Dame Mary Quant was an iconic fashion designer of the 1960s. She sadly died this week at 93 in the UK. But what a life she had. What influence and style she had. And I bet she had a lot of fun designing those scandalous mini dresses that shocked our mothers.
Mary can be rated with Dior and Chanel for her service to fashion and freeing the female form. Fashion designer Mary Quant freed the female leg by designing miniskirts and hot pants. They really didn’t exist before her influence. I remember wearing my first pair of hot pants to university in the 1970s and receiving a few whistles which yes, I did enjoy. It’s unusual to be noticed when you are a chemistry nerd.
Fashion was Mary’s dream
Barbara Mary Quant was the daughter of two schoolteachers who dissuaded her from following her dream of fashion design. Instead, she went to art school but followed her dream anyway. Way to go, Mary! She opened a boutique in King’s Road, London called Bazaar. Her bold styles gained attention and by 1966 she was working with 18 manufacturers.
Her boutique was special like Mary. She served drinks and played music to attract the young crowd. The shop windows featured the mannequins in quirky poses. This made people stop and stare then if they were brave and young , enter the store. This merchandising style set Mary apart from the department stores who were still selling the utilitarian fashions of the post war era. Mary Quant made fashion alive, youthful and fun.
Mary loved minis
Mary called her above knee skirt the ‘mini’ after her favourite make of car. Skirts had been getting shorter since the war and Mary just took them one hitch higher and above the knee. ‘Now girls can run for that bus,’ she said. And the boys enjoyed watching.
Mini skirts were not her only claim to fame. Mary designed shorts or hot pants, colourful tights and berets. She loved colour and brightened up London and before long the world with her fun fashion. Mary even designed the interior of her signature Mary Quant mini car. 2000 of them were released. They had black and white seats, red trim and seat belts and a Mary Quant badge on the bonnet and her signature colourful daisy on the steering wheel.
Mary loved Colour too
In the 1970s and 80s, Mary branched out into cosmetics and today there are 200 Mary Quant Colour shops in Japan as she sold out to Japan in 2000.
Unlike her outrageous fashion, Mary’s personal life was conservative. She married only once in 1957 and stayed married to Alexander Plunket Greene until he died in 1990. She has one son.
For her contribution to British fashion, Mary was made a Dame in 2015. She won many other awards and accolades for her innovative style which re invented fashion for the modern girl on the go. RIP Mary Quant and the Swinging Sixties. How we miss you both.
Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.