The Royal Wedding may have come and gone, but that hasn’t stopped Us from obsessing over every detail of the new minted Duchess of Sussex and her custom Givenchy by Clare Waight Keller bridal gown, veil and shoes. The artistic director, who became the first woman to hold that title at the acclaimed French fashion house last year, is sharing new insight into what has quickly become one of the most famous dresses in the world.
From how she first met Meghan Markle to the incredible amount of secrecy (her husband didn’t even know!) and craftsmanship involved in creating such an iconic design, Waight Keller described the experience as the opportunity of lifetime. Here are seven fascinating tidbits that you can pull out at your next cocktail party or trivia night!
1. How They Met: It was the former actress’ friend and style advisor Jessica Mulroney who first introduced Meghan and Clare in December 2017. The ladies quietly met for about 30 minutes in a Kensington Place reception room right around Christmas. Armed with sketches and mood boards, the designer said she thinks the then-bride-to-be was aware of her previous work. “I think she had seen my work and knew what I did,” Keller explained. “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 classical, beautiful style from the time of Hubert [de Givenchy] himself.”
2. When It Happened: On January 11, Clare received the news that she had been selected for one of the most highly coveted jobs in the world, but she would have to keep the life-changing news a secret until the big day. The designer told no one — not even her own husband (who learned of his wife’s involvement when he saw her on TV tending to Meg’s dress outside St. George’s Chapel) — about the honor.
3. Choosing the Fabric: With just five months to go until the big day, the Givenchy team immediately got to work. Clare scoured the fabric mills of Europe for just the right material to construct the exquisite six-seam gown. She ultimately selected an exclusive double bonded silk cady with a soft matte luster. At Meghan’s request, the dress was “pure white.”
4. How Often They Met: Waight Keller explained that she and Meghan had an instant rapport, and she quickly came to understand the understated and timeless silhouette the Duchess wished to achieve. Even so, the two met seven or eight times in the lead up to the wedding for fittings and to ensure not a single detail was overlooked.
5. The Story Behind That Veil: Perhaps one of the most breathtaking elements of the day was the 16-foot veil Meghan paired with her Queen Mary bandeau tiara. Made of a delicate silk tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers in silk threads and organza representing the 53 countries of the Commonwealth, the dramatic piece took some 500 hours to make. Workers, including a former Royal School of Needlework student, were forced to wash their hands every 30 minutes in order to keep the tulle and threads clean.
6. The Secret Personal Touch: In addition to the 53 flora and fauna representing the Commonwealth, Markle also asked that two very personal touches be added to the headpiece. Waight Keller and her team included a Wintersweet, which grows on the grounds of Kensington Palace in front of Nottingham Cottage where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex reside, and a California Poppy, the official flower of Meg’s home state, on the veil as a nod to the bride’s heritage.
7. Where the Final Fitting Took Place: With one workshop devoted to crafting the veil and another to making the dress, the near-complete ensemble was finally brought together in London in early April. Meg had three fittings in the city to finalize the look before it was transported to Windsor and safely tucked away. One last try-on session occurred in Windsor before the wedding, and Meghan also gave Queen Elizabeth II a private showing just as her sister-in-law Kate Middleton had done before her April 2011 ceremony.
With months of work and preparation officially behind her, Waight Keller recalled feeling a tremendous sense of calm on the big day and said Meghan made the most beautiful bride. “She was just glowing,” Waight Keller said of the moment Markle saw herself in her completed gown. “There’s so much emotion on a day like that, but I think particularly when it all comes together, it’s tremendous. She was absolutely radiant.”