Saying yes to the dress: Behind the scenes at the royal wedding

Visitors can get up close and personal with Meghan Markle’s wedding dress as a new exhibition opens at Windsor Castle. Rachel Marie Walsh meets the curator.

Saying yes to the dress: Behind the scenes at the royal wedding

Visitors can get up close and personal with Meghan Markle’s wedding dress as a new exhibition opens at Windsor Castle. Rachel Marie Walsh meets the curator.

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan following their wedding at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, England. Picture: Jane Barlow, WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan following their wedding at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, England. Picture: Jane Barlow, WPA Pool/Getty Images

VISITORS to Windsor Castle this autumn can get closer to the England’s Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding clothes than any of the public were in May. A new exhibition to benefit the Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity, displays the couple’s outfits and accessories from the main event.

The mystery of Meghan Markle’s dress had many rabbit trails. Betfair and Paddy Powers, fearing insider leaks, suspended punts on Alexander McQueen after they were inundated with requests for the British designer in February. US outlets published expectant profiles of Erdem Moralioglu, another favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge. An image of Ralph & Russo’s Haute Couture Atelier team viewing hand embroidery by Royal School of Needlework students posted on the school’s Instagram had the fashion crowd certain the brand was favoured.

Claire Waight Keller, the Birmingham-born artistic head at Givenchy, was revealed to the world (including her family) as ‘the chosen one’ as the bride stepped from the Queen’s Rolls Royce at Windsor. You didn’t need to lip-read well to clock the groom telling her “you look amazing” at the altar.

“It is fantastic to be able to capture that wonderful wedding moment, with both the Duke and Duchess represented through what they wore,” says Caroline de Guinaut, senior curator at Royal Collection Trust, who has been working with the couple since before the big day.

“Obviously the wedding took place in Windsor Castle so it is very special to show them in the State Apartments where they were worn.”

Givenchy, never the frontrunner among predictions, seems an increasingly natural choice in light of Markle’s newlywed style. Though the house has its fans among modern celebrity it is forever linked with Old Hollywood princess Audrey Hepburn. Hubert de Givenchy’s work with his long-term muse forms part of the house’s ‘codes,’ of which Waight Keller remains mindful. Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and other outlets have all noted the Hepburn-esque nature of Meghan Markle’s looks this year.

In a 2016 interview for Glamour, Markle described her personal taste as simple and pared-back when asked about her Suits character’s wedding dress. She also favours balletic silhouettes, as Hepburn did, so brand and bride were a perfect match.

The wedding dress of Meghan Markle, created by the British designer Clare Waight Keller, artistic director at the historic French fashion house Givenchy.

The wedding dress of Meghan Markle, created by the British designer Clare Waight Keller, artistic director at the historic French fashion house Givenchy.

The dress is made from an exclusive double-bonded silk cady, developed by Ms Waight Keller following extensive research in fabric mills around Europe. Its elegant lines were achieved using six meticulously-placed seams. They extend towards the back of the dress, where the train flows in soft round folds cushioned by an underskirt in triple-silk organza. The boat-neckline bodice is just as lovely.

In Queen of the World, an ITV documentary aired on September 23, Meghan mentions the gown’s lining is stitched with her ‘something blue’: a piece of fabric from the dress she wore on her first date with the Duke.

Royal wedding gowns always set trends but Ms Markle’s is especially easy to emulate, making it a fashion catalyst at every price-point. With its uniform texture and clean lines, similar versions are easier to turn out at department store-prices than her sister-in-law’s more detailed Alexander McQueen.

The five-metre-long veil is made from silk-tulle and embroidered with the flora of the 53 countries of the British Commonwealth.

The five-metre-long veil is made from silk-tulle and embroidered with the flora of the 53 countries of the British Commonwealth.

Despite the drama surrounding the dress, the veil may be a bigger attraction, especially for visitors with Commonwealth ties. Designed to flow beautifully with the dress, it tells a story through embroidery. The national flower of each country as well as California’s state poppy and Wintersweet, which grows in the grounds of Kensington Palace, are represented in silk and organza. “It was important for me, especially now being a part of the royal family, to have all 53 Commonwealth countries incorporated,” Meghan said in the ITV documentary. Her husband is his grandmother’s personal pick as a Commonwealth Youth Ambassador.

You can also cast a magpie-eye over the diamond and platinum bandeau tiara, lent to the bride by his granny. On public display for the first time, the tiara is formed as a flexible band of 11 sections, pavé set with large and small brilliant diamonds in a geometric shape. The centre is set with a detachable brooch of 10 diamonds. The bandeau was made in 1932 for the Queen’s grandmother, Queen Mary. The brooch was given to the then Princess Mary in 1893 by the County of Lincoln on her marriage to Prince George, (England’s future King George V). The bandeau and the brooch were bequeathed to the present queen in 1953.

The diamond and platinum bandeau tiara lent to Meghan by her grandmother-in-law.

The diamond and platinum bandeau tiara lent to Meghan by her grandmother-in-law.

For those of us more interested in Harry, he did not disappoint (disregarding his decision to keep the beard, maybe). His outfit included a blue doeskin frockcoat, white gloves, a white buckskin belt with sword slings, and black trousers with a red stripe down the side.

This is the military uniform of the Blues and Royals, a regiment of the cavalry formed in 1969, and was commissioned from Savile Row tailors Dege & Skinner. The Queen is the colonel-in-chief of this regiment and granted Prince Harry permission to wear it.

The Duke has loaned an identical uniform to go on display. The coat bears the figured braiding of Regimental pattern on the stand-up collar and sleeves. It is ranked to ‘Major’ with large gold embroidered crowns on the epaulettes.

This exhibition is a chance to enjoy the most-analysed outfits from the most-watched royal nuptials in history. The couture is clearly the biggest draw but military influence on fashion is endless — from structure and embellishments to footwear and accessories — so it is also a must-see event for students and wannabe designers.

- A Royal Wedding: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’ will be at Windsor Castle from 26 October 26 to January 6.

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