Wallis Simpson and The Concept of Jolie Laide

I finally watched Madonna's film, WE (rented it On Demand) about the life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. I was really excited to see this film as I wanted to know more about how Wallis and the King of England first met. The parts about Wallis were beautifully done and Andrea Riseborough did a marvelous job portraying her, but I found the modern storyline woven into the script very distracting. In short, I didn't learn as much about Wallis Simpson as I would have liked.

Because the film left me with so many unanswered questions about her life I read the biography, That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Anne Sebba. This is a very well written, interesting biography that highlights the major plot points of Wallis' life.

The thing that intrigues me about Wallis is that she was what the French would call jolie laide, which literally translates to ugly pretty. She was not a classically beautiful woman, but made the best of what she had by dressing beautifully and grooming impeccably.

I love the idea of jolie laide because it suggests that we do not need to be cookie cutter beauties to be attractive. Suddenly features like tiny eyes, a jutting chin or a prominent nose could actually be deemed attractive. That these features need not be 'corrected' by plastic surgery in order to be considered beautiful. The motto of jolie laide is 'work with what you've got', and that is very refreshing indeed.

A great article called 'The Unfairest of Them All' that appeared in the New York Times back in 2005 gives a great perspective on jolie laide. To read the article click here.

If you are unable to see my video above where I discuss Wallis Simpson and the concept of jolie laide click here, look in the sidebar of this blog, or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

Check out That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor on Amazon.com by clicking here.

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LR @ Magnificent or Egregious said...

I haven't seen the movie but I really enjoyed the book (That Woman). While I was strolling around Hotel Del Coronado last month, I was thinking about Wallis Simpson - she stayed at the hotel - and what it would have been like there back in her time. She is a very intriguing character indeed.

Obviously she was quite controversial but obviously she had something that drew people to her -- good and bad!

Lisa@Pickles and Cheese said...

Thanks for the heads up on finding WE on demand. I want to see this movie and didn't know it was available in my own home! She is facinating...I'll have to pick up that book too.

Luli said...

I felt the same about the movie. It would have been better if it focused only on Wallis and Edward. I'm a fan of Wallis and I don't think she was as evil as the royal family made her out to be.

Joy Rothke said...

She was obviously an exceedingly skilled social climber with tremendous self-confidence. Perhaps too much self-confidence, because it seems that she really believed the Windsors would eventually accept her. Obviously they did not, and she and the "little man" were stuck with each other.

Courtney LD said...
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Courtney LD said...

Sounds very interesting. I haven't heard of her (or I have and haven't given her much thought). I will look into this. If the king left behind everything for her, why was she called a duchess?

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Thanks everyone for commenting!
Courtney- even though she was a Duchess, she never had the title HRH. Also she and the ex-king had to live in exile and were never allowed to return to England as a married couple.

Dee J said...

I didn't see the movie. You may be interested in this- in the Upstairs Downstairs sequel (Keeley Hawes starring), Wallis Simpson is a character, appearing in episode 1 + the scandal is in episode 3. That was the 1st time I heard of her.

josephinetalepeddler said...

Jennifer, you look so great. All that broken sleep must suit you. Loved this post and thank you for the concept of Jolie Laide. I do believe in the concept of emphasising what you have and people who do it always look so striking. Your new blog design is so impressive as well! Is that done through Google? I’ve been on Word Press for awhile now and thinking of upgrading. Your new look really suits your book and you as well! Thanks for the interest in my book, Poet's Cottage. I shall check with you about the Amazon. I'm not up on the E Book side of things. Hopefully it will be published in America. That would be a dream for me. xx

Melissa U said...

Hello Jennifer!

I just wanted to say that it is so wonderful to have you back!

Melissa U

Karena said...

It was an unfortunate series of events at the time; however a woman with such style and panache ..she has always intrigued me!

Art by Karena

Russian Chic said...

Hi Jennifer,

You look lovely!

I'm fascinated by Wallis as well. You will love the book by Annette Tapert and Diana Edkins "The Power Of Style". There is a whole chapter on Wallis with answers to some of your questions. Thank you for your reading recommendation.

Elizabeth Lukes said...
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Elizabeth Lukes said...

Another person who may be described as jolie laide is Diana Vreeland, who writes about the Windsors in Chapter Nine of her memoir D.V. This book describes an elegant life in a time of great changes in the world. Her brief description of Queen Mary is worth getting the book. D.V. admits her story is full of white lies (is there similar term in French?) but it is still a good read.

Elizabeth Lukes said...
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Elizabeth Lukes said...
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Elizabeth Lukes said...
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Elizabeth Lukes said...
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Rose said...

All Brits are basically brought up to dislike Wallis from birth so I don't think we are very rational!

I have avoided this film because of the reviews though I love Andrea R, that period and the costumes look ravishing so I think I will get it on Net flix (or Love Film here).

I think Wallis gets a lot of stick but David/ Edward was a very self absorbed man and I think the way things worked out- with the brilliant George VI and Queen Elizabeth- was for the best for the country with the war, George was a really wonderful, self sacrificing King who went far beyond the call of duty and who we are all extremely proud of.

I hope Wallis and David were happy, I've often read that she was rather backed into a corner with what happened and their exile palace in Paris seems to have been filled with riches but perhaps not happiness, still they appeared devoted to each other and I hope they were happy.