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Hardy Amies, 93; Fashion Designer for Queen Elizabeth

March 07, 2003|From Associated Press

LONDON — Sir Hardy Amies, the Savile Row designer and self-described snob who for decades clothed Queen Elizabeth II and much of Britain's female aristocracy, died Wednesday. He was 93.

Amies, known for his immaculate style and elegant manners, died at his country home in Langford, in the Cotswolds, northwest of London, said Tim Maltin, managing director of Hardy Amies Ltd. He said Amies suffered a heart attack in his sleep.

Born in London, Amies rose from a modest background -- his father was a government worker; his mother worked for a West End dressmaker -- to become sole proprietor of a business worth more than $350 million and to move effortlessly among the titled.

"The queen was very sad to hear of Sir Hardy's death," a statement from Buckingham Palace said. "He contributed to her wardrobe over many years."

While some criticized the monarch's style as dowdy, her couturier derided much modern fashion as designed for magazine covers and ads, and said the queen's dresses suited her.

"She feels that being terribly chic is not friendly to her audience," Amies said in 1999. "She doesn't want to dazzle people."

Amies began working for the couture house Lachasse in the early 1930s, and by decade's end, he was designing the firm's whole collection. He served in the Intelligence Corps during World War II, then returned to London to open his own fashion business on Savile Row.

In 1951, Elizabeth, then a 25-year-old princess, asked him to provide some clothing for her royal tour of Canada. He became the queen's official dressmaker in 1955 and clothed her for 38 years, until his 80th birthday, when his longtime companion, Ken Fleetwood, took over the job.

Amies designed dozens of royal outfits each year, making clever, fluid tailoring his signature.

His style was restrained and conservative, following the maxim that "day clothes must look equally as good at Salisbury station and the Ritz bar." His clients, he said, were "the wives of the men of status" who frequented country and town.

Amies knew what he didn't like: flashy, revealing garb.

"I hate strapless bodices, for example, because any man looking at one thinks, 'How ... does she keep the thing up?' " he said. "Nobody has ever been elegant in a strapless dress because it implies that you're making your bust work for you.... Overexposure of the body is not chic."

Amies, who also designed menswear, counted among his customers the queen's cousin Princess Michael of Kent, Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson and actor Richard Burton's widow, Sally.

Amies continued working after he stepped down as the queen's clothier, selling his company to the British-based Luxury Brands Group in 2001 but remaining active as its life president until his death. The company still dresses the queen.

He was knighted in 1989 and said he was proud to call himself a snob.

"Now, it doesn't mean to say that you're unkind to the lower orders," he said. "Being a snob simply means that I think the top is the best."

Amies had no survivors. Fleetwood died in 1996.

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