Those who follow royal news and fashion closely will likely remember the anticipation in the days leading up to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s iconic wedding in 2018. Everyone was anxiously waiting to find out which designer the royal bride-to-be would work with to create her dress for the big day—there were rumors that she’d selected a look from Ralph & Russo, Burberry, and Oscar de la Renta.
In the end, though, Meghan chose to work with French fashion house Givenchy, but the reasons for her selection went far beyond just the design of her stunning gown, as Express recently reported. Ever the devoted advocate for gender equality, when Meghan met Clare Waight Keller, Givenchy’s first female artistic director, she knew the British designer was the right fit. It was then, in 2017, that she publicly endorsed Givenchy and Waight Keller’s artistic direction.
In addition to supporting Waight Keller’s appointment to artistic director, Kensington Palace reported that Meghan praised the designer’s “elegant aesthetic, impeccable tailoring, and relaxed demeanour.” Together, the Duchess of Sussex and Waight Keller designed the now-iconic, simple white gown that Meghan wore down the aisle at St. George’s Chapel in 2018. In a departure from past royal wedding looks, which often featured lace and/or crystal embellishments, the gown’s design embraced a classic, minimalist style.
While the dress had a seemingly straightforward design, it was actually the result of hours of careful tailoring and craftsmanship. In fact, during a 2018 interview with Paris Match, Waight Keller explained that designing the dress took 3,900 hours and required eight dress fittings. To create the royal look, Waight Keller crafted double-bonded silk cady material in a pure-white hue that gave the dress that modern matte appearance. The bateau neckline was a natural choice for the dress, given that Meghan had debuted this neckline at other official engagements prior to the wedding.
As explained by a statement released by Kensington Palace at the time of the wedding. “The dress epitomizes a timeless minimal elegance referencing the codes of the iconic House of Givenchy and showcasing the expert craftsmanship of its world-renowned Parisian couture atelier founded in 1952. 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.”
Several months after the royal wedding, Meghan spoke about the process of creating this statement-making design. “I had a very clear vision of what I wanted for the day, and what I wanted the dress to look like,” she said. The Duchess went on to explain that Waight Keller completely respected Meghan’s original vision, and together they brought that vision to life.
Waight Keller jumped into the conversation again, four years after the wedding. In Netflix’s 2022 series Harry & Meghan, the British designer spoke about the creative process—and the enormous responsibility—of creating such a special piece. “Looking at the design of the dress, there were many conversations about how you want to present yourself to the world,” she explained in the docuseries. “Most of us have a wedding with 70 to 100 people. This was billions of people watching. It has to be flawless. It has to be perfect.”
And we have no doubt that the final result was as perfect as it gets. The Duchess of Sussex paired her stunning Givenchy gown with a cathedral-length veil that was 16 feet long and featured floral details reflecting the commonwealth flora.