Duchess' clothes are given to MHS Donation: Maryland Historical Society receives clothes worn by Wallis Warfield and the Duke of Windsor.

March 10, 1998|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore connection with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor recently got stronger thanks to purchases made by a board member on behalf of the Maryland Historical Society.

Stiles Tuttle Colwill, a prominent interior designer and a Maryland Historical Society board member, successfully bid on about 13 of the duchess' outfits and one of the duke's suits. "Some of the outfits have handbags, some have shoes," Colwill says.

The Duchess of Windsor was born Bessie Wallis Warfield in Baltimore and was twice divorced when she became involved with Edward VIII. In December 1936, he chose to abdicate the throne in order to marry her.

The bidding on the outfits owned by the duke and duchess took place last month at Sotheby's in New York. They were donated to the historical society in memory of Eugenia C. Holland, a former Maryland Historical Society curator who died in January of heart failure at the age of 89.

Colwill would say only that he paid less than $20,000 for the items. "The dollar amount is not important," he says. "It was done as a memorial to her."

At the auction's preview, Colwill and Nancy Davis, deputy director of collections and interpretations for the historical society, came up with a list of items they wanted to bid on.

"We wanted to obtain clothes that the duchess might have worn when she came to Baltimore," Davis says. "We went through our archives for photos taken of the couple during their visits to Baltimore and were able to acquire some of the types of things that the duchess wore for daytime and evening.

"We obtained a yellow linen dress very similar to that worn by the duchess in the painting, as well as a suit that is nearly identical to the one worn by the duke," Davis says.

The museum already owns a painting of the duke and duchess by Trafford Klots that was done in 1964.

Davis and Colwill say they were successful in their bids on practically everything they wanted. Davis is thrilled with the items. "We just think it is a nice collection," she says.

Other items include a French designer evening ensemble of brocade with repeats of butterflies, a blue satin column skirt and an early 18th-century woven silk and silver thread purse. Also purchased were Madame Gres ensembles, including a blue silk evening dress with textural flower heads of sequins and beads.

"We plan to present the pieces in our textile gallery in the winter of 1999," says Davis. "Along with the drawing that we have, it makes an appealing montage."

Pub Date: 3/10/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.