Wallis and Edward, “W.E.” . . . Whatever?!

So the reviews have not been so pretty thus far for Madonna’s W.E.

Vogue Italia’s Emanuele Lugli posted a rather scathing review after the film’s premier at the Venice Film Festival in November, and hasn’t garned very much acclaim since (unfortunately) for Madonna as the next great auteur.

This is unfair since Madonna has definitely generated herself as a leader in style, and the art of catching our eye with generations of videos and unique fashions, so it’s easy to see where her interest in the subject lies.

Wallis Simpson was already a divorced American socialite who was subsequently married when the two crossed paths in 1930 at his home, Fort Belvedere in Windsor Great Park, where the Prince often entertained parties and a series of scandalous affairs. It would be almost a year after abdicating his throne before Wallis was officially divorced from her husband, and the two could finally be wed.


Talk about romantic. They quickly became the toast of cafe society around Europe with Wallis gracing the pages of Vogue, with an affinity for French couture including Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, and most especially Madame Vionnet. Equally, Edward VIII had garnered quite a reputation for his outlandish Dandy lifestyle which had quickly fallen out of fashion after the Great War.

Nevertheless, a Dandy must do as a dandy does; with a long lineage of “Dandy-ism” in the family (stemming back to King George IV, legion for the British Regency, and best friends with Numero Uno Dandy Supremo, Beau Brummell) it seemed only natural for the handsome Prince to exploit his God-Given sensibilities.

This he did with thick Windsor knotted neckties, and various combinations of checks, plaids, tweeds, and stripes that would mark Edward VIII as the epitome of manly elegance. He enjoyed his “pants from across the sea”, trousers done in an American high-rise cut, and had matching jackets tailored in London, creating a new hybrid of classic style with an ifusion of American conservatism and British sophistication.

He was J.C. Leyendecker’s Arrow Collar Man personified, and Vogue’s editor-in-chief Diane Vreeland would describe the nonchalant elegance of the Duke as “Chic Fatigue”.All we know is, we’re not getting tired, we haven’t even gotten started!

Also worth mentioning is the Duke and Duchess’ controversial relationship with Hilter, and the Nazi party. Many history books portray the couple as sincere Nazi sympathizers, and this the most would continually taint the pair’s reputation.

And while Wallis recieved much attention for her bold, architectural fashion choices, critics often pointed to how plain a woman she was, and rumors quickly spread of her years in Shandhai and Peking where she recieved extensive training in the erotic arts.

Most recently it has been revealed that the Duke of Windsor had been a patient of psychiatrist Alexander Cannon, known as the “Yogi of Yorkshire”. Cannon was an expert occultist claiming to have levitated a chasm in Nepal, and administered exotic remedies for problems ranging from anxiety, to sex and confidence. Edward VIII was seeing the eccentric doctor for a “drinking problem”, and the two were becoming increasingly close, to the point others described Cannon as the King’s closest confidante (other than Simpson). Most interesting, no?

The tale of Wallis and Edward is full of as much controversy and ridicule as Madonna’s film it seems. Whatever their politics, it’s impossible to discredit the deep love the two obviously share for one another, and to abdicate the throne, be a martyr for love- it’s literally the stuff movies are made of, and I’ll give Madonna that for sinking her claws into such a juicy mother.

My hat goes off to Arianne Phillips and her spot on costume designs for the film. Phillips, who recieved an Academy Award Nomination for “Walk the Line” (2005), and was responsible for the tailored looks of Tom Ford’s “A Single Man” (2009), as well as taking care of Madonna’s costumes for both “The Confessions”, and the “Sticky & Sweet” tours, does an amazing job at recreating the glamour and decadence of the famous couple.

Photographs by Tom Munro for Vanity Fair, Quite Continental has featured a great interview with the designer and her many challenges dressing the film.

Her dynamic work include several recreation of Simpson’s most famous looks, and despite budget restrictions, Phillips’ work comes off as luxe and rich as ever. Most extraordinarily, the sophistication and elegance of Edward is equally imagined and captured, with James D’Arcy doing his best to pull off the Duke’s effortless swag.

The Academy Awards are just around the corner, and though we can safely set Madonna aside for a chance at Best Director, we’re expecting to see another Academy Award Nomination for the film’s exceptional costume designs.

There’s a reason behind the madness people! Madonna knows, she does kaballah…I came across this eloquent quote from Stan Hawkin’s “The British Pop Dandy” for some clarification on perhaps, Edward VIII’s own dandy motto or manifesto he might carry with himself…maybe a certain attitude that could attribute to him, the romantic hero, a true dandy, and Wallis herself, a dandy in her own right. Here goes:

“Someone whose transient tastes never shirk
from excess, protest or rebellion…the dandy
revels in artifice simply for style’s sake as
a mischievous play with masks of calculated
elegance….all the great dandies have been
outsiders…eager to
make themselves publicly visible through a
conceit that is deemed their birthright. Driven
by a desire to draw on a personal style, the
dandy unabashedly states who he is and what he wants
without giving a damn for what anyone cares”

-Stan Hawkins (author, The British Pop Dandy)

Could explain how they always seem to be up to something! Can definitely relate to the “masks of calculated elegance” vibe in regards to the pair. Check out the video below:

Whatever. “W.E.” is making it’s way to a theatre near you January 20. What do you think?
-The Eye


[UPDATE (01/19/2012): Congratulations Arianne Phillips for your Costume Designer Guild nomination for excellence in Period Costuming! ]
The Eye.

[UPDATE: OSCAR GLORY! Congratulations to Arianne Phillips for her 2012 Academy Award Nomination for Excellence in Costume Design!!! (01/24/2012)]

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8 responses to “Wallis and Edward, “W.E.” . . . Whatever?!

  1. Pingback: Madonna's Directorial debut Duke of Windsor & Wallis Simpson | Designer fashion design job - sketches of fashion show blog.·

  2. Perhaps Madonna sees some parallels between herself and Mrs Simpson.
    But then, that would make Guy Ritchie the Duke of Windsor. That’s a stretch.
    And who would be their Hitler?
    Very confusing. I think I’ll opt Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy instead. Gary Oldman taking on the role made famous by Alec Guinness – now there’s a concept!

    • Haha…I’m not sure if the Hilter aspects are explored in the movie, but I hope they are! I’m not sure if we can see Guy Ritchie as the Duke of Windsor or Madonna as Mrs. Simpson, as much as Madonna can probablly relate to being an outspoken public character with a bit of style and panache. Congratulations to Gary Oldman’s Academy Award nomination this year, and I hope he takes the Gold this year for a stunning, nuanced, and elegant performance- the stuff of yesteryear. Long overdue- Bravo!

  3. For a romantic like me the story about these two people is, as you say, “the stuff movies are made of”. I’ve been meaning to do a post on Wallis on my own blog for a while now, but never gotten to it – her sense of style was amazing! :) I haven’t heard so much about Madonnas film about the two, so I really don’t have an opinion about how good it might or might not be. But I’d still love to see it. Even if film itself isn’t so good, all of us vintage-nerds will probably love it anyway, just because of all the beautiful costumes! ;) xo

  4. All judgements about what we define as character or moral fitness or political acceptability or even beauty aside, style mavens throughout the ages keep us entertained and yes, even motivated by showing us their roads to self-invention. So much *can* be accomplished via image alone!

  5. Pingback: Music Minute: “We’re all Water”- Yoko Ono (1971-72) | The Eye of Faith·

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