The ivory silk dress was modern and feminine, with a shoulder-framing bateau neckline, simple A-line silhouette, and slim three-quarter sleeves. The train was short, stopping well before the 16.5-foot silk tulle veil, which was hand-embroidered with flora representing the 53 countries of the Commonwealth.
The designer of the wedding dress had been a closely guarded secret for months. While she was not considered a forerunner, British Waight Keller seemed a fitting choice for Meghan, who identifies as a feminist. She made history last year when it was announced she would be replacing Riccardo Tisci as Givenchy’s artistic director. Today, the 47-year-old is one of few women at the helm of a Parisian fashion house.
At her previous post as creative director of Chloé, she championed a free-spirited, feminine aesthetic that prioritized soft colors, elegance and ease. At Givenchy, she’s taken a darker and cinematic turn — a nod to Tisci’s particularly gothic legacy.
This reinvention seems to have resonated with celebrities: This year alone, Cate Blanchett, Lily Collins, Rooney Mara and Gal Gadot have worn her designs on the red carpet.
According to a statement from Kensington Palace, Meghan was drawn to Waight Keller’s “timeless and elegant aesthetic, impeccable tailoring, and relaxed demeanor.” This penchant for ease seemed to permeate her entire wedding look. She complemented her minimal gown with her signature loose bun and subtle makeup.
Instead of choosing one of one the more elaborate royal tiaras, she secured her veil with Queen Mary’s seldom-seen diamond bandeau tiara, borrowed from Queen Elizabeth II. The graphic platinum band is set with diamonds, framing a detachable brooch.
Caryn Franklin, a British fashion and identity commentator, suggests that, with her understated approach, Meghan has sent a powerful message.
“I get a really exciting sense of simplicity and blank canvas and ‘watch this space,'” she said. “You end up really focusing on her, focusing on the integrity of the woman, not distracted by an exquisite beautiful dress that we’re going to talk about for ages.
“When I look at the image of Meghan, I just want to look straight at her. I know she’s a woman of substance.”
The dress, in its simplicity, stands in contrast to recent royal wedding dresses. The Alexander McQueen dress Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, wore in 2011 boasted complex lace, and Franklin described Princess Diana’s diaphanous 1981 gown as “visual fireworks.” But Meghan may have sent the loudest statement.
While she herself works in the fashion industry, Sadie Clayton, a 27-year-old biracial designer of Jamaican and British descent, believes that it’s Meghan’s presence, not the dress, that has made history, symbolizing a “new idea of change and identity.”
“For me and for my peers and my competitors, Meghan is not just a beautiful woman in a pretty dress. I think she goes beyond that. She’s this strong, independent woman with a voice, with an attitude, with an individuality. So today, to see the dress that she’s chosen is actually quite exciting,” she said.
“She’s got her own identity, her own personality, and what’s great is that the audience and the world can relate to her.”