duchess of windsor

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Evening Dress Worn by Wallis Simpson in a Cecil Beaton Photograph

Mainbocher

c.1938

Cecil Beaton photographed the Duchess of Windsor wearing this dress for British Vogue in 1939. To highlight and complement the eighteenth-century silhouette of the gown, Beaton photographed the duchess seated in a Louis XV chair against a Piranesi backdrop. During the late 1930s, as a reaction against sociopolitical realities, fashion and the decorative arts were heavily influenced by period revivalism.

Cecil Beaton was the Duchess of Windsor’s official photographer and played an important role in constructing her public image. The pair first met in 1930, when the duchess was married to Ernest Simpson. Beaton’s initial impressions of Wallis Simpson were far from favorable, describing her as “brawny and raw-boned in her sapphire blue velvet.” On his next meeting, however, which took place in 1934, he found her appearance much changed: “I liked her immensely. I found her bright and witty, improved in looks, and chic.”

The MET

You must have no regrets- I have none. This much I know: what I know of happiness is forever associated with you.
—  Edward, Duke of Windsor to his fiancée, Wallis Warfield, on the day his brother, George VI, was crowned king. The date had originally been chosen, and the preparations made, for Edward’s coronation, but his brother was crowned instead after Edward abdicated the throne to marry Wallis. 
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80 years ago today at Fort Belvedere, on 10 December 1936, King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom signed his written abdication notices in order to marry the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.

It was witnessed by his three younger brothers: Prince Albert, Duke of York (who succeeded Edward as George VI); Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester; and Prince George, Duke of Kent.

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British royals featured in Vanity Fair’s International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame

  • Queen Elizabeth II (1958)
  • The Duchess of Windsor (1958)
  • The Duchess of Kent (1960)
  • The Duke of Windsor (1968)
  • Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh (1969)
  • The Prince of Wales (1980)
  • Diana, Princess of Wales (1989)
  • Prince Michael of Kent (1999)
  • The Duchess of Cambridge (2014)