“I’m not a beautiful woman. I’m nothing to look at, so the only thing I can do is dress better than anyone else. If everyone looks at me when I enter a room, my husband can feel proud of me. That’s my chief responsibility.”
Wallis Simpson, aka- The Duchess of Windsor had, “the story of an ordinary life that became extraordinary.” She was conceived out of wedlock, lost her father at an early age, divorced twice, married thrice, and caused the King of England to abdicate his throne. I wouldn’t exactly call that life ‘ordinary’.
Wallis started out as a ‘nothing’, but through tenacity and perfectionism, she managed to steal her best friend’s lover (the King) and become one of the most misaligned women in Britain. Yes, it is true that Edward, The King of England gave up his crown so he could marry her. Yes, it is true that she was a Nazi sympathizer. And there is a good chance she was well versed in the bedroom- some even claimed she was a hermaphrodite! But Edward was looking for a way to escape the crown and found the key in Wallis Simpson.
Edward was totally smitten with Wallis, and theirs is the love story of legends. As Edward escaped his royal prison, Wallis was entering an incarceration of her own. Because she and the world felt Edward had given everything up to be with her, she had to become someone worth giving it all up for. To that end she obsessively filled her days with trying to achieve perfection. She had to have a perfect figure, perfect hair, perfect clothing, and a perfect house.
I have a feeling the enigmatic Wallis probably had OCD. It was said she had to have her hair done three times a day. Her bed was changed twice a day and her sheets perfectly ironed each time. At dinner, the napkins were changed at least twice. Many said she couldn’t sit still- she was always arranging something.
Wallis had the good fortune of being close with Elise De Wolfe, the famed interior designer. It was Elise that introduced Wallis to the man who was to become Simpson’s favorite designer: Mainbocher. Wallis and Mainbocher were kindred spirits and each other’s muse. He was just one of the reason’s Wallis was named ‘best dressed’ for 10 years in a row.
Another reason for The Duchess’s status as fashion icon was her extensive jewelry collection lavished on her by her husband Edward. He wasn’t a man of many words, and he knew, though everyone thought he had given up everything for her, in actuality she gave up everything for him. Her life was spent catering to him and his needs, and he thanked her by buying her jewelry.
I do not hold Wallis Simpson in high regard for the choices she made in her life. I find her to be something I abhor in others- a carefully crafted facade with no substance. But at least she did it beautifully. And that I can admire.