Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Evelyn Maureen Baker

Maureen Baker, c. 1973

Evelyn Maureen Baker passed away December 5, 2017 almost unnoticed. This seems fitting since Baker worked most of her life incognito under the label Susan Small.

Born in London on May 26, 1920, Maureen was one of six children and received her education from a convent school. She found her first job in fashion by knocking on doors of fashion businesses in the West End. She eventually got a job with Leslie Carr-Jones, owner of a modest wholesaling firm called Susan Small that specialized in petite sizes. Baker rose through the ranks quickly, becoming chief designer in 1943.

British Vogue Feb. 1953

The firm became a leading British label after the war with a well-known ad line “It’s a Susan Small world”. Their product was high end and carried by the best department stores. They even won the UK licensing rights for some Christian Dior lines. Baker created six collections per year but remained invisible, working behind the company’s label.

In 1968, Princess Alexandra, a long-time client of Susan Small, recommended Princess Anne go to Baker. Dressing the princess was not an easy task as other designers had made the young Princess Anne look like “lamb dressed as mutton”. Baker aimed at a style that hit halfway between royal protocol and contemporary fashion.

In 1973 Baker designed Princess Anne’s wedding dress in an antique style reminiscent of Tudor fashions of the mid 16th century. When the dress was revealed, Baker’s name became known for the first time in her career. Susan Small folded in the mid 70s and Baker then worked under her own name for HRH and a small circle of other clients that included Margaret Thatcher. Baker retired in 1992.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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