WOMAN CRUSH WEDNESDAY: Mary Quant
Miniskirts. Hot pants. Patterned tights. Mary Quant.
A true innovator of 60's Mod fashion, Mary Quant was not only pioneering the world of miniskirts and hot pants, but the changing views of what and how women should dress. According to Quant, "It was the girls on the King's Road who invented the mini. I was making easy, youthful, simple clothes, in which you could move, in which you could run and jump and we would make them the length the customer wanted." And the requested length: shorter and shorter.
Born in 1934 in Blackheath, London, Mary Quant was the daughter of two teachers. Her flair for fashion began at the tender age of 6, when she would fashion clothing out of cut up bed sheets. Throughout her teens, Quant would restyle and, of course, shorten her gingham school uniforms. After high school, she went on to study illustration and receive a diploma in Art Education at Goldsmiths College--a compromise between Quant and her parents who did not approve of studying fashion design. It was in college, in 1953, where she would meet her business partner and future husband of nearly 40 years, Alexander Plunket Greene.
Quant and Plunket Greene teamed up with solicitor and photographer Archie McNair to open Bazaar, a boutique above a restaurant that Plunket Greene ran. Aside from choosing the stock for the store, Quant had success with her own innovative ideas. Some popular pieces she came up with included unusually bright stockings intended to match the knitwear pieces that were trending, a plastic collars that could be added to sweaters and dresses to make them more fun and youthful, and her "mad" lounging pajamas--which after being featured in Harpers Bazaar were purchased by an American manufacturer for production.
Being unimpressed by many of the available designs of the time motivated Quant to begin designing her own products for the shop. After attending night classes for additional training, she began altering patterns (and eventually designing for the pattern company) to fit her tastes as well as the youth culture of the time. In addition to offering shorter, brighter, more youthful options at the shop, Quant also offered a completely new and fresh shopping experience by playing loud music, offering drinks, and staying open later than most other retailers.
Very much inspired by the Mod youth culture at the time, Quant is best known for her miniskirts. While there is much debate over who was the first to come up with the miniskirt, many attribute Quant with the honor. By the 1950's, skirts had already begun to shrink in length, allowing the wearer to freedom for simple things like the ability to run for the bus. By 1960, Quant had many of her hemlines above the knee, and within a few years they were up to the mid-thigh. Quant named the skirt after her favorite car model--the mini--and embraced not only the fun, youthful, and trendy appeal of the skirts, but the true meaning behind the liberation that it offered women who chose to wear them, describing those who donned miniskirts in this way: "they are curiously feminine, but their femininity lies in their attitude rather than in their appearance ... She enjoys being noticed, but wittily. She is lively—positive—opinionated."
Aside from the miniskirt, Quant also popularized hot pants in the 70's, which made shorts made of luxury fabrics worn for fashion rather than sport a fashionable must-have. Other looks of Quant's in the 70's included flowing skirts, playful and stylish rompers, and long summer dresses with exaggerated sleeves and plunging necklines, and many stylish jumpsuits.
Always innovative, Mary Quant also deisgned childrenswear, bed linens, and furnishings. Because Quant was about a complete "look,"--even her short, cropped hairstyle had become a popular Mod go-to--she offered a complete cosmetics line that included some shockingly bright color options.
Over the years, Mary Quant has won numerious awards for her designs, including the first ever "Dress of the Year Award" in 1963. She even was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1966 and accepted the award at Buckingham Palace.
When the world typically looked to Paris for fashion inspiration, Mary Quant focused on her beloved London, giving the fashion industry, and the entire world, a completely new, fun, playful, and empowering jolt.