As you all know, LSoD is a menswear blog but now and again, particularly when it involves the most famous woman in the World, I have to break with habit.
Last week, I was proudly and flattered to be the first member of press to attend the new Hardy Amies exhibition at Savile Row. A guest of Don, the Head of PR, the exhibition focuses exclusively on HM Queen Elizabeth II, with an enormous amount of exclusive archived material, pictures and mementoes from HM to Hardy Amies.
One of the first, and most fascinating, displays is this – above – a collection of pictures and Christmas cards from The Queen, as well as the mounted Royal Crest that was awarded to the company. It is hard to comprehend, listening to Don and looking at the artifacts, how close The Queen and her tailor were. However, just by taking a read of the letters of thanks for ‘my beautiful freesias for my birthday’ which are hand written, as well as the envelopes and stamped from Sandringham. The cards are all signed personally, and dated, rather than computer generated.
This table has a collection of photographs of The Queen as well as other members of the Royal Family, including Lord Fredrick ‘Freddie’ Windsor, the current ambassador for the company. Beside is a creation from Amies for The Queen, which is one of two; one is in the Royal Archives in Buckingham Palace, a room temperature controlled and then labeled and catalogued.
The sketches above the table are by Amies own hand, and after her Coronation their relationship became more formal – that of Queen and servant, rather than Princess and friend – four staff and him would troop of to The Palace to be received. From there she would either tick (yes), cross (no) and leave nothing it was to think about it, where it would then be made but not guaranteed to be worn.
On one occasion he made a beautiful coat for a State occasion, which he was very disappointed when she didn’t wear it, which everyone knew and felt. However, she did wear it not long after for her Silver Jubilee, to which he cried for two days straight, reputedly. This is a clear indication of his dedication not only to his work, but to his high regard for The Queen, as well as his need to be recognized by her as not only as his most distinguished client, but as a friend.
This is a page from the most incredible book, or rather catalogue, simply entitled with the embossed words ‘The Queen’. It is rammed with sketched, samples of fabrics, press photographs and notes to where each item was worn. Going through it was incredible, and I was very, very lucky to view this piece of history, and it is a privilege to any fashion history enthusiast. However, as Amies got older and more reduced into his self, perfectly handwritten notes turned into scrawled Post-It-Notes and then….just stops. Amies died only a few weeks later.
These two images show the technical side of the Royal relationship, with three dummies which are the perfect sizes of The Queen over forty years. Each box under the table hold the patterns for the years designs, and it displays a selection of buttons and swatches from past designs.
The sewing machine below was for the sole use of Amies and the seamstresses for The Queen exclusively. Some of the most intricate sewing, and beading and embellishment has been produced on this machine, as well as by hand. Although each dress, using beading, may have taken 1000 hours it was not guaranteed to be worn. But that is the risk in dressing the most discerning and most famous woman in the World.
A HUGE thank you to Don and Hardy Amies for inviting me to this mesmerizing exhibition, as well as for the small gift of the book on male dressing – which is available to buy at the Savile Row store.