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Comment: Minimalist Markle’s bateau and halter-neck royal wedding winners

Graeme Moran

The Drapers Verdict on Meghan Markle’s two royal wedding dresses and their influence on the fashion industry.

Ms. meghan markle in givenchy haute couture by clare waight keller (1)

Both of Meghan Markle’s understated wedding dresses – a bateau-neck Givenchy haute couture gown by Clare Waight Keller for the main ceremony and a bespoke halter-neck Stella McCartney dress for the evening reception – delighted and surprised with their elegant simplicity.

Much like Kate Middleton before her, the new bride will have an influential impact not just on bridal trends, but across eveningwear and high street styles for seasons to come.

The two designs appeared to embody the American divorcee and newly anointed Duchess of Sussex as she marries into the British royal family – eschewing the traditional princess gown or fairy-tale frock in favour of fuss-free, pared-back and approachably modern dresses with touches of personality. For instance, her backless evening dress was flatteringly elegant but came with an understated sprinkle of sexy Hollywood glamour. It was appropriate, but it was clearly designed to dance, celebrate and have fun in.

Markle’s choice of French fashion house Givenchy and its artistic director Clare Waight Keller for her wedding dress was an unexpected one. The designer and brand were not on the radar as rumours swirled about who would design the dress.

Expect this pared-back approach, the clean lines and particularly the neckline to trickle through bridalwear and into eveningwear

However, Birmingham-born Waight Keller carries added symbolic significance: having joined Givenchy in March 2017, she is the first woman to lead the French fashion house, which chimes with Markle’s championing of women’s rights.

Some felt the bride’s minimalist wedding dress was a little subdued – no sparkle, no lace, no sheer – with only the splendid 5 metre-long, floral-embellished veil to bring a sense of romance and drama. But the clean and crisp graphic lines, and sculptural shape lent a refined freshness to a timeless bridal silhouette, fusing the traditional with the contemporary in a way that will set a new template for modern brides.

The dress’s bateau neckline was key: it revealed a sliver of skin in a demure, feminine and wedding-appropriate way. The focus on “cold shoulder” shapes has been a womenswear trend for some time, and Markle will elevate this to new heights by bringing the bateau back to the fore. Few women will shy away from revealing their collar bones – an area of the body that is flattering for any age.

The Givenchy design was also noteworthy for its undecorated and unembellished style, eschewing jazzy sparkle or traditional bridal lace in favour of a stark simplicity. Many brides will want more pizazz and decoration from their wedding dresses but expect this pared-back approach, the clean lines and particularly the neckline to trickle through bridalwear and into eveningwear.

The three-quarter-length bracelet sleeves were another modern element that will have some influence, while the gently fitted and fluid shape, with its softly sculpted waist and subtle fishtail skirt was an interesting shift towards a slightly more relaxed bridal look, rather than an overtly body-conscious or corseted style. The double-bonded silk cady fabric was a fitting choice, but maybe a little stiff to catch on as a key trend.

Stella mccartney sketch high res

Stella mccartney sketch high res

A sketch of the evening dress by Stella McCartney

For the evening wedding reception, the bride picked a bespoke Stella McCartney dress with a high halter-neck. Similar to Pippa Middleton’s influential bridesmaid dress, with its cowl-neck and figure-hugging fishtail silhouette at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding, this second dress also arguably stole the show.

Again, the choice of designer aligned with the bride’s own world views, as British-born McCartney is famed for her stance on ethical and sustainable fashion.

The party dress was equally elegant and simple but with an added slinky glamour that will have a broader impact on the industry. Again, the design’s neckline offered another flattering way to show skin via its bare arms, while the cut and fit was more body conscious but still relaxed. The bias-cut, more defined fishtail shape, fluid skirt and backless design will all be popular elements.

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