Style Lessons From The (Real) Duke Of Windsor
Mr Alex Jennings and Ms Lia Williams in The Crown. Photograph by Mr Alex Bailey/Netflix
As the stylish royal is portrayed on our screen in new Netflix series The Crown, we look at back at some of his greatest sartorial feats.
The Duke of Windsor is to menswear what Mr James Brown is to soul: he is, quite simply, one of the Godfathers of modern style. More than 40 years after his death, his taste can be seen in every man’s wardrobe. Cuffed trousers, jumpers, cardigans, unstructured jackets, belts, soft-collared shirts and even zippers were all popularised by the Duke Of Windsor. During a time when members of the aristocracy dressed with militaristic precision and ceremonial formality, he dressed with carefree abandon and charming audacity, and as a result was beloved of rich young Americans of 1920s and 1930s, who loved his casual, easy-going style.
His off-hand and carefully calculated eccentricity; his relaxed approach to tailored clothing, which he called, “dress soft”; and his bold way with colour, pattern and texture, all continue to be hugely relevant in 2016. Indeed, the signature looks of two of the most commercially successful designers of all time – Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani – can be traced back to ideas espoused by the Duke of Windsor. Similarly, his impact on stars such as Mr Fred Astaire, who assiduously copied him, made him the dominant force in men’s fashion during Hollywood’s golden era, spreading his influence worldwide.
The Crown, Netflix’s epic and lavish costume drama depicting the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, premieres tomorrow, giving us another chance to see his sense of style grace our screens – this time in high-definition technicolour. However, though more than $100,000,000 was reportedly sunk into this epic series, nothing can quite compare to its source material, ie the Duke himself. Scroll down for three lessons we can all learn from this stylish member of the Royal Family.
How to do black tie
The Duke Of Windsor (right), 1957. Photograph by Mr Herbert Mason/Associated Newspapers/REX Shutterstock
Before the Duke of Windsor, top hat and tails, with stiff, starched-collar shirts were the required uniform for evening events. He did away with all that, by introducing soft-collared shirts and a simple, ink-blue double-breasted dinner jacket with black satin lapel and matching trousers. The Duke’s deconstruction of evening-wear remains the default option for black tie to this very day. Note the jaunty imperfection of his bow tie, the oversized white carnation (another Duke of Windsor signature), and the overall impression of pleasure and comfort, even in the most formal of settings.
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How to have fun with your coat
The Duke of Windsor (centre) at a party in LA, 1955. Photograph by Mr Wallace Seawell/mptv.com
This overcoat could have come from any number of Italian brands selling us a version of sprezzatura – something, it could be argued, that the Duke of Windsor was a pioneer of in the sartorial world. Its soft shoulders and wide lapels which roll gently down are characteristic of the Duke’s carefree and easy-going approach; and the bold check juxtaposed with black tie lends an off-hand yet comfortable feel – something which Ms Diana Vreeland called “chic fatigue”.
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How to get away with patterned tailoring
The Duchess and Duke of Windsor, 1946. Photograph by AGIP/Bridgeman Images
The Duke of Windsor’s penchant for combining loud, dissonant colours with equally incompatible checks and stripes made the establishment shudder. This is a relatively subdued outfit by his standards, but the signatures are all there and all still relevant to menswear today. Notably, the Duke was one of the first people to wear unstructured tweed jackets in the 1930s, and this version, with its soft shoulders and oversized windowpane check, could have come from Boglioli or, even, Japan’s Camoshita.
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