Royal Wedding Fashion Review: A Vision of Femininity for Today

Prince Harry Meghan Markle Leave St Georges Chapel After 2 - Getty - H 2018
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The message of Meghan Markle's gown was clear; in this fairy tale, Markle is her own independent woman.

Meghan Markle affirmed her status as a 21st century fashion icon of modern minimalist style with her wedding gown Saturday. The newly named duchess of Sussex defied all fashion detectives by going with a look by British designer Clare Waight Keller of the French fashion house of Givenchy, which has deep roots in Hollywood, from whence Markle came.

And make no mistake, this was as much a gathering of Hollywood royalty as real royalty, with Oprah Winfrey and Amal Clooney wearing Stella McCartney, a glum Victoria Beckham on the arm of hubbie David Beckham, Priyanka Chopra in a saucy lavender Vivienne Westwood asymmetrical suit, eye candy Idris Elba drawing stares, and more.

Truly, all that was missing was a red carpet. 

Ginger Prince Harry kept his trademark facial hair to the delight of women the world over, and played the part of a dashing army officer in a frockcoat uniform of the Blues and Royals, designed by Savile Row tailor Dege & Skinner. He was adorably nervous, and even got teary during the service.

But Markle was the real star of this worldwide spectacle. Her gown looked deceptively simple at first, with a sculpted waist and relatively straight skirt that released into a train with soft folds. But its strength and gorgeousness revealed itself as Markle gracefully walked — on her own at first — down the aisle.

The bateau, or boat neck, recalled 1950s Hollywood gamines such as Audrey Hepburn, who was Hubert de Givenchy’s muse. At the same time, the silhouette was a vision of no-nonsense ease for today, and about as far away from Princess Diana’s 1980s-era frou-frou gown as you could get.

The message was clear; in this fairy tale, Markle, 36, is no pawn; she's her own independent woman. She is the one, after all, who at the age of 11, called out Proctor & Gamble for a sexist Ivory soap commercial — and forced the corporate giant to alter the language from "women" to "people are fighting greasy pots and pans." 

"We wanted to create a timeless piece that would emphasize the iconic codes of Givenchy throughout its history," said Waight Keller in a release, noting the sharp cuts of the dress and details on the organza veil, which has floral embroidery representing all 53 countries of the British Commonwealth, according to the bride's wishes. Crops of wheat were also embroidered on the veil to represent "love and charity," two values that Harry and Meghan hold dear, having requested charitable donations in lieu of wedding gifts. Workers spent hundreds of hours making the pieces, washing their hands every 30 minutes to keep the organza and threads pristine.

To 1,000-plus years of British and French rivalry, apparently, Markle said “Pshaw.” Well, sort of. Although Waight Keller is at Givenchy, and before that was at French house Chloe, she is a native Brit who studied for her B.A. at Ravensbourne College of Art. She gained her master's in fashion knitwear at the Royal College of Art.

She also spent time in the U.S. at Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, and in the early 2000s relaunched the British heritage brand Pringle of Scotland, after a stint alongside Tom Ford at Gucci. So you might say, she’s about as global a designer as they come. And she is one of a new generation of females, along with Dior's Maria Grazia Chiuri, leading French couture houses.

The gown and veil are symbolic in that they represent much more than just France and Britain. Indeed, Markle seems to want to convey that she will be an ambassador not only for her new home, but for the world, advocating for charitable causes around the globe.

Surely, Markle also had Hubert de Givenchy in mind when making her choice, too. One imagines as a child in Los Angeles, she may have looked up to the silver screen for inspiration for her fairy-tale dreams. The brand's namesake designer, who died earlier this year at 91, has a long Hollywood association, having dressed Hepburn on-and offscreen, including for Sabrina (1954) and Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961).

Now, his name will also forever be associated with a fresh superstar leading the monarchy into a brave new future.