The aim of this study was to investigate HLA class II associations in polymyositis (PM) and dermatomyositis (DM), and to determine how these associations influence clinical and serological differences. DNA samples were obtained from 225 UK Caucasian idiopathic inflammatory myopathy patients (PM = 117, DM = 108) and compared with 537 randomly selected UK Caucasian controls. All cases had also been assessed for the presence of related malignancy and interstitial lung disease (ILD), and a number of myositis-specific/myositis-associated antibodies (MSAs/MAAs). Subjects were genotyped for HLA-DRB1, DQA1 and DQB1. HLA-DRB1*03, DQA1*05 and DQB1*02 were associated with an increased risk for both PM and DM. The HLA-DRB1*03-DQA1*05-DQB1*02 haplotype demonstrated strong association with ILD, irrespective of myositis subtype or presence of anti-aminoacyl-transfer RNA synthetase antibodies. The HLA-DRB1*07-DQA1*02-DQB1*02 haplotype was associated with risk for anti-Mi-2 antibodies, and discriminated PM from DM (odds ratio 0.3, 95% confidence interval 0.1-0.6), even in anti-Mi-2 negative patients. Other MSA/MAAs showed specific associations with other HLA class II haplotypes, irrespective of myositis subtype. There were no genotype, haplotype or serological associations with malignancy. The HLA-DRB1*03-DQA1*05-DQB1*02 haplotype associations appear to not only govern disease susceptibility in Caucasian PM/DM patients, but also phenotypic features common to PM/DM. Though strongly associated with anti-Mi-2 antibodies, the HLA-DRB1*07-DQA1*02-DQB1*02 haplotype shows differential associations with PM/DM disease susceptibility. In conclusion, these findings support the notion that myositis patients with differing myositis serology have different immunogenetic profiles, and that these profiles may define specific myositis subtypes.