The Duchess of Windsor was renowned for her sense of elegance and style. She once described her lifestyle as 'Wallis in Wonderland'. Behind the doors of her Paris home the wardrobes were filled with superb couture gowns and cupboards crammed with luxury bags, shoes and drawers of sumptuous lingerie.
In 1998 the majority of the house contents were auctioned by Sotheby's New York. However, some pieces were held back and it is these that largely make up the collection being offered for sale, which have been stored in Windsors' home in the Bois deBoulogne since her death.
People often mused on why the Prince of Wales fell for the rather severe-looking Wallis Simpson. She wrote "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. If everyone looks at me when I enter a room, my husband can feel proud of me. That's my chief responsibility".
In contrast to her renowned 'less is more' style code - where Wallis turned sobriety into something of an art-form, a glimpse into the drawer containing her lingerie shows an entirely different side to her.
The sublime bias-cut confections that were her nightwear give an intimation of the sensuousness and secret allure of the Duchess. Cut on the bias, with delicate appliqué work and lace insertions they come in romantic sugary pink and lemon tones.
More unexpected are those of shocking pink chiffon edged in black Chantilly and scarlet chiffon with delicate Honiton lace applications. For someone regularly branded by the establishment as a `scarlet' woman (for her three marriages and numerous liaisons) it is amusing to see that she actually chose red for bed!
Always a stickler for perfection, she insisted that even her bed linen was ironed and replaced on her bed twice a day. A simple but beautifully cut ivory crêpe de chine example displays her cypher of interlinked `W's (Wallis Windsor) embroidered in red and blue silk. Estimates for the nightwear range from £300-800 each.
Her handbags by Cartier, Schiaparelli, Vivier and others are likewise of superb quality; only the best would do. One of the most intriguing is a black crocodile bag by Christian Dior. The Duke once said of her `The Duchess loves Paris because it's not too far from Dior'.
The silvered rings on the clasp are engraved with the date 'W E 30 X 1934'. The bag was presumably an anniversary gift from the Duke to the Duchess. `WE' signified their joined initials and was also regularly used on other gifts `We are Too' (meaning too much in love).
By October 1934 the Prince of Wales's relationship with Wallis had deepened. He had taken her (accompanied by her aunt Bessie as token chaperone) on a romantic holiday along the Italian coast.
The 30th of October date was obviously of great romantic and private significance to the pair. Estimates on the handbags range from £600-£8,000, including a Christian Dior black crocodile handbag, circa 1964 estimated at £8,000-12,000.
A small, engraved gold Cartier perfume atomiser of the late 1940s still bears traces of her scent which is estimated at £3,000-5,000.
The Duke and Duchess owned 118 travelling trunks at one point, each with numbered lid. A journalist describing their arrival in America wrote `They brought more trunks and suitcases than harassed customs officials could count'.
The collection includes a very stylish vanity case which the Duchess would have kept with her on her journeys. In classic Louis Vuitton canvas the side is also stencilled with the owner's name down one side and bears a faux tortoiseshell address tag for her Paris home. It is estimated at £6,000-10,000.
The proceeds of the sale of this collection will be devoted to the Dodi International Charitable Foundation for the benefit of children in need of medical care, help with their psychological and learning difficulties and also gives material support for those without families to assist them.
The Foundation is a permanent memorial to Dodi. The work it carries out benefits children in desperate and difficult circumstance in Egypt, the United Kingdom, France and the United States of America.
Working with hospitals, clinics, schools residential homes and orphanages, the Foundation's sole purpose is the relief of suffering in its many forms as it affects the most vulnerable members of our human society - children, many of whom would be entirely alone and without hope but for the financial, material and emotional support given by the charity.
The sale of around 300 lots focuses on fine haute couture. It also includes two dresses owned by the HRH Diana, Princess of Wales and worn on her official visits to Japan in 1986 and France in 1988 and a rare Yves Saint Laurent `Mondrian' collection gown of 1965 from the legendary fashion collection of US collector, Sandy Schreier estimate £25,000-35,000.
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