Sir Hardy Amies once said: “I can’t help it. I’m immensely impressed by all genuine upper-class manifestations,” a sentiment unsurprising of the Savile Row designer, who was best known for being the official dressmaker to Her Majesty, The Queen for over 50 years. From defining the style of British high society in the post-war years to advising on the subtleties of design appropriate for a state visit, Amies’ dedicated following of society “gels” always looked to him as a marker of taste and style. It’s no surprise then that Hardy Amies, with his discerning eye, was also a huge fan of Smythson’s Panama diaries.

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Beloved for his sense of humour and wry observations on society, Amies was popular amongst his close-knit circle of clients. He once quipped that one of the great advantages of modern life was that, with more bidets around, “my century has a cleaner bottom.” One client and close friend, Lady Hulse, always thanked Amies for his work with a personalised Panama diary – a tradition she continued from the 1940s through to the 1980s. While many customers would repeat the same order year on year, Hardy’s diaries were always unique. 

Each was personalised, often with the words “Dearest Hardy” or “Hardy” embossed in large letters and Lady Hulse often chose leathers reminiscent of the styles in vogue at the time – be it a classic navy cross-grain leather or a Nile Blue ostrich finish.

Amies’ first royal appointment came when he dressed her Majesty, then HRH Princess Elizabeth, while she made a state visit to Canada in 1950. The designer was awarded his Royal Warrant in 1955 and was responsible for dressing The Queen until his death in 2003. Despite being known for his candid observations on style, Amies was only ever discreet when it came to his royal appointments. Any meeting with The Queen was denoted in code in his diaries (we still haven’t deciphered it) in case he should misplace one, and he very rarely spoke about his clients and the minutiae of their fittings, except to his inner circle. It was this discretion and grasp of the quirks and conventions of society that allowed him to fully integrate into these aristocratic circles, where he became a fixture during the 40s, 50s and 60s.

Amies once said that a woman’s day clothes “must look equally good at Salisbury Station as the Ritz bar.” Always attuned to the habits and eccentricities of British society, particularly during the 1940s and 50s, Amies, a self-described “suburban boy” was able to court a crowd of women whose glamorous world of gala dinners and shooting weekends soon became his own. The Featherweight pages of in his 1940 Panama diary are filled with appointments at many of London’s hotspots, noted in his expressive pencil hand. In the week, tea was frequently taken at The Dorchester, cocktails enjoyed at Café Royal, and dinners enjoyed on Ebury Street. Weekends were often spent dressing clients for balls and galas in the countryside.

Open his 1971 diary and the pages are equally as jam-packed, but now the parties have relocated to Paris or New York. Hardy never stopped: past the age of 80 he was still sailing, playing tennis and, according to Colin McDowell, “his capacity to down a Bloody Mary remained awe-inspiring”.

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No wonder you occasionally find: “Sunday: Stayed In!” written carefully into his diary. Hardy was a man who had to treat down time with as much importance as the next party – after all, staying in was an anomaly worth remembering.

Photography: Hardy Amies / Leandro Farnina for Telegraph Luxury


About This Series

Icons: Exploring our long-standing heritage through the people who love us and the products that define us. 

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