As Roland Mouret about Wallis Simpson said: “Love or hate her, the world is still obsessed by that woman. You can’t work in fashion and not be inspired by the life and wardrobe of Wallis Simpson.”
So, let’s read the 1966 Bazaarinterview with the Duchess of Windsor, she discussed her wardrobe, age-appropriate dressing and her fascination with costume jewelry.
It had snowed heavily in Paris the night before I went to the Bois de Boulogne to lunch with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Inside, burning logs and immense bouquets of forced spring blossoms dispelled all thoughts of chill. As in every home she has lived in, the duchess has made this Louis XVI mansion a highly personal creation. Large but crowded with collections, it manages to be chic and cozy, a word usually hard to come by in an atmosphere of such overwhelming elegance. F.C.
Q. Fashion is part of history and you are uniquely a part of that history; has it been an exciting hobby or a “job of work” to be one of the world’s great arbiters of fashion?
A. I don’t think I am an arbiter, nor are clothes a job of work to me. I give much more time to housekeeping than to dressing up.
Q. How, then, have you gained this reputation?
A. I don’t know. I play fashion by ear; whatever look I evolved came from working with the little dressmaker around the corner, years and years ago, who used to make all my clothes. I began with my own personal ideas about style and I’ve never felt correct in anything but the severe look I developed then.
Q. Have you ever wanted to change?
A. I often wish I could try something “far away”–especially in Paris, where the inspiration of couture is everywhere and women dare more.
Q. What do you think is the most dramatic shift in fashion today?
A. There never has been such a difference between age and youth. I don’t remember thinking I couldn’t wear my mother’s dress or that I didn’t want to. It was right to look exactly like her. Nor was it terribly long ago that the mother-daughter look was the thing. Yet a real separation in age has come between most girls and their mothers today.
Q. Wouldn’t these differences have a lot to do with that large bone in the leg called the knee?
A. Yes, indeed! The length of a skirt does help separate age groups; older women simply cannot wear very short skirts. There’s nothing new in looking at legs (and there are some perfectly good ones on many an older woman), but that’s not the answer. The whole figure–ending up with the face–must “go” with the exposed knee.
Q. I see your skirts stop just at your knee.
A. That’s as high as I’ll go and keep my whole figure divided in the right proportion.
Q. Our late great friend Margaret Biddle dressed at Balenciaga. I’ve often seen her order one suit and its accessories over and over again in countless colors. Do you ever find a “uniform” you’d also like to order in quantity?
A. No, I think it lifts your morale to put on something different. Clothes are, after all, either a pep pill or a depressant.
Q. If you could choose only one couturier, who would it be?
A. The one who lets me play with the clothes–not only lets me change the models a bit but is charming about it when I do. And he’d have to have the best fitter in Paris.
Q. What about adding jewels to beaded dresses?
A. I know women who do put the most fabulous jewels on over all those beads. To me, the jewels are finished.
Q. Since the beaded dress is a status symbol that does say MONEY, don’t jewels help to emphasize the point?
A. Yes, but as one newspaper recently asked, is it chic to look rich?
Q. Do Parisian women demonstrate their wealth through clothes?
A. Not if countless expensive changes are required to do so. It is a very sensible French habit not to feel you have to have new dresses because you are going to see the same people all the time.
Q. London used to be that way but is now getting very clothes conscious, wouldn’t you say?
A. What London needed, it got–a little more sauce, a little “lift,” and less timidity.
Q. Do you ever buy off-the-peg?
A. I buy my little jersey dresses off-the-peg for evenings at the Mill; I do a lot of boutique buying up and down the Faubourg; I buy sweaters when I go to England and wear them in the country over simple skirts.
Q. What about fake jewelry?
A. I hate to admit it but I am absolutely fascinated by fake jewelry at the moment; I think it is so good.
Q. At what age do you think a woman stops looking well in black?
A. That’s a question of the color of the hair, isn’t it? I think black with white hair is very aging, even on women whose beautiful white hair is so becoming. But I’m afraid you have to wear black, aging or not, because when the little black dress is right, there is nothing else to wear in its place.
Q. What would your immediate reaction be if you found yourself next to a woman wearing the same dress?
A. It wouldn’t disturb me the slightest bit. Sometimes a person will say, “I’m so sorry; I’ve got your dress.” And I say, “I think it’s a great compliment to me that you’ve bought it.” I feel that way.
Famos quotes of the Duchess of Windsor:
“My husband gave up everything for me… 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.”