After months of speculation, Meghan Markle’s wedding dress was revealed.
The pure white, boat neck gown was designed by British designer Clare Waight Keller, the artistic director of French fashion house Givenchy.
Crowds saw the full gown – which had been kept a closely-guarded secret – as Ms Markle stepped out at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle at midday
The designer, Clare Waight Keller, was appointed the first female artistic director at Givenchy in 2017 and presented her debut collection for spring/summer earlier this year.
Ms Markle, who met Ms Waight Keller this year, chose to work closely with her on the design because of her “timeless and elegant aesthetic, impeccable tailoring, and relaxed demeanour”, Kensington Palace said.
She previously served as the creative head of three globally-influential fashion houses – Pringle of Scotland, Chloé, and now Givenchy.
The Birmingham-born designer, now the artistic director of Givenchy, said it was a collaborative process with the royal bride, adding: “I think she loved the fact that I was a British designer, and working in a house such as Givenchy which has its roots in a very classical, beautiful style.”
According to Sara McAlpine, fashion features editor at Elle magazine, Givenchy has a history of bringing in talent from the UK with past designers at the brand including John Galliano and Alexander McQueen.
Meanwhile, bridal couture expert Emma Meek said choosing a woman who is the first female creative head at the fashion house could be a “political statement” from the bride.
The minimalist pure white gown has a boat neck, framing the shoulders and emphasising Ms Markle’s waist, and three-quarter length sleeves.
The haute couture dress is made of double-bonded silk cady cushioned by an underskirt in triple silk organza.
The neckline differs from the Duchess of Cambridge’s high V-necked lace-covered gown in 2011.
Kensington Palace later released Ms Waight Keller’s design sketches, which she is giving to Meghan as a keepsake.
Ms Markle wore a five metre-long white silk veil covering her face which included floral detail representing all 53 countries of the Commonwealth. The bride suggested the design because the Commonwealth will be a central part of her and Prince Harry’s official work after they are married.
The designer spent significant time researching the flora of each country and much care was taken to ensure that every flower was unique.
Ms Markle also chose her two other favourite flowers – Wintersweet found in Kensington Palace and the California poppy, from where she was born – to be adorned on the veil.
The design of Ms Markle’s veil is similar to the Duchess of Cambridge’s, which was made of layers of soft, ivory silk tulle which also had a trim of hand-embroidered flowers.
David Emanuel, who designed Diana, Princess of Wales’s dress, said it was “very clever” to include the Commonwealth flowers in the veil.
“I think Diana would have approved,” he said.
Dressmakers spent hundreds of hours – including regularly washing their hands every 30 minutes – to make the long veil, which is hand-embroidered in silk threads and organza.
Emma Meek, the head of luxury bridal boutique Miss Bush, said compared to the understated dress, the “enormous silk veil” is where the “craft and meaningful decoration” lies.
Ms Markle’s veil was held in place by Queen Mary’s diamond bandeau tiara, loaned to her by the Queen.
It is named after the wife of King George V, the Queen’s grandfather.
At the centre of the bandeau is a detachable brooch of 10 brilliant diamonds, which was given to Queen Mary as a wedding present in 1893. The brooch was later made into the tiara in 1932.
The headpiece also includes diamonds and platinum in 11 sections. Ms Markle also wore earrings and bracelet made by Cartier.
Unlike the Duchess of Cambridge – who borrowed a 1936 Cartier “halo” tiara from the Queen – Ms Markle wore her hair up, rather than loose.
The bride’s hair was styled by Serge Normant, with make-up by long-time friend and make-up artist Daniel Martin.
Prince Harry handpicked several flowers on Friday from their private garden at Kensington Palace to add to the bespoke bridal bouquet designed by florist Philippa Craddock.
It includes forget-me-nots which were Diana, Princess of Wales’ favourite flower. They were specifically chosen to honour the memory of the late princess.
The small bouquet also features scented sweet peas, lily of the valley, astilbe, jasmine and astrantia, and sprigs of myrtle, all bound with a naturally dyed, raw silk ribbon.
London-based florist Ms Craddock also created the floral displays at the chapel, which was filled with white garden roses, peonies and foxgloves, branches of beech, birch and hornbeam.
Floral designer Ms Craddock, who started her business nine years ago, has worked for the V&A, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior and British Vogue.
Ms Markle previously said on her now-deleted Instagram account that peonies make her “endlessly happy”. Soon after the couple started dating, Ms Markle posted a picture of a bouquet of pink and white peonies on the social media site.
The wedding shoes are based on a Givenchy refined pointed couture design made of a silk duchess satin.
What are people saying?
Sara McAlpine, from Elle magazine, said the dress was “definitely in keeping with her [Ms Markle’s] style”, adding: “She’s always had a very pared-back style in terms of very simple, refined.”
She added that Ms Markle is “signalling change” with the choice of fashion house Givenchy, which has addressed the lack of diversity on catwalks. The “progressive” brand is a well thought-out choice for the bride, Ms McAlpine said.
Emma Meek added that the design references Givenchy’s history of dressing Audrey Hepburn and her classic and timeless style, adding it is very “presidential”.
“It brings back that non-fussy, refined simplicity. I am calling it the ‘last word in first lady dressing’,” she added. “It also has a very American feel to it, quite sporty, preppy.”
Elizabeth Von Der Goltz, from fashion brand Net-A-Porter, added: “Audrey having been an actress, and Meghan as an actress seemed really fitting.”
Meanwhile, Vogue’s digital editor Alice Casely-Hayford agreed the choice of Waight Keller was “brilliant recognition for fashion’s female industry leaders”.
She said despite the speculation that Erdem or Ralph & Russo would design the dress, the choice was “the perfect fit”.
She added it was “incredibly beautiful in its timelessness and surprisingly understated”.
Jade Beer, editor of Brides magazine, said: “Had anyone been looking at the Givenchy Spring 2018 couture collection, they would have seen all the hallmarks of Meghan’s wedding dress – bateau necklines, more fluid structure and a nod to soft tailoring.
“Real women will look at this dress and feel it is the definition of the ultimate chic understated wedding gown.”
What was Prince Harry wearing?
Both Prince Harry and the Duke of Cambridge wore the frockcoat uniform of the Blues and Royals. Prince Harry was given permission from the Queen to get married in his uniform.
Both outfits were tailored at Dege & Skinner on Savile Row, specialists in military uniforms.