Evening Dress Worn by Wallis Simpson in a Cecil Beaton Photograph



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.”



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.



For sale: King Edward VIII Coronation souvenir. May 1937.

This is likely a handkerchief made of a delicate red perforated fabric. The cloth is approximately 8x10". It has been tied to a white backing to fully display the details of the fabric.

Tiny holes designed in the fabric create a striking Art Deco design. The King’s silhouette is topped by a crown and the word “Coronation”. It is surrounded by the date of May 1937. Beneath the profile are the words “King Edward VIII”.

A brocade silk dinner gown owned by Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. The light celadon green dress had blue, scarlet and purple blooms banded by gold selvage edges. There is no indication of the maker, but the provenance is most likely French. Picture from Sotheby’s catalog for the 1997 auction of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s private collection.