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Moment 12: Royal Romance

WWD breathlessly followed the coupling of King Edward and Bessie Wallis Simpson and the fashion industry frenzy that resulted dubbed the “Simpsonitis” epidemic.

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The Duke and Duchess of Windsor 1937

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, 1973.

Photo By Conde Nast Archive

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD 100 issue 11/01/2010

Long before Princess Diana’s nuptials, before Grace Kelly went from Mogambo to Monaco, a certain royal romance rocked the world. From Day One, WWD breathlessly followed the controversial coupling of King Edward and the slim, stylish Bessie Wallis Simpson—and its impact on the industry. Bloomingdale’s, then known as Bloomingdale Bros., for example, applied for the “Coronation” trademark. Designers got in on the game, too. One, Jean Patou, declared he would launch an extra collection specifically for those planning to attend the wedding. Meanwhile, “London dressmaking and other deluxe trades [were] both amused and amazed at the efforts of some enterprising American interests to capitalize on the publicity from the ‘Simpsonitis’ epidemic.” Yet all efforts were for naught; Edward abdicated the throne and his younger brother George became king. That did not extinguish WWD’s obsession with the now Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The paper continued to document the Duchess’ wardrobe choices—Mainbocher, Schiaparelli—and decades later, chronicled her comings and goings with paparazzilike fervor. (Entering B. Altman, for instance, at precisely 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 5, 1962.) That fascination lasted through their entire lifetimes and beyond, to the 1998 Sotheby’s auction of their personal effects, which grossed a then-whopping $23 million.