All The Rage

The Image staff muses on the culture of
keeping up appearances

« Previous Post | All The Rage Home | Next Post »

On my mind: Wallis Simpson's style

December 3, 2010 | 11:40 am

I saw "The King's Speech" last week, about the reluctant rise to the British throne of Prince Albert, who suffered from a speech defect. It's a terrific film, and wonderful to look at, too.

Costume designer Jenny Beavan's (who also worked on the awesome "Sherlock Holmes" last year) flawless bespoke suits for Prince Albert (Colin Firth) are a nice contrast to the rumpled tweeds worn by his speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) is outfitted in charming, softly colored 1930s-style tie-front blouses, long skirts, fur-trimmed coats and feathered hats. 

But the character who really piqued my fashion interest was Wallis Simpson, the controversial American divorcee who captures the heart of Albert's brother Edward, and costs him the throne.

PantherSimpson appears only briefly in the film, but makes quite an impression, dressed for a dinner party at Balmoral in a black, off-the-shoulder gown and a long necklace with a tassel pendant worn over her exposed back. 

Love her or hate her, Simpson was a fashion plate (Mainbocher was her couturier of choice), and a serious jewelry collector (or receiver--Edward showered her with millions of dollars worth of jewels over her lifetime).

At an auction of some of those jewels at Sotheby's on Tuesday, her famous diamond Cartier panther bracelet fetched nearly $7 million, the most ever paid at auction for a bracelet.

Rumor has it that Madonna bought the piece, which would make sense. She's directing "WE" (after Wallis and Edward), a film about the love affair due out next year. I can't wait to see what costume designer Arianne Phillips is cooking up for that.

--Booth Moore  

Photos: The Duke of Windsor and Mrs. Bessie Wallis Warfield Simpson pose for photographers in a garden of the Chateau de Cande, France, on May 7, 1937. Credit: AP. The panther bracelet from the collection of the Duchess of Windsor. Credit: AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel