Duchess of Windsor – style iconAugust 22, 2015
Wallis, Duchess of Windsor is the fashionable royal outcast who lured the king away from his rightful duties.
As we already know Edward, Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII) abdicated the throne to marry her.
Duchess of Windsor – style icon
Wallis would divorce her husband, Ernest Simpson in order to marry Edward, creating an abdication crisis the like of which hasn’t been seen before or since.
The fashionable Duchess
Wallis had not one, but two living exes and ultimately led to the king’s abdication in 1936 so he could marry Wallis.
He would become Duke of Windsor and they would both live in the Bahamas where Edward would be governor, and later in France.
Edward died in 1972 from cancer, and the Duchess died in 1986 in Bois de Boulogne, Paris.
She was a colourful character and both she and the Duke of Windsor lived a life as social celebrities in Europe as well as the United States.
Not beautiful but beautifully dressed
Her lavish taste in fashion was renowned and many of the contents of her wardrobe were auctioned in 2011.
She dressed impeccably and was once heard to say “I’m not a beautiful woman. I’m nothing to look at, so the only thing I can do is dress better than anyone else.”
The Duchess was interviewed in 1966 in an edition of Harper’s Bazaar:
Fashion is part of history and you are uniquely a part of that history; has it been an exciting hobby or a “job of work” to be one of the world’s great arbiters of fashion?
- I don’t think I am an arbiter, nor are clothes a job of work to me. I give much more time to housekeeping than to dressing up.
- How, then, have you gained this reputation?
- I don’t know. I play fashion by ear; whatever look I evolved came from working with the little dressmaker around the corner, years and years ago, who used to make all my clothes
I began with my own personal ideas about style and I’ve never felt correct in anything but the severe look I developed then.
Original interview featured in Harper’s Bazaar Oct 15, 2010
She’s also famous for coming up with these gems: “You can never be too rich or too thin” and “Never explain, never complain.”
Her sartorial elegance is still influential in fashion today, and today we’re going to take a look at how she dressed and how you can replicate it, in in full 1930s, 1940s style
Duchess of Windsor -Best dressed, internationally
She put a great deal of effort in to how she dressed, always appearing elegant in tailored clothes with no unnecessary embellishments or details.
She was on the International Best Dressed List for over 40 years, and if that isn’t evidence of her fashion credentials, then I don’t know what is.
That Mainbocher dress
She was always immaculately turned out and made sure that in keeping with current trends, her accessories always matched perfectly.
She was dressed mainly by Mainbocher until he retired in the early 70s. Her wedding dress was perfect.A floor length dress with a long sleeved jacket that matched beautifully. It was made from silk crepe and the colour blue, which would come to be known as “Wallis blue.”
Naturally, copies of her dress was sold at local high street stores, especially in her native country.
Duchess of Windsor -Shiaparelli, Dali and Beaton
She loved Schiaparelli evening suits as well as Mainbocher’s designs, and was photographed wearing the famous lobster dress with a contributory print design from Salvador Dali, who Shiaparelli had worked with over the years.
The photograph was taken by Cecil Beaton who was the Duchess’s unofficial photographer.
Conservative by day, flamboyant by night
Although her daytime wardrobe was fairly conservative, her evening wardrobe was much more feminine and attention grabbing.
After the Second World War she favoured different designers as well Schiaparelli and Mainbocher, with Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and Dior designing for her, and matched with shoes by Roger Vivier.
Her jewellery was decadent, wearing Arpels, Van Cleef and Cartier.The influential jewellery designers provided pieces for her, and they were always lavishly decorated.
Wallis was well aware of what the public thought of her, especially the British, and although there was nothing she could really do about it, she dressed to impress.
Her dress style was always in keeping with her position, and her wardrobe provided a template for other statesmen and royals who would follow.