Dear Little Blog of Mine,
Well, I haven't seen you in a while, and I've missed you. Let's talk.
Sooooo last Friday night I set my alarm clock for 3:38 am. I felt like 3:30 was too early and 4:00 might have been too late. Too late to see THE DRESS. Well the entire wedding really. I kind of cheated though. Normally the TV lives in the living room, but I knew I would not be able to get up at 3:38am and walk all the way into the living room, so I stole the TV and put it in my room. We woke up for William and Kate's 7 years ago, and although I had had an insane day (my refrigerator caught on fire Friday morning, the entire house had filled with smoke and I watched it all thinking well thats it, I've ruined the house, luckily I didn't) and I confess I had thoughts of not waking up super early to watch the wedding of two people I don't know, however I reminded myself that its being a part of history in more ways than one, and waking up at 3:38am though not ideal, is certainly survivable.
I feel by now you know I'm talking about the wedding of Prince Harry of England and the former actress (now the Duchess of Sussex, thank you very much) Meghan Markle of America. First and foremost, I was pretty interested in the dress she would choose. And she made quite an interesting and I believe very meaningful choice. As soon as I saw the shape, cut, and fit of the dress and heard it was by Givenchy, Audrey Hepburn came immediately to mind. The late actress worked with Hubert Givenchy numerous times and had many dresses by him for both her onscreen appearances and for award ceremonies and indeed, her own wedding. For Meghan Markle to chose to channel Audrey Hepburn is a really wise and telling choice. First of all, there is the refined elegance. Audrey Hepburn always looked elegant, beautiful and well put together. Secondly, to channel Audrey Hepburn's style is in this case, is to also channel her spirit. By which I mean, later in life Audrey Hepburn was very active in charitable causes especially with children. While Grace Kelley is a wonderful style icon, and certainly one to site for a wedding dress, and she may well have been involved with charity, she was not in the same way as Audrey Hepburn was. Included in the lexicon of iconic photos of Audrey Hepburn, her Givenchy Breakfast at Tiffany's dress being one of them, are the photos of her with small children.
You can find the exact same kind of photos of Meghan Markle. And that is why I think it so interesting that she chose the House of Givenchy, because I truly believe that she wanted to channel both the style and spirit of Audrey Hepburn.
The other telling choice, is that the House of Givenchy is now headed by a woman. Clare Waight Keller is the lead designer of Givenchy (she was formerly the head designer for Chloe). It is a big deal for anyone to be appointed head designer of a major fashion house, and absolutely fabulous and wonderfully modern for an old historied French house like Givenchy to have a woman at the helm. Not only is she a woman, she is British, so the choice is even more meaningful.
I thought the dress was exquisite, the boat neck, three quarter sleeves, the double faced silk. What craftsmanship. And the craftsmanship is important. I think its easy to say, my God, what a lot of money, how ridiculous etc. but if you think about the detail and construction you realize its not unreasonable (what is unreasonable is the cost of university tuition in the United States because it is not commensurate with, well anything really, but we can deal with that another time.)
The fact is, these are skilled artisans who make these dresses, and its almost a necessary duty, that the very wealthy seek out bespoke garments. These skills are dying because of automation and fast fashion and terrible manufacturing practices in places like China and Bangladesh. The royal family helps to keep this kind of incredibly skilled workmanship alive. They talked about how the seamstresses washed their hands every 30 minutes to keep the veil pristine and I remember them discussing that for the Duchess of Cambridge's dress (that would be Kate Middleton if you can't remember her official title.). It all brings to mind that very odd and I would like to say annoying film with Daniel Day Lewis called Phantom Thread. While I found the film itself a bit oppressive and too Daniel Day Lewis serving, if you know what I mean, I loved the depictions of couture. Especially the scene where they are all working very very diligently on another royals wedding dress. It gives you a sense of the type of work that went into Meghan Markle's dress.
I also loved loved loved that Clare Waight Keller came up with the idea to embroider the flora that is representative of each of the members of the commonwealth as well as the California poppy for Ms Markle's own home. It was a beautiful idea and reminded me of the kind of subtle representative design I like to incorporate in my work. There, and yet not there. Beautiful on its own, and enhanced by knowledge.
Finally I want to say a little something about Meghan Markle herself. I never watched Suits, so I knew nothing of her as an actress. But a couple of years ago, I came across her Blog, The Tig, and I was thoroughly impressed. She talked about her charity work (so very admirable, she didn't have to do any of it, she chose to) and a number of lifestyle things like travel, food, healthy living etc. I noticed she had a number of articles about going solo, as in traveling alone, going to a movie alone, going to a restaurant alone. I think what I got from this was that she had formed herself as a person. Meghan Markle knows who she is and what she values. She has had a career of her own, has found ways to get involved in the world on her own, and I find this all very admirable. It also makes her a very different royal bride.
I am going to go a little out on a pretty little flowering tree branch here and say that Meghan Markle is going to be our new Princess Diana. (gasp!)
Here's the thing and its a little complicated, okay its really complicated, but I'm going to try. When Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles in 1981 she was not the peoples Princess. She was a blue blooded 19 year old girl, who hadn't gone to college, had wanted to be a ballerina but was too tall, and was a preschool teacher (its possible minder, and not teacher is more apt, basically she took care of toddlers.) She was an unformed child, marrying the Prince of England (12 years her senior). It was not until she got divorced from Charles, that she became herself. Now again, this is going out there, but really truly, I believe her personal transformation started with fashion. She began to take an interest in fashion as a means of self expression. With that forming and budding, she then went on to take part in very very historically important social issues. Two very important moments come to mind. One was when the Princess of Wales visited an AIDS hospital and picked up a baby with HIV and held and kissed the child. The significance of that act was so huge, I can not do it justice but I will try. She did this at a time when the disease was an epidemic with very little information, nobody knew how you got it, mostly thanks to the hideous Reagan administration in this country which refused to discuss the issue (thank you Nancy Reagan), because effectively what did they care when it was young Homosexuals dying. The Attorney General had to take the matter into his own hands and against the administrations will mail out letters to every household in America telling them explicitly what exactly was going on. Anyways, you get the idea of the time, and for Princess Diana to do something so natural as pick up a baby made such a huge difference. The other iconic moment came when she put on boots, khakis, a helmut and a shield and walked through active mine fields in Angola. Wow.
This is the Diana that left this world too soon. She was a very important figure in my life growing up, and the significance of her charity work continues. However, her personal relationship with the Royal Family was very tumultuous, and I think it was under this kind of, "not another Diana" that Kate Middleton came into the Royal Family. Now there is a big difference between Kate Middelton and Lady Diana, in that Kate graduated from college and comes from a very grounded background. However, she has been defined by her relationship, and her part as a royal spouse. She did not really have a full life before she got married, and her current role is as wife and mother. She is taking a more active role, but it is still defined by her relationship.
Meghan Markle comes to this marriage sort of almost, dare I say it, where Diana eventually got to after her divorce. By which I mean, Meghan Markle is a person, not a wife. I don't know if its the times or what, but it is pretty significant that Prince Harry chose to marry an actual person, a person who has had a life, an educated person, a person who has had to find her own way in the world, an older person (!). He did not marry a set piece half his age (any current President's coming to mind?)
Anyways, I think this says a lot about where the Royal Family is now, and my God I hope it has some significance and meaning for where the world is going.
Freud said sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Well in this case, a dress is not just a dress, and this marriage is not just a marriage.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. You can see the incredible silk and the beautiful shape and drape of the dress. Boat neck, three quarter sleeves, lovely train, cinched in waist.
Audrey Hepburn here with Hubert de Givenchy, the neckline and seaming is very similar to Meghan Markle's, but the shape of the skirt designed by Clare Waight Keller is much different and much more modern. This more echoes the Dior "New Look".
The Duke and Duchess descending the stairs of Windsor Castle. Notice again the train of the dress.
Audrey Hepburn, again in Givenchy, again you can see the historical precedence for the dress shape and design.
The gorgeous veil with the intricate embroidery representing all 53 member states of the Commonwealth and the California poppy for Meghan (and me!). Also, the woman you see on the left, is the designer herself. This speaks to the significance of a bespoke garment like this that Clare Waight Keller is there to make sure everything is perfect. Its like an architect at the opening of a new building. The creator is there with her creation.
Audrey Hepburn, on her way home from breakfast at Tiffany's. The bodice and waist look familiar.
Look at the seaming, impeccable.
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