How Clare Waight Keller Created an Iconic Royal Wedding Dress

Lindsay Judge   |   14-06-2018


Meghan Markle’s wedding gown is undoubtedly the most talked about dress of the decade, and will quite possibly become the most talked about gown in history. The only competition comes from the wedding dresses worn by Meghan’s sister-in-law the Duchess of Cambridge, and her late mother-in-law Princess Diana. But in today’s society of social media, and the demand for instant access, Meghan Markle or as she is now known; The Duchess of Sussex’s Givenchy Couture wedding gown is more available and accessible to the world than ever before.


It is only a few week’s since the wedding day and the dress is already on its way to being the most pictured gown of all time; so how did this timeless classic creation become the piece chosen to wear by the world’s most talked about princess?


In the lead up to the wedding there was much speculation about who would create this iconic gown, with rumour mills setting alight stories of a creation by Christopher Bailey for Burbery, Ralph and Russo were also tipped as front runners after Meghan wore one of their creations for the official engagement photos; and Erdem, Stella McCartney and even Marchesa were among the hotly tipped to be designing the dress. But few had considered Clare Waight Keller, the British born designer who had recently been appointed artistic director at Givenchy, making her the first female to take on the role.


Clare Waight Keller, Givenchy dress sketches


It is a rare occurrence to create a garment that goes down in history. But that was the challenge Givenchy artistic director Clare Waight Keller knew she was facing when she took on the enormous responsibility of creating the wedding gown that Meghan Markle would wear for her marriage to Prince Harry.


“It was an extraordinary moment when she told me of course. It was an incredible thing to be part of such an historic moment and also the opportunity to work with her.” Said Clare in a recent interview with the BBC. “It was very collaborative, I think she had very much seen my work and knew what I did. I think she loved the fact that I was a British designer, and working in a house such as Givenchy which has got its routes in a very classical beautiful style.”


Keeping the design a secret was so important. This was one of the most talked about subjects in the world and so an airtight plan would have to be out in place in order for process to run smoothly. Meghan Markle was reportedly introduced to Clare through her friend fashion stylist Jessica Mulroney, and after a series of emails they met in London.


“It is a process to work on a dress such as this.” Said Clare in a recent interview with the BBC; “part of it was conversations at the beginning. And then through a series of sketches that I proposed to her. We exchanged conversations about what would be the ideal lines and proportions. Over time we got to a point where she knew exactly what she wanted and then it evolved into the final design.”


Ms. Meghan Markle in Givenchy Haute Couture by Clare Waight Keller


And the final design was as iconic as it needed to be and more. A simple and classic piece that epitomizes timeless elegance, referencing the codes of the iconic House of Givenchy and showcasing the expert craftsmanship of its world-renowned Parisian Haute 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.


While the dress was understated and elegant the veil was show-stopping. Meghan had expressed the wish of having all 53 countries of the Commonwealth with her on her journey through the ceremony. Clare Waight Keller designed a veil representing the distinctive flora of each Commonwealth country united in one spectacular floral composition.


Princess Charlotte in Givenchy Haute Couture by Clare Waight Keller


The veil was 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. In addition to the flora of the Commonwealth, Ms. Markle also selected two personal favorites. Symmetrically placed at the very front of the veil, crops of wheat are delicately embroidered and blend into the flora, to symbolize love and charity.


Ms. Meghan Markle in Givenchy Haute Couture by Clare Waight Keller


Meghan’s dress has been likened to gowns worn by Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. The classic timeless elegance is something that will be remembered forever, much like the gowns chosen by her late mother-in-law Princess Diana and her new sister-in-law The Duchess of Cambridge. Clare Waight Keller explains how this will be a moment to remember for all of us.


“It has been an immensely rewarding experience to get to know Meghan on a personal level, one I will forever carry with me. As a British designer at a Parisian Haute Couture house, and on behalf of all us at Givenchy who have been able to experience such an extraordinary process of creativity, I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished and grateful to Meghan Markle, Prince Harry and Kensington Palace for allowing us to be part of this historical chapter.”


Official wedding photos ©Alexi Lubomirski


As well as creating Meghan’s gown, Clare Waight Keller produced the dresses for Meghan’s six young bridesmaids which included Princess Charlotte. The six dresses were handcrafted in the Givenchy Haute Couture Atelier in Paris and were designed to have the same timeless purity as Meghan Markle’s dress. Each dress was sculpted in Ivory silk radzimir, and is high-waisted with short puff sleeves and hand finished with a double silk ribbon detail tied at the back in a bow. The Bridesmaids’ dresses included pockets and pleated skirts to create a relaxed and luxurious silhouette.