Dress-down Friday: Bunny Roger

The refulgently camp Bunny Roger, fashion designer, party-giver and exquisite sartorial event, died 15 years ago today. In his autobiography Redeeming Features, Nicky Haslam recalls his first encounter with Bunny while still a schoolboy at Eton:

Bunny I loved unreservedly on sight, and a lifelong friendship started then and there. Initially during holidays, I would visit him at Fortnum & Mason, where he had a couture dressmaking salon under his proper name, Neil Roger. He dismissed his work as “boring things for knights’ wives. Like my mother,” he’d hastily add. In fact the clothes he showed on the catwalk were far more stylish than that, Hollywood-inspired, in the mould of Travis Banton and Gilbert Adrian, with references drawn from the exotic costumes of the heyday of his screen idols, especially Gloria Swanson, Pola Negri, and Marlene Dietrich, whose glittering sheaths and cock feathers he loved to re-create, wearing them himself at spectacular parties.

Sometimes I took friends from school with the express purpose of showing Bunny off; they would gasp at his square-shouldered suits, the corsetlike waistcoats over exaggeratedly skirted jackets and narrowest drainpipe trousers, cut to accentuate his lifelong twenty-six-inch waist. Crusty old military men often leered at Bunny, whispering, “Do you lace?” Up at Oxford he used to go to parties dressed as any of those filmstar pinups, seducing the notoriously straight Shimi Lovat in the process, though drag was not a sexual turn-on for Bunny. He preferred male costume, and admitted to me that the Edwardian look he had perfected was what he fancied on other people. “Such a mistake,” he’d sigh. “One never gets anyone.”

In another passage, Haslam evokes an interior decorator’s costume, a single dazzling image that crystallises the magnificence of the couturier’s (in)famous parties:

No-one who witnessed Felix Harbord at Bunny’s “Royal” party got up to a tee as Queen Victoria, including a mobile plinth to reduce Felix’s enormous bulk to appropriately dwarflike Guelph proportions, will ever forget the sight.

I dare say.

Listen to a podcast by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for more on Bunny, perhaps while flicking languidly through this scrapbook of his casual separates and in situ ensembles:

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  1. butterscotchclouds

    From your other Bunny post: “Now I’ve shot so many Nazis, Daddy will have to buy me a sable coat.” I’m in *love.*

  2. Linda Hollander

    OMG, this is the best one yet of your most recent and divine outpouring of posts!

    WHY, oh WHY do men not dress like this? Style, taste, refinement, sense of self…oh, this is coming out all tacky, but, oh wow, is all! I tell you, I would ress like this if I could, I swear to God.

    Throw every piece of denim in the world into a big hippie bonfire!

    I’m with butterscothch clouds In Love!

    • Thank you Linda! If you could actually see what I was wearing when I posted it would be very sobering. There are those blogs where people post their outfits which apparently change EVERY SINGLE DAY. I’m kind of the opposite of that…I post about different people every day while wearing essentially the same thing.

  3. I was privileged to meet the wonderful Bunny on several occasions back in the early 1990’s at his house in Addison Road – a gorgeous home – where I and his good friend and housemate, the society photographer Georges Garcin would consume a steak and chips together down in the kitchens – washed down with a bottle of good claret – and Bunny would suddenly appear out of the blue and regale us with priceless stories. I have never, ever met a better dressed man – just incredible – words failed me then, and fail me now. He was truly a one-off, a legendary wit, a very kind and highly intelligent man with the courage of a lion. He lived life exactly as he wanted to.
    I can promise you, once met, absolutely never forgotten!

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