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The Way W./E. Were

We’re not exactly Madonna fans here at theSkinnyStiletto.  After viewing the more realistic “love story” between Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII in last year’s Best Picture winner, The King’s Speech, and how much pain and embarrassment he caused his younger brother with a speech impediment, who would have to take the throne following his abdication, this romance certainly lost any allure that Elaine was yammering on about when she made herself sick on a piece of their wedding cake on Seinfeld.  Considering those two facts (and that this film opened to horrible reviews), W./E. wasn’t exactly on our must-see list of 2011.  But, the photos of the costumes are so delicious, we’re quite tempted to rent this flick!  English actress Andrea Riseborough plays the American socialite that throws the line of British royalty out of whack, when King Edward decides to leave the throne, in order to marry the twice-divorced American.  (Riseborough was fantastic in 2010’s Made in Dagenham, if you’re looking for a good movie to see her in.)  Even though W./E. didn’t get positive reviews, Riseborough looks pitch-perfect as Wallis Simpson.  In fact, she actually even reminded us of Madonna herself, when she played a 1940s dark brunette in A League of their Own (the only film associated with the Material Girl that has a good reputation.)  James D’Arcy was also exceptionally well-cast as the young, slender blonde king.  Some of the film’s stills look so real, they could pass for actual historical photos.  Madonna hired costume designer Arianne Phillips to create the outfits for the film, and was nominated for an Academy Award for her stunning work.  (We think she deserves this Oscar!)  Phillips began work on the film a year prior to filming even began, studying costumes at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York and Musée de la Mode et du Textile in Paris.  Many of Simpson’s original dresses have been kept in museum archives, which were unavailable for Madonna’s production.  Many couture houses offered to recreate outfits for W./E., including Christian Dior, Elsa Schiaparelli and Balenciaga.  (Fun Fact: Madonna asked for a wedding dress from one of Phillips’ competitors for the Oscar this year, Michael O’Connor.  The gown was on display at the National Museum of Costume in Scotland, whose general manager agreed to lend Madonna the dress.)  Co-stars of the film also looked fabulous in their various looks.  Abbie Cornish (pictured, above left) plays a modern girl researching Wallis, and looked wonderful in an all black shift with a matching cardigan, purse and pumps.  Natalie Dormer (pictured, above right) looks fantastic as a young Queen Mother.  In the above scene, she’s being fitted for a hat by the famous milliner Stephen Jones, which is Elizabeth and her daughter’s go-to accessory.  Phillips told W Magazine, “To me, Wallis Simpson was a style icon, but I didn’t know she was a couture client well before she met Edward.  She was also a hungry whore for jewelry.  Edward gave Wallis jewelry to make her feel royal.  My first task was figuring out how to re-create those famous gifts.”  Phillips contacted Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels to replicate several pieces from Simpson’s jewelry collection, including a famous emerald cross bracelet Edward gave to her.  Phillips also got in touch with luxury goods company Alfred Dunhill and Savile Row to get original fabrics and wool from the mills that actually created clothing for King Edward.  Phillips’ work and research on the film was not only thorough, but absolutely gorgeous.  Any one of Wallis Simpson’s beautiful outfits is inspiring today, even 80 years later.  We’re rooting for Arianne this year!

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