LONDON — The guessing game begins.
The British bookies are already taking bets on the royal wedding date (most likely May, after the Cambridges’ third baby is born) — and the church (probably Westminster Abbey) — but they still haven’t addressed the monumental question: Who will Meghan Markle choose to design her dress for her marriage to Prince Harry?
Does the designer or brand have to be British? Or even based in London? Will she choose one of her favorites, like Roland Mouret or Antonio Berardi? Or nod to her American roots and pick a designer from home to create what is likely to be the wedding dress of the year?
Markle may be a TV actress, but she’s certainly not a red-carpet regular and she’s best known for her easy, shopping-on-the-Kings-Road clothes — the ripped jeans, loose-fitting button-down shirts, flats and sunglasses. She loves a small indie label, so it’s anyone’s guess whom she’ll choose for the Big Day.
“Traditionally it would be an English designer, but perhaps as a nod to her heritage, she’ll choose an American one so the poor girl actually has some say in her wedding day,” said royal biographer and editor in chief of Majesty Magazine Ingrid Seward.
“Oscar de la Renta perhaps, but maybe that’s too old school. If it’s British, it could be Alice Temperley or Alexander McQueen, who is favored by her friend Markus,” added Seward, referring to Markus Anderson, Markle’s best friend who is said to have set her up with Prince Harry.
That said, would Markle really pick the same wedding dress designer as her future sister-in-law? Still, she might well tear a page out of Kate Middleton’s book and consult the editor of British Vogue, who is now Edward Enninful.
Bruce Oldfield, who designed many an outfit for Princess Diana and who was one of the contenders to design the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress, said late Monday: “It would be fabulous if Meghan chose a British designer. It would seem very fitting – the British public would love it.”
Oldfield is one of Britain’s premier dress designers and a perennial favorite among the mothers and daughters of London society. He created power suits and evening gowns for Princess Diana in the Eighties, and has made one-off dresses for clients including Samantha Cameron, Sienna Miller, Charlotte Rampling, and Queen Rania of Jordan.
He said the royal bride-to-be will need to look “convincingly regal. I’ve become known for making my brides look like princesses — even those who aren’t going to actually become one,” Oldfield added, placing his hat in the ring.
Markle could also turn to Giles Deacon, who designed Pippa Middleton’s wedding dress and who volunteered himself for the job earlier this year. “If Meghan Markle was in any way interested, I would be more than delighted,” he told the British press. “But I’m sure she’s got plenty of other people on her list.”
The bride-to-be also has a host of stylist friends who will most certainly give her some guidance. They include Joe Zee and Rachel Zoe. Her photographer pal Jake Rosenberg, who works for the The Coveteur.com — which spotlights celebrities’ closets — might have a few words of advice, as well.
Early Monday, Clarence House confirmed that Prince Harry and Markle were engaged, putting an end to months of speculation. Markle, who already has one marriage behind her, is an actress best known for playing Rachel Zane in the legal drama series “Suits.”
The statement said the couple became engaged earlier this month and the wedding will take place in the spring. The couple will live in Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace. Clarence House said more details will be revealed in due course.
The betrothed couple made their first public appearance on Monday afternoon during a photo call at Kensington Palace at the Sunken Garden, a memorial to Harry’s late mother Princess Diana. Markle wore a white belted coat from The Line over a green P.A.R.O.S.H. dress with nude heels by Aquazzura and yellow gold and opal earrings from Birks. The Line’s web site crashed immediately following her appearance, although it’s now back up and running.
She also showed off her new, three-stone engagement ring which Prince Harry designed. The center stone is a diamond from Botswana, where the young royal founded the children’s health charity Sentebale with Prince Seeiso in 2006. The two outside stones are diamonds from Princess Diana’s personal collection.
The gold ring was made by Cleave and Co., Court Jewellers and Medallists to Queen Elizabeth II.
A longtime fashion lover, Markle is a casual California girl who balances designer labels with high street ones, much like her future sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge. Her go-to brands include Misha Nonoo, Mackage and Sarah Flint.
She’s been photographed multiple times in ripped Mother jeans, breezy button-down shirts and an Everlane tote, although she can glam it up, too. She’s recently been spotted in a navy lace Diane von Furstenberg dress and a long floral wrap Club Monaco number. She’s not afraid to flash her cleavage — or her legs — just like the younger Princess Diana.
Like the Duchess 0f Cambridge, she can move merch. The fashion search platform Lyst noticed that certain outfits worn by Markle have seen “unprecedented” spikes.
“Meghan has her own distinct style, and this search data shows that the public is excited by the arrival of a new and different royal fashion influencer on the scene,” said communications director of Lyst, Katy Lubin.
“As the newest princess-to-be on the block, this makes her a key influencer with a huge global platform to promote brands. She favors a contemporary, laid-back style, and often champions affordable designers. This makes her wardrobe seem more accessible than Kate’s,” Lubin said.
The eyewear brand Finlay & Co. said it saw a 1,000 percent increase in sales after Markle wore the brand’s Percy sunglasses at the Invictus Games in Toronto, and in London last week.
Markle is also a guest designer for Reitmans, creating a work-to-weekend collection that’s sold in select stores and online. Her signature faux leather pencil skirt looks like something her fast-tracking paralegal character Rachel Zane would wear on the U.S. network show. The cashmere-blend poncho and faux leather leggings have been bestsellers, according to the company.
The American actress was also the creative force and founder of Thetig.com, a lifestyle site about food, travel, fashion and beauty. She eventually shut that site down, however, after things got serious with Prince Harry.
“She loves fashion. She’s very stylish. She’s not too young, not too old, she’s right there and she’s liked by so many women in Canada thanks to her ‘Suits’ contract,” said Monique Brosseau, vice president of marketing and visual presentation at Reitmans.
The series is filmed in Toronto, which doubles as Manhattan, and Markle has since left the series in anticipation of becoming a member of the royal family.
Markle is different from other royal brides in so many ways: She’s mixed race — her father is white and her mother is African-American — and she’s divorced. She was married to the production company owner Trevor Engelson in 2011, but the couple parted ways in 2013.
“It rather adds to it that Meghan is an actress, and she’s mixed race and all that,” said Peter York, the journalist, social commentator and author of books including “The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook.”
“People don’t realize the degree to which this country is much easier about race, and certainly about mixed race. There is practically no British family without a mixed race member. We really are easier about it than most other nations,” he added.
As for the fact that Markle a divorcée — a generation ago royal brides were meant to be virgins — York said it’s a sign of the times. “Historically, it would have been the most enormous deal-breaker, that she’s divorced and even a couple of years older than Prince Harry, yet everybody’s rooting for him.”