Happy birthday to Her Majesty, the Queen. Ninety-six cheers from the Hofdames at the Bag! We hope she is enjoying her day just as she pleases. Need to be reminded why she is THE BEST? Watch this video.
In celebration of her birthday, we invite you to visit with one of her favorite designers.
“I’m a snob of sorts, but I never forget where I came from.”Hardy Amies
Born in 1909, Hardy Amies described his parents as “ordinary middle-class people”. His mother was an accomplished dressmaker and the designing gene was encoded in his DNA from the get-go. Amies first adult friends were tailors and dressmakers.
As a young man, he had aspired to be a journalist. His father was advised ‘not to bother sending him to a university, but to send him to France to begin an internship as a journalist.’ Instead, in 1930, Amies headed to Germany and worked in a factory. Manufacturing didn’t take with him, and in 1934 he headed back to England to begin his design career for the London custom dress shop, Lachasse.
World War II intervened, and Amies left Lachasse in 1939 to join the Intelligence Corps, where he attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. When he returned to civilian life in 1945, he borrowed money from friends to set up his own business. His skill and style were soon recognized among the smart set and he described himself as designing for women who “had a position to maintain.” He took the fashions of the time and crafted them to fit and flatter his clientele.
An early suit, from 1945.
Below, a mother of the bride dress by Amies, circa 1948.
Portrait collar coat from 1949.
Hardy Amies first met the Queen when she was still Princess Elizabeth. She and Princess Margaret paid a visit to his atelier, and he was engaged to design a wardrobe for her 1950 tour of Canada. In 1953, once she was Queen, Hardy Amies’ couture house was given a Royal Warrant as her dressmaker. He gave the warrant up in 1990 to allow other designers the opportunity to work with her. However, the design house continued to provide clothes to the Queen until 2002, and their personal relationship would continue to his death in 2003. In 1989 she awarded him the title Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.
“I do not dress the queen. We supply her with clothes – there is a difference.”Sir Hardy Amies
According to Amies the Queen didn’t have a favorite color. He said, ” …her favorite color is the one we discover she hasn’t had before.” His design house provided clothes for specific tours, not for events, thus ensuring a cohesive wardrobe. His other “secrets” of the royal wardrobe included the fact that any hat the Queen wore had to show her face, she didn’t like scarves, and short hemlines were off the table.
Below are the sketches and final product of an Amies design for the 1995 South African tour. The blue ensemble was designed for the tour and also worn to the wedding of Marie-Chantal Miller and Prince Pavlos of Greece.
A coat that was worn by the Queen several times.
Hardy Amies employed his own fitters, and he tended to less, rather than more embellishments. The women (and men) he designed for had fine jewelry and accessories, which he expected they would use to finish their wardrobes. Below, the Queen demonstrates that philosophy with her choice of pearl necklaces, earrings, brooches, and hats.
In 2006 (Buckingham Palace) and 2016 (Kensington Palace), there were exhibits of select items from the Queen’s wardrobe, and Amies designs were featured. It’s fascinating to see how the styling has held up, and of course, the up-close views of the details are spectacular.
Do you think the Hardy Amies designs have withstood the test of time? Let us know in the comments!
Quotes from this article from this 1990 interview with the designer.