Dressing the royal bride: Givenchy reveals the inspiration behind Meghan Markle's dress

But the veil itself may have been the most important statement piece of the entire outfit. It featured a flower from each of the 53 Commonwealth countries - a request from the Duchess herself

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It's often the most closely-guarded secret of a royal wedding: what, or who, will the royal bride wear?

Despite many a detail of other parts of royal weddings surfacing in the media in the months before the big event, in recent times global fashion houses have managed to keep their involvement with royal brides under wraps until the moment they step out of the car outside their own ceremony.

Princess Diana's ivory silk taffeta and antique lace gown, with that 25-foot train, was once considered one of the most closely guarded secrets in fashion history - and went down in history as one of the most famous dresses in the world. Thirty years later, Kate Middleton's white and ivory satin gown designed by Sarah Burton from the Alexander McQueen fashion house - an entirely British creation - stunned crowds as she climbed the stairs of Westminster Abbey.

So when Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, climbed out of her car outside St George's Chapel on Saturday, punters - and a quickfire statement from Kensington Palace - were quick to identify the designer as a custom Givenchy creation.

WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 19:  Meghan Markle arrives at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle for her wedding to Prince Harry on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Brian Lawless - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Meghan Markle arrives at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle for her wedding to Prince Harry. Brian Lawless / Getty Images.

But many were confused. Most royal watchers had expected a US designer, in a nod to her roots, or a British designer to curry favour with her new adopted home.

So why did the Duchess choose the French fashion label?


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Well, for starters, Givenchy's artistic director Clare Waight Keller is actually British, and is also the first female artistic director at the historic French fashion house. She has held the title since Riccardo Tisci's departure in 2017.

In a statement from Givenchy released while the wedding ceremony was still underway, Ms Waight Keller said it was "truly an honour to have been given the opportunity to closely collaborate with Meghan Markle on such a remarkable occasion".

"We wanted to create a timeless piece that would emphasize the iconic codes of Givenchy throughout its history, as well as convey modernity through sleek lines and sharp cuts. In contrast, the delicate floral beauty of the veil was a vision Meghan and I shared, a special gesture embracing the commonwealth flora, ascending the circumference of the silk tulle," she said.

The veil itself may have been the most important statement piece of the entire outfit. It featured a flower from each of the 53 Commonwealth countries - a request from the Duchess herself.

"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," Ms Waight Keller said.

It has been an immensely rewarding experience to get to know Meghan on a personal level, one I will forever carry with me."

In statements from Givenchy, and Kensington Palace, each piece of the royal wedding gown, and the significance of it - from the tiara to the shoes - was explained in detail. Here's the breakdown:

The wedding dress

The dress epitomises a "timeless minimal elegance referencing the codes of the iconic House of Givenchy", the French fashion house said in its statement.

"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."

Kensington Palace went a step further, explaining how the fabric was found.

"Following extensive research by Ms. Waight Keller in fabric mills throughout Europe, an exclusive double bonded silk cady was developed. Perfect for the round sculptural look required, the silk cady has a soft matt lustre whilst the bonding process and pure white colour chosen by Ms. Markle and Ms. Waight Keller bring a fresh modernity to the dress."

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex emerge from the West Door of St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, on May 19, 2018 after their wedding ceremony. / AFP / POOL / Jane Barlow
Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex emerge from the West Door of St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, on May 19, 2018 after their wedding ceremony. / AFP / POOL / Jane Barlow

The veil

"Ms. Markle expressed the wish of having all 53 countries of the Commonwealth with her on her journey through the ceremony. Ms. Waight Keller designed a veil representing the distinctive flora of each Commonwealth country united in one spectacular floral composition," the Givenchy statement said.

"The veil is 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 to be included:

Wintersweet, which grows in the grounds of Kensington Palace in front of Nottingham Cottage, and the California Poppy, the State flower from the Duchess's place of birth, California.

"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," Givenchy said.

The wedding shoes

The wedding shoes are based on the Givenchy refined pointed SS18 Haute Couture design, made of a silk duchess satin.

The jewellery

As Sotheby's artistic director had hoped for, the Duchess did in the end choose to wear a tiara on her wedding day.

The veil was held in place by Queen Mary's diamond bandeau tiara, lent to the Duchess by The Queen. The diamond bandeau is English and was made in 1932, with the centre brooch dating from 1893.

"The bandeau, which is made of diamonds and platinum, is formed as a flexible band of eleven sections, pierced with interlaced ovals and pavé set with large and small brilliant diamonds. The centre is set with a detachable brooch of ten brilliant diamonds," Kensington Palace said.

"This brooch was given as a present to the then Princess Mary in 1893 by the County of Lincoln on her marriage to Prince George, Duke of York.  The bandeau and the brooch were bequeathed by Queen Mary to The Queen in 1953."

The Duchess's earrings and bracelet were made by Cartier.

The bride's bouquet

Prince Harry handpicked several flowers yesterday from their private garden at Kensington Palace to add to the bespoke bridal bouquet designed by florist Philippa Craddock.

The spring blooms include Forget-Me-Nots which were Diana, Princess of Wales’ favourite flower. The couple specifically chose them to be included in the bouquet to honour the memory of Harry's mother.

The bouquet is a petite design, pulled together in a gentle, ethereal, relaxed style with delicate blooms - also including scented sweet peas, lily of the valley, astilbe, jasmine and astrantia, and sprigs of myrtle, all bound with a naturally dyed, raw silk ribbon.

The myrtle sprigs are from stems planted at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, by Queen Victoria in 1845, and from a plant grown from the myrtle used in the Queen’s wedding bouquet of 1947.

The tradition of carrying myrtle begun after Queen Victoria was given a nosegay containing myrtle by Prince Albert’s grandmother during a visit to Gotha in Germany.  In the same year, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert bought Osborne House as a family retreat, and a sprig from the posy was planted against the terrace walls, where it continues to thrive today.

The myrtle was first carried by Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, Princess Victoria, when she married in 1858.

The bridesmaids’ dresses

Clare Waight Keller also designed the six young bridesmaids’ dresses, hand-crafted in the Givenchy Haute Couture Atelier in Paris.

The dresses were designed to have the same timeless purity as the Duchess's dress, Givenchy said.

"Each dress is 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 include pockets and pleated skirts to create a relaxed and luxurious silhouette."