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 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 demeanour.” This penchant for ease seemed to permeate her entire wedding look. She complimented 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 its 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.”
The Duchess of Sussex made an appearance Saturday evening ahead of her second wedding reception in a bespoke gown designed by Stella McCartney.
Meghan and her new husband Harry left Windsor Castle shortly after 7 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET) in a silver-blue Jaguar E-Type driven by the prince. The couple were on their way to the private evening reception, hosted by the groom’s father, Prince Charles.
Harry had also changed his outfit, appearing in traditional black tie rather than the military dress he wore for the earlier ceremony.
Meghan’s lily white gown featured a high neck and is made of silk crepe. She paired the dress with silky satin heels by Aquazurro, a luxury Italian shoe label. They feature a nude mesh and the soles are painted in baby blue.
Meghan’s hair was styled for the second reception by George Northwood, a London-based hair stylist.
Around 200 close family and friends received invitations to Frogmore House for the event, another royal residence in Windsor.
The royal bride surprised onlookers earlier in the day when she revealed a couture design by Givenchy’s artistic director Clare Waight Keller. Waight Keller was hardly mentioned by bookies and fashion experts in the lead up to the big day.
Meghan will make a speech at the evening event, Kensington Palace told CNN’s Max Foster earlier Saturday.
Traditionally, it is unusual for the bride to make a speech at her wedding reception, that honor usually being reserved for the bridegroom, best man and father of the bride.
Frogmore House is not accessible to the public for most of the year, only opening its doors to visitors for three days in the spring. All proceeds from those visits are donated to charity.
Stella McCartney, the 46-year-old daughter of Paul McCartney, is one of the most renowned and respected female designers in the notoriously male-dominated world of luxury womenswear. Her clothes, which combine elements of traditional femininity with Savile Row-quality tailoring in her designs, have been worn by the likes of Rihanna, Cara Delevingne and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Since founding her eponymous label in 2001, following a term as creative director of Parisian fashion house Chloé, McCartney has been a advocate for sustainable fashion. She rejects the use of fur and leather, and has been vocal in denouncing the environmental damage caused by the fashion industry.
“It’s just the way I was brought up,” she told CNN in 2015, when asked about her environmental advocacy. “It’s been ingrained in me to have respect for fellow creatures and to be mindful of how one approaches life, so it was a no-brainer for me to take that into the way that I conduct myself in business.”
It’s a point of view that may have resonated with Markle. She and Prince Harry requested that, in lieu of gifts, well-wishers donate to seven charities, including two environmental charities: Surfers Against Sewage and The Wilderness Foundation UK.
A number of other guests at Saturday’s ceremony arrived wearing Stella McCartney creations. Oprah Winfrey wore a blush, double-tiered dress with lace trim made of sustainable viscose by the female designer, while Amal Clooney stunned onlookers in a Stella McCartney golden yellow gown.