Vintageaholic Hardy Amies A British Vintage Legacy

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The British couturier and tailor Hardy Amies needs no introduction.


A vastly respected tailor based in London’s Savile Row, the early history of his business is as fascinating as the man himself. 

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Early life and early success

Hardy Amies was born in London in the summer of 1909 to a mother who was a saleswoman for the dressmakers Machinka and May.

He showed an interest in fashion as well as a talent for languages. It was his natural ability to describe a dress that captured the attention of Laschasse couture house in London. 

A fast climb to success ensued: by the time he was 25 he was managing director. By the time he was 30, he designed the entire collection and had moved on to the House of Worth, another famous London couture house. 

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Military intelligence or fashion?

When World War 2 broke out he was recruited into military intelligence. He rose to the challenge but never gave up his true love of tailoring. 

During the war he became part of the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers where designers like Norman Hartnell – the Queen’s tailor – and Bianca Mosca designed Utility clothes under the ‘Couture Scheme.’ 

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War Time Utility Scheme – CC41

IncSoc, as it was known, famously designed attractive and affordable clothes conforming to the government’s Utility Scheme. 

This was a way of designing and making clothing that met rationing restrictions. Cloth, other materials essential to clothing manufacture and even zips were rationed. Clothes designed under the scheme had a label called CC41. 

Couture as a business happened under these restrictions but non-utility clothes were classed as a luxury item and taxed heavily. Only the very rich could afford the prices that tailoring and couture required during the war. 

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The 1940s

After the war ended in 1946, Virginia the Countess of Jersey, Cary Grant’s first wife, gave the money to Hardy Amies to set up his bespoke tailoring business at 14 Saville Row. 




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Couture Post War

Clothes rationing was still in place in the UK making the work of couturiers a challenge. Despite this his talent shone through.

Look at this suit in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It was made 2 years after the war ended in 1947. 

He cleverly created this outfit keeping to the restrictions that dictated how clothes should be designed using the minimum of fabric. 


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Amies: the man

Amies’s character was as renowned as his designs: “Imperious, arrogant and pompous but saved by a good sense of humour.”

He could be scathing and used his British wit to be highly critical of what he viewed as fashion mistakes in others. 

”A woman’s day clothes must look equally as good at Salisbury Station as at the Ritz Bar”, he said and he carried that belief into his designs. 


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Tailoring technique

His meticulous attitude was an intrinsic part of his tailoring technique.

A client’s preferences for a style were listened to, their measurements were always taken and there were up to three fittings before an item was hand finished.  

A Hardy Amies item fitted like a glove. Fabrics were often high quality wool and silk and looked quintessentially British. 

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Amies and The New Look

Amies took on board the influence of Dior’s post-war ‘New Look’ which burst into the fashion scene in 1947. 

Contentious and attention seeking, the New Look was all about Paris wanting to re-establish itself as the fashion capital of the world after it was decimated during Nazi occupation. 

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New Look and Amies – a natural fit

Amies and the New Look seemed a natural fit. He believed that the waist in women’s jackets should be cut lower than conventional fashion dictated, for instance. 

The exaggerated femininity of the cut and line of the Parisian trend fitted his tailoring techniques to a tee. 

Amies embraced it, incorporating the changed fashion into his designs. 


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Couture – the design process

When he designed the jacket we have for sale he would have listened to the client who came to 14 Saville Row and wanted something tailor made.

She was probably a woman with more conventional taste and didn’t want the full New Look which required padding over the hips and shoulders to render the look complete.  

He would have shown his designs in picture form and she would have discussed how she wanted her jacket to look. Then they would have selected the fabric both inside and out. 

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Toile or practice jacket

A toile, or practice jacket, would have been made from a cheaper fabric to test the pattern and fit.

Then the real jacket would have been crafted and adjusted to the owner’s body and specifications. 

Despite those limitations Amies designed this jacket with a nipped in waist and an emphasis on the hips. 

This was inherited from the New Look but made with the Hardy Amies signature combination of cut, cloth and flair. 


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1950s onwards

In 1950 the wartime clothes rationing in the UK came to an end and designers heaved a sigh of relief. Fashions became more opulant and playful and Amies set up his ready to wear collection. 

In the 50s he was vice-chairman of InSoc and his business grew and grew into the massive tailoring brand it is today.

He was Queen Elizabeth 11’s official dressmaker for 50 years and established the idea that women’s fashion could have its roots in men’s tailoring. 

But it’s his early work that firmly roots him in the annals of fashion history.

From then until the current day his brand has been known world wide as the upper crust of British tailoring.



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Exceptional Vintage Couture


All hail Hardy, the king of British couture! 
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