Vintage fashion - The style of Wallis Simpson
Yorkshire vintage fashion expert Clare Quartermaine explains why she's in love with Wallis Simpson's wardrobe
Madonna’s directorial debut W.E. – a film that follows the scandalous love affair between King Edward VIII and the divorced American socialite known as ‘that woman’ – looks set to be one of the highlights of my year. But it’s not the acting or the script that have got my heart racing – it’s the clothes.
Wallis Simpson might have made headlines for her part in the King’s decision to abdicate, but she was also known for her incredible sense of style, making her a celebrated fashion icon of the 1930s and beyond. She was always impeccably dressed and, as one of the first clients of Christian Dior, wore the very latest fashions.
Images of her continue to inspire and fascinate lovers of heritage fashion across the globe – including me. Mrs Simpson is the direct inspiration behind a collection of 1930s dresses on my vintage fashion website, 20th Century Foxy.
The 1930s was a difficult era in history, marked by the great depression and increasing austerity. Fashions during this period are fascinating in that they mark the duality between austerity and sensuality.
As the depression began to affect the public, a conservative approach displaced the flippant fashions of the 1920s. Hems got lower, necklines got higher and waistlines returned to their natural place, marking the return of a more womanly figure. But eveningwear saw daring bare backs and contour-hugging bias cuts on sensual flowing fabrics.
Our Pretty in Pink dress has all the trademarks of the 1930s, a high neckline, bow detail, low hemline and a womanly cut. Our hugely feminine wide pants have an iconic look, achieved through painstaking research of original 1930s’ patterns. And our Anissa dress has intricate keyhole detailing and vintage-inspired flower embroidery, harking back to a very different time.
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A time when fashionable American women could turn the heads of impressionable English men – and almost bring down the monarchy in the process.
The print version of this article appeared in the March 2012 issue of Yorkshire Life
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