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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Style Icon - Wallis Simpson

Today started well.  I found out that I was a nominee for Ireland's Top Fashion Blogger.  This is a total surprise, because I didn't solicit a nomination, but now that I've got one, I'm going to cling onto it until my fingernails fall off and pimp myself out for votes like an underage Jodie Foster.  Can you tell that I was the kid who never won any prizes on sports day?

I don't for a second think that I'll come out on top with so many excellent blogs nominated, but if you like this blog and don't want me to be Sad Sack Sarah at the bottom of the pile (fingers crossed!) please do vote for me by clicking here.  Go to my pic (I'm number 41), then press vote.  Easy as pie!

Then I popped down to The Fair Alternative to find a super-cute prize for my QUESTION! post and bumped in the lovely Lorna of Loladee (check out her etsy here) who gifted me an amazingly cute zipper brooch that I want to keep ALL TO MYSELF.

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The winner, with an exhaustive list of blogs is Anne-Marie.  Congrats!  I'll tweet you with details. 

Now onto the blog post at hand...
My mother very thoughtfully bought me a copy of Any Human Heart by William Boyd a few days ago. I'm a bit of a pedanto at times, so I decided to watch the entire Channel 4 series in one go before reading the book. Sometimes I read the book before watching the TV series/film, but my reasoning was that it wasn't so much the story that I was looking forward to as much as Boyd's writing itself.  I'm so glad that I watched it now, because the series is so immaculate and well made and the characters so finely tuned and nuanced that I can't wait to read the book just so I can replay every episode in my head, complete with the fleshed-out details that the book provides. 

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Gillian Anderson and Tom Hollander as Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward
One character who definitely didn't get enough screentime was Wallis Simpson, played by Gillian Anderson.  She plays Wallis as an abrasive, self entitled social climber with a dress sense as sharp as her cheekbones and one liners.  Paris Hilton - start taking notes.

Historical accounts of the real Simpson's personality run the gamut of bad to just plain evil.  She was characterised as a control freak with OCD (definitely) gold-digger (possible), a Nazi sympathiser (probable) and a pseudo-prostitute trained in the sexual arts in a brothel in China (eh, I'll get back to you on that one).  I remember reading that people thought that she was a hermaphrodite (or intersex, if I'm being very PC) in a bid to explain her childlessness.  Not very likely.

Whatever you want to say about her, the woman had charisma.  People are still boggled by her life, her personality and her political motivations.  I'm boggled by her wardrobe.  Wallis was exceptionally long and lean.  Her wedding dress was copied into the hundreds of thousands and she was (and still is) lauded for her personal style and attention to detail.

In an article for The Telegraph, the author Rose Tremain says:

"She, who is said to have coined the statement that "You can't be too rich or too thin", was stigmatised as being too ambitious, too ruthless, too greedy, too mannish, too sexual, too cruel, too divorced, too pro-German and too American. In the brilliant Irving Penn photo-portrait of her, which hangs in my study, she is backed into what appears to be a narrow cell, from which the only escape is towards the camera, into the glare of the flash and the click of the shutter."


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Portrait by Irving Penn

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Portrait by Cecil Beaton

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Portrait by Cecil Beaton
What Tremain sees in the Penn portrait is a look of abject fear.  I, and many others, might disagree.  That's the allure of Wallis Simpson, who didn't just dress well, but was totally unknowable, and always will be.