Style Icon – Wallis Simpson

>Today started well.  I found out that I was a nominee for Ireland’s Top Fashion Blogger.  This is a total surprise, because I didn’t solicit a nomination, but now that I’ve got one, I’m going to cling onto it until my fingernails fall off and pimp myself out for votes like an underage Jodie Foster.  Can you tell that I was the kid who never won any prizes on sports day?

I don’t for a second think that I’ll come out on top with so many excellent blogs nominated, but if you like this blog and don’t want me to be Sad Sack Sarah at the bottom of the pile (fingers crossed!) please do vote for me by clicking here.  Go to my pic (I’m number 41), then press vote.  Easy as pie!

Then I popped down to The Fair Alternative to find a super-cute prize for my QUESTION! post and bumped in the lovely Lorna of Loladee (check out her etsy here) who gifted me an amazingly cute zipper brooch that I want to keep ALL TO MYSELF.


The winner, with an exhaustive list of blogs is Anne-Marie.  Congrats!  I’ll tweet you with details. 

Now onto the blog post at hand…
My mother very thoughtfully bought me a copy of Any Human Heart by William Boyd a few days ago. I’m a bit of a pedanto at times, so I decided to watch the entire Channel 4 series in one go before reading the book. Sometimes I read the book before watching the TV series/film, but my reasoning was that it wasn’t so much the story that I was looking forward to as much as Boyd’s writing itself.  I’m so glad that I watched it now, because the series is so immaculate and well made and the characters so finely tuned and nuanced that I can’t wait to read the book just so I can replay every episode in my head, complete with the fleshed-out details that the book provides. 

Gillian Anderson and Tom Hollander as Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward

One character who definitely didn’t get enough screentime was Wallis Simpson, played by Gillian Anderson.  She plays Wallis as an abrasive, self entitled social climber with a dress sense as sharp as her cheekbones and one liners.  Paris Hilton – start taking notes.

Historical accounts of the real Simpson’s personality run the gamut of bad to just plain evil.  She was characterised as a control freak with OCD (definitely) gold-digger (possible), a Nazi sympathiser (probable) and a pseudo-prostitute trained in the sexual arts in a brothel in China (eh, I’ll get back to you on that one).  I remember reading that people thought that she was a hermaphrodite (or intersex, if I’m being very PC) in a bid to explain her childlessness.  Not very likely.

Whatever you want to say about her, the woman had charisma.  People are still boggled by her life, her personality and her political motivations.  I’m boggled by her wardrobe.  Wallis was exceptionally long and lean.  Her wedding dress was copied into the hundreds of thousands and she was (and still is) lauded for her personal style and attention to detail.

In an article for The Telegraph, the author Rose Tremain says:

“She, who is said to have coined the statement that “You can’t be too rich or too thin”, was stigmatised as being too ambitious, too ruthless, too greedy, too mannish, too sexual, too cruel, too divorced, too pro-German and too American. In the brilliant Irving Penn photo-portrait of her, which hangs in my study, she is backed into what appears to be a narrow cell, from which the only escape is towards the camera, into the glare of the flash and the click of the shutter.”
Portrait by Irving Penn

Portrait by Cecil Beaton

Portrait by Cecil Beaton

What Tremain sees in the Penn portrait is a look of abject fear.  I, and many others, might disagree.  That’s the allure of Wallis Simpson, who didn’t just dress well, but was totally unknowable, and always will be.

23 thoughts on “Style Icon – Wallis Simpson

  1. >voted for you, well done on that.oh i saw a bit about her on the culture show last week, friday i think. they showed a few irving penn portraits. well happy holidays, get warmed up!

  2. >I was all teary when I watched the finale of Any Human Heart. Took me a while to figure out who Gillian Anderson's character was and then it clicked… d'oh! Sharp fashion sense indeed. I love the second Beaton portrait.

  3. >Great post, and gorgeous Wallis photos. A strong woman like her was bound to be villified in the time she was living, even if she was a saint! I love exciting historical women like her, must read up on her a bit more. And good luck with the award! x

  4. >I don't see fear at all! I don't know much about her, but feel that it is very unlikely anyone wrote about her from a truly unbiased perspective. I feel that she got a little bit of the Heather Mills treatment – she might have been a bit rotten, but why do we all care so much?

  5. >She sounds vivacious and a go-getter of her time, and I agree – Gillian Anderson played her beautifully, but it was indeed short but sweet! I watched the adaptation before the book, and though I loved the 4 part drama, the book was so difficult to put down. It highlights the talent I think of those producers who managed to encapsulate the three stages of his life so well visually, and kudos to the three Logan actors for doing such a wonderful job. McFayden romanced me every episode with his charm and unwavering bad luck. Lovely post dear jazzy ♥… if you haven't already, get your skates on with my Vintage Tapestry Bag giveaway! :)

  6. >Congrats on the nomination!Wallis has been out and about a lot recently. Fell in love with the entire recent jewellery auction. There is a good, small part of her in The King's Speech too.

  7. >She really is absolutely stunning isn't she? It's no wonder everyone finds Wallis Simpson so fascinating, you can't help but ask yourself 'what is it about her that would mean someone would give up being King to marry her?'ps congrats on the nomination!

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