Friday, June 14, 2024
Friday, June 14, 2024
Home » Dame Mary Quant ‘Freed the Female Leg’ With Her Miniskirts and Defined 60s Fashion

Dame Mary Quant ‘Freed the Female Leg’ With Her Miniskirts and Defined 60s Fashion

by Andrew Mason
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Dame Mary Quant, the British fashion designer that revolutionised how the 60’s looked, has died aged 93.

Quant is frequently credited with introducing the world to the miniskirt, along with the innovative tights, styles and colour palates that defined 1960s UK.

Among Quant’s trademark styles were bold colours, her iconic daisy motif and very short skirts. 

A group of models wearing bright yellow and red designer clothing.
British fashion designer Mary Quant, foreground centre, became renowned for her colourful daisy motif. (AP: PA Wire/PA)

From hats to miniskirts

Originally breaking into the fashion world as an apprentice hat-maker, the self-taught designer and her husband, Alexander Plunket Greene, quickly opened their own boutique called Bazaar in Chelsea in 1955.

Models wearing bright coloured designs in front of a wallpaper background with flowers
Quant’s breakthrough designs featured a lot of bold colours in order to appeal to young people.(Getty: PA Images)

Beyond her groundbreaking styles, Quant also changed the way young people shopped for clothes in post-war Britain, relying on modern music and innovative window displays to entice customers into her store.

“Snobbery has gone out of fashion, and in our shops, you will find duchesses jostling with typists to buy the same dress,” Quant once said.

A black and white photo of a woman in a short dress with a bob haircut kneeling on her floor.
Mary Quant with her designs in November 1955.(Getty Images: Keystone)

But by far her most recognisable look was that of the miniskirt, with hemlines up to eight inches above the knee and often paired with eye-catching tights, which she introduced to the London scene in 1966.

A blonde woman wearing silver-white tights and holding an orange feather boa in front of her chest, on silver foil.
Bright, eye-catching stockings — like the ones worn here by model Jenny Gassity in August 1966 — were also part of Quant’s trademark designs.(Getty: Gordon Carter/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix)

They were an instant hit with young people but shocked and offended many others.

Designer to the stars

Part of Quant’s permeation of the 60’s fashion scene was due to how closely aligned she was with the pop music of the day — namely with The Beatles.

A black and white image of a man and a woman sitting on chairs looking at each other
Singer and songwriter John Lennon wearing the 15 guinea Mary Quant hat with his wife Cynthia.(Getty: Keystone)

Former model and ex-wife to Beatles guitarist George Harrison, Pattie Boyd, released a heartfelt tribute to Quant for designing the fur coats featured in the pair’s wedding.

“Mary insisted on making George’s and my wedding coats in 1966; his, Black Mongolian Fur and mine, Red Fox,” Boyd said.

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Other high-profile stars of the period, like French actress Bridget Bardot and model Twiggy, also frequently wore Quant’s designs.

Twiggy honoured Quant with an Instagram tribute.

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In 1966, she was made an Officer of the British Empire for service to the fashion industry, wearing a trademark miniskirt when she received the honour at Buckingham Palace.

In 2014, she was made a dame for services to British fashion.

Mary Quant, designer in the 60s of the famous mini-skirt, poses with her Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) medal
Of course, Quant wore a miniskirt to Buckingham Palance to accept her Order of the British Empire.(AFP: Central Press)

Success beyond the 60s

Quant continued to design and sell clothes well after her miniskirts took over the British fashion scene.

A black and white image of a woman holding rolls of fabric
Mary Quant carries rolls of fabric for her new designs in 1974.(AP: D Royle)

She diversified in her later career, making a line of berets for British headwear company Kangol and a line of neckties — her first foray into menswear.

Mary Quant adjusts a polka dot striped necktie on English broadcaster, journalist and author Michael Parkinson
Mary Quant adjusts a polka dot striped necktie on English broadcaster, journalist and author Michael Parkinson, on the day of the launch of her new range of neckwear in 1972.(AFP: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images))
Mary Quant surrounded by shoes and models
Quant branched out into hats, ties and footwear later in her career.(Getty: Evening Standard/Hulton Archive)

‘A visionary’

Many prominent figures in the fashion industry have come out to pay their respects to Quant via social media.

Former British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman described Quant as “a visionary who was much more than a great haircut.”

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International New York Times fashion director Vanessa Friedman said Quant had “freed the female leg”.

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Quant stepped down from the day-to-day management of her firm, Mary Quant Ltd, in 2000 after it was purchased by a Japanese company, but kept working as a consultant.

A general view of the 'Mary Quant' exhibition, sponsored by King's Road, at the Victoria & Albert Museum
Mary Quant’s designs have been showed in museums around the world, most recently in Australia in 2021 at Bendigo Art Gallery.(Getty: Nicky J Sims)

The firm continued to use the daisy motif and logo that Quant pioneered in the 1960s, and it maintained one shop in London in addition to roughly 200 shops in Japan.

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