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Meghan Markle spent the day running around Cheshire, England, on official business with the queen: watching schoolkids perform at the unveiling of a bridge, presenting plaques, opening a new theater/library, and catching an improv show. And the newly minted Duchess of Sussex did it all in a Givenchy haute couture dress, once again throwing her support behind designer Clare Waight Keller, the creator of her wedding gown.
Anything Markle wears is going to get a lot of attention, but this latest dress is particularly distinctive. The body of the dress, a slim cut that hits just below the knee, is elevated office professional (something you might wear while working at a TV law firm, perhaps?). On top, it’s all sculptural fashion, with a short, tailored shell cocooning the chest.
As space-age as this dress looks — and it does throw off Stormtrooper vibes — it draws inspiration straight from the Givenchy archives. Hubert de Givenchy, who founded the French luxury house in 1952 and died in March 2018, used that same shape on a pale blue, elaborately beaded gown from his fall/winter 1964 collection.
That piece now belongs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Waight Keller created an updated version for her first Givenchy couture collection, shown in January 2018, tightening the capelet to create a stronger, boxier shoulder. The evenly spaced embellishments on the original dress became uneven slashes of sequins falling down the skirt. As an overall effect, Waight Keller’s version is still elegant, but sharper, both restricting the body and creating a tougher silhouette.
“I wanted to use the strength of tailoring, but in a feminine way,” Waight Keller told Vogue Runway at the time.
A strong shoulder is a key part of Waight Keller‘s early offering for Givenchy. While preparing her first collection for Paris Fashion Week in September 2017, the designer spent time poring over the founder’s sketches. Through that process, “she came to the conclusion that he started everything with the shoulder,” wrote fashion critic Nicole Phelps.
A dress like the one Markle wore to Cheshire could very well be used as a tool for intimidation; its self-protective shape doesn’t inherently project accessibility. For a day spent greeting schoolchildren and middle-aged improv troupes, Markle toned down the high-fashion drama significantly.
Paired with sensible black pumps, a breezy hairstyle, and a thin black belt — that classic suggestion for accessorizing a shift dress — Markle’s dress becomes more approachable. It almost comes across as office workwear. Almost.