While Wallis spent the majority of her royal life outside of the United Kingdom, that did not prevent her from wearing some of the most fashionable items during her time.
Wallis was always on top of the current trends and even ahead of her time in some instances. For example, Vogue reported how when most women were wearing Chanel’s “boyish Breton tops and trimmed boxy jackets,” Wallis donned “American couturier Main Rousseau Bocher’s corsetry.”
She was seen in fashionable hats, sequins, leaf prints, tartans and vibrant colours, and she always accessorised to the nines. Wallis could also always be seen at the fashion shows of Dior, Givenchy and others.
The Duchess of Windsor’s style was so admired that she collaborated with Salvador Dali on outfits that included gowns with lobster designs, and more recently, Roland Mouret created a £2,100 dress inspired by her for his 2011/2012 winter collection.
He even said: “You can’t work in fashion and not be inspired by the life and wardrobe of Wallis Simpson. Love or hate her, the world is still obsessed by that woman.”
When she wed the former King Edward VIII, she did so in a blue gown, and it became so famous that the colour was later specifically named after her as the “Wallis blue.”
Anne Sebba, a biographer of Wallis, has said that the Duchess used fashion as a weapon because she knew what she wore was going to get attention. She saw her sister-in-law, Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), as a rival; she set out to wear the opposite of Elizabeth’s more formal and “frumpy” outfits. After the Duke of Windsor’s funeral, Wallis wrote, “I really must copy that outfit. It looked as if she had just opened some old trunk and pulled out a few rags, and draped them on herself. And that eternal bag hanging on her arm… She wore a black hat with the brim rolled up, just plopped on her head, and a white plastic arrow sticking up through it. I thought how David would have laughed.”1
Wallis knew what she wanted to wear and from what fashion houses – something she had done the majority of her life. She was sophisticated and classy while also breaking the royal mould for what should be worn. Lobster and monkey designs on outfits? Wallis did not shy away from changing the status quo and did so as a way to show the world who she was.
Wallis knew she would never be Queen consort of the United Kingdom and its realms, but she did all she could to be a queen of fashion.