Like Cate Blanchett re-wearing an Armani Prive gown at Cannes in the name of sustainability, or Lena Waithe wearing the rainbow flag of LGBTQ rights to the Met Gala, Markle will make a social statement with her dress.
It’s T-minus 24 hours and the world is on royal wedding dress watch. Will the Hollywood actress-turned-British royal stick to tradition or stray from it? What will her style choices say about the values she stands for? And what will they say to young girls about the fairytale of a royal wedding in the year 2018?
Bookies are taking bets on which designer she will walk down the aisle with (Tamara Ralph of British couture house Ralph & Russo is a strong contender, though Stella McCartney has a lot going for her, too–more on that later). Fashion brands on both sides of the Atlantic are pitching merch to capitalize on the union (Solange Azagury-Partridge’s “Special Relationship” Hotlips ring, $280, splices the Union Jack and the stars and stripes).
Even Play-Doh—yes, that Play-Doh, the children’s toy—has jumped on the royal wedding bandwagon, sculpting a prediction of what Markle’s dress will look like for god knows what reason.
All joking aside, what’s unique about Markle is that she is a bi-racial American divorcee, who had her own successful career before she met her prince, and her marriage into the royal family catapults the monarchy into a more diverse 21st century.
So far, several of the choices the couple have made about their wedding suggest that they subscribe to millennial values of inclusivity, responsible consumption and giving back. Markle’s socially-relevant engagement ring is composed of a cushion-cut diamond Prince Harry ethically sourced from their beloved Botswana, flanked by two round diamonds from the personal jewelry collection of Diana, herself a humanitarian.
In lieu of wedding gifts, they’ve asked for contributions to be made to seven charities representing “a range of issues they are passionate about,” the palace says, “including sport for social change, women’s empowerment, conservation, the environment, homelessness, HIV and the Armed Forces.”
They have invited the public inside their big day, to watch the arrivals at St. George’s Chapel. The couple has made sure those chosen are from a broad range of backgrounds and ages, and that they include school children and representatives of their personal charities.
So how will these values be reflected in the style of Markle’s dress? I expect Markle, like many stars now, whether its Cate Blanchett re-wearing an Armani Prive gown at Cannes in the name of sustainability, or Lena Waithe wearing the rainbow flag of LGBTQ rights to the Catholic-themed Met Gala, to make a social statement with her dress. Instead of going backward to the U.S. for her big day, she will choose a British designer to honor her new home. That could mean going with a British designer from somewhere else, such as Erdem Moraliglu, who hails from Canada, where Markle spent a lot of time on the set of Suits. Or her old pal Roland Mouret, the Frenchman working in London whose form-fitting Galaxy dress cemented his status in Hollywood. But going with either designer would squander the opportunity to push the message of female empowerment and social impact.
Although Ralph & Russo seems like a natural go-to (the fashion house is relatively young, founded in 2007, led by a female designer, Tamara Ralph, who has the distinction of being the first British designer in 100 years to be invited to show at the Paris haute couture week), it would also be a flashy one, not necessarily reflective with the couple’s seemingly down-to-earth values. Ralph & Russo has dressed nearly every celebrity in Hollywood, including Lupita Nyong’o, Tracee Ellis Ross and Allison Williams for the 2018 SAG Awards alone, as well as princesses and royals in Asia and the Middle East. But it seems like the choice of the old monarchy, the monarchy of the 1 percent.
Burberry is another name that has come up, or more specifically outgoing designer Christopher Bailey, who showed his final collection for the British heritage brand in February, awash in the rainbow colors of the LGBTQ cause Meghan and Harry have spoken so passionately about. But Bailey has gone, and what Burberry will stand for under the new direction of Riccardo Tisci remains to be seen.
Of course, Tisci could have stepped up to make Markle’s gown, in advance of his Burberry runway debut slated for September 17 in London, in what would possibly be the biggest fashion coup of a lifetime. Unlikely though, because think about it: then Markle would be following in the footsteps of Kim Kardashian (Tisci dressed her for her 2014 nuptials to Kanye West). And the girl already has enough tabloid drama for her own Keeping Up with the Markles series as it is, between her TMZ-trailing father Thomas Markle, and her Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister book–writing sibling, Samantha Grant.
Stella McCartney seems the single best choice to walk down the aisle at the royal wedding on Saturday. Not only is she a female designer, she’s an impassioned environmentalist. And she has a Hollywood connection (because Markle still may want to remind the world where she came from)! Papa Sir Paul McCartney could even join Elton John on stage at the reception!
It would be an enormous vote of confidence for the designer, who has been a leader in sustainability in the fashion industry, and when she needs it the most. McCartney recently bought back her business from the Kering luxury group, and like many British designers, she could use the boost in the face of the challenges of Brexit.
McCartney’s was the first Kering brand to publish an annual environmental profit and loss report measuring the impact the business has on the supply chain and environment, and as a designer, she has lectured often about the cause. McCartney’s style is no-nonsense and minimal, like Markle’s. And if they were to work together to create a gown that incorporated some element of recycling, whether using vintage lace, textile remnants, or some sort of materials from discarded plastic bottles perhaps, it would be a powerful model to other brides and young girls about how they can make a difference. It would also honor Harry’s father, Prince Charles–who is walking Markle down the aisle–and has been campaigning for the environment since the 1980s. A win, win.
Diana was the People’s princess, perhaps Markle will be Mother Earth’s.