight Keller said in a statement when it was announced she would be joining the brand. “I look forward to working with the teams and writing a new chapter in this beautiful story.”
Meghan continues a royal wedding tradition, as both Princess Diana and Princess Kate also turned to British labels (and female designers!) to craft their royal wedding gowns.
Diana’s iconic dress for her fairytale 1981 wedding to Prince Charles was crafted by British fashion designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel. The silk-and-taffeta lace design, featured a 25-ft. train and 10,000 pearls, and following her her untimely death it was put on display as the centerpiece of the museum at Althorp, her family’s estate in Northampton, for close to two decades. In 2014, the dress was returned to Prince William and Prince Harry in London as decided by their late mother’s will.
In 2017, Emanuel reflected on creating the famous gown, telling PEOPLE Diana, who was 19 at the time, lost her “puppy fat” before the wedding leading to last-minute dress alterations.
“Most brides do lose weight,” Emanuel told PEOPLE. “So we weren’t that worried when she did. She was looking fantastic. She ended up with a 23-inch waist from a 26- to 27- inch. She just walked more confidently. She just was suddenly growing up, you know? But I think she felt very good about how she looked.
While Diana visited for regular fittings and monitored the progress of the gown, she trusted the designers and their vision for her dress.
“She was just lovely, really kind of easy going,” Emanuel recalled of the bride. “We never had any special instructions about how to make the wedding dress. That added a bit to the fun of it all, made it bit of an adventure.”
And when the dramatic gown was finally revealed on the big day, the designer duo knew it was magical.
“It’s always been about a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis,” Emanuel shared. “And that is her story, really. She was emerging into a new world, a new life’s adventure.”
As for Kate, she famously walked down the aisle at Westminster Abbey 30 years after Diana and Charles, marrying their son Prince William in a custom Alexander McQueen dress designed by the label’s Creative Director Sarah Burton. The legendary gown featured a V-neckline with a long-sleeve lace overlay and a two-meter, 70-centimeter train.
The dress was composed of French Chantilly lace and English Cluny lace throughout the bodice, skirt and underskirt. The skirt, made of ivory and white satin gazar, was designed to mirror an opening flower: padded at the hips, it flowed out to the floor. The back of the dress was finished with 58 gazar and organza covered buttons fastened by Rouleau loops.
“It has been the experience of a lifetime to work with Catherine Middleton to create her wedding dress, and I have enjoyed every moment of it,” Burton said in a statement at the time. “It was such an incredible honour to be asked, and I am so proud of what we and the Alexander McQueen team have created. I am delighted that the dress represents the best of British craftsmanship.”
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