University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3PA
9 Great Newport St, London WC2H 7JA, UK
Neil Munro "Bunny" Roger (9 June 1911 – 27 April 1997) was an English couturier and socialite. Roger's best known contribution to fashion was his popularization of Capri pants. Ben Nicolson, editor of the Burlington Magazine and son of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West and childhood friend of John Pope-Hennessy, records in his diary that Anthony Blunt was in love. Nicholson, who was Deputy Surveyor of The Kings Pictures with Blunt, noted he had met a twenty-two year old student ‘Alan Baker’ at a party given by Sir Johnny Philips a rich bachelor in the circle of wealthy gay men that included Bunny Roger, the English couturier, war hero, and dandy, as well as Guy Burgess. The bisexual art student had just left the navy and Blunt gave him a monthly allowance, acting as a non-exclusive older mentoring sexual partner and companion.
Neil Munro Roger was born 9 June 1911 in London to Sir Alexander Roger and Helen Stuart Clark, both from Scotland. When he was a little boy he asked for a doll’s house, and got it. At the age of six he was given a fairy costume with diaphanous skirts and butterfly wings.
Bunny Roger attended the Loretto School and read History at Balliol College, Oxford for a year; he then studied drawing at The Ruskin. At Oxford he was considered a ‘beauty’ but was ‘sent down’ (expelled) after being accused of homosexual practices. Roger knew Terence Rattigan from his first day at Oxford until the end of Rattigan's life forty-five years later.
In 1937, when he was still in his twenties, he established his popular fashion house, known as Neil Roger, in London’s Great Newport Street. At first he was planning to open it with William Chappell, but in the end he opened business alone. One of his clients was the film star Vivien Leigh.
In the Second World War, he was commissioned in the Rifle Brigade in 1941 and served in Italy and North Africa. Roger was a war hero known for his courage under fire. A story that may be apocryphal has him replying to a sergeant's question regarding approaching Germans, "When in doubt, powder heavily." As an infantry officer in 1944, he was decorated for charging a machine-gun post at the famous Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy in the attempt to make a breakthrough to Rome. Bunny showed tremendous bravery on the battlefield but, when he ran into an old friend in the bombed-out monastery of Monte Cassino, he was wearing a silk chiffon scarf and a copy of Vogue magazine was stuffed into his pocket. When his friend asked him what the hell he was doing, Bunny just looked at him and said ‘shopping’.
Following the war, he was invited to run the couture department at Fortnum & Mason. He invested in the House of Amies, and his stake was later acquired by Debenhams in 1973. Capri pants, introduced by fashion designer Sonja de Lennart in 1948, were popularized by her and Roger. Roger was a clotheshorse who bought up to fifteen bespoke suits a year and four pairs of bespoke shoes or boots to go with each suit; each suit was said to have cost around £2,000. He favoured a neo-Edwardian look: four-buttoned jackets with broad shoulders, narrow waists, and long skirts. He favoured narrow trousers and a high-crowned bowler hat. He was particularly fond of spectator shoes and ruby cufflinks. Roger was known for the lavish and outrageous parties that he held throughout his life. These events were often themed, as in the Diamond, Amethyst, and Flame Balls held to celebrate his 60th, 70th, and 80th birthdays, respectively.
Roger died in London on 27 April 1997. He was 85 years old.
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