One of the most celebrated style icons of the 20th century looks set to emerge as a key influence for 2011. Wallis Simpson, the women for whom Edward VIII gave up the British throne, is the topic of the new film WE, which is currently being directed by Madonna. This will follow on from a Christmasradio play, and an appearance in a classy Channel 4 drama.
Wallis Simpson, Nee Warfield, was a true style icon. She was not classically beautiful, but she knew how to dress with elegance, style and impeccable good taste. Her wit and personality, along with her effortless style, made up for a lack of typical good looks, and Edward, the then Prince of Wales, fell deeply in love with the vivacious, but twice divorced American. When he ascended the throne in January 1936, he made it clear that he would not rule without Wallis at his side. This was totally unacceptable, and in December of that same year, he abdicated in favour of his brother, becoming the Duke of Windsor. He married Wallis in France in 1937. Her periwinkle blue suit by Mainbocher became an instant style hit, setting the tone for her future wardrobe with its simplicity and elegance.
Wallis was internationally recognised for her sense of style. A birdlike size 6, she was able to wear designs by the likes of Dior, Schiaparelli and Vionnet. She favoured large print silk tea dresses, calf length pencil skirts, silk bias cut evening dresses. Sleek suits with pencil skirts and jackets with nipped in waists, mid heeled shoes, wide leg trousers and acres of fur – all featured heavily in Wallis’s wardrobe. She wore lots of black and white, which contrasted well with her black hair and pale skin.
She was able to accessorize her fabulous wardrobe with the most amazing jewellery collection that was presented to her by the Duke. Amongst the most famous pieces are the Cartier panther bracelet, and the beautiful flamingo brooch. Wallis died in 1986, 14 years after the Duke Of Windsor. But the world had never lost interest in the couple, or in the story of their romance. The pieces of jewellery that the Duke gave to Wallis play a big part in their story. They were initially auctioned off in 1987, and then, this November, they came under the auctioneer’s hammer once again. The collection made a total of £8million pounds in the auction, with the sapphire encrusted Cartier panther bracelet selling fora spectacular £4.5million! Although the winning bidders identity remains a secret, there has been speculation that Madonna herself may be the proud owner of the stunning bracelet.
The auction has served to resurrect interest in Wallis. Copies of her most famous jewels have reappeared on the High Street in stores like River Island. Gillian Anderson played Wallis in the Channel 4 series ‘Any Human Heart, whilst Elizabeth McGovern is set to play the Duchess in a Radio 4 play entitled ‘The Darkness of Wallis Simpson’ based on the book by Rose Tremain. Perhaps most exciting is ‘W.E’ the production currently being directed by Madonna that will star Andrea Riseborough as Wallis. There are rumours that it is a troubled production, with Vera Farminga and Margo Stilley leaving the film, but it will hopefully be a fascinating film about a very fascinating style icon.