It’s been said that if you remember the 60s, you weren’t there.
A lot of us do remember the 60s, but not everyone remembers Mary Quant, and if that is the case, those people weren’t paying attention to what women were wearing: Mini skirts, hot pants, wet-look raincoats, and colorful tights instead of hosiery. Mary Quant started it all by ushering in the joyful freedom of “Swinging Sixties” fashion.
Quant once said that clothes are a statement about what one wants to be, and for her youthful customers, liberation topped the agenda. This new generation rejected their parents’ vision of beauty and invented their own. They were the first generation to be able to plan a career and a family, and while Quant didn’t invent their attitude, her fashion reflected it. She created simple, streamlined silhouettes, strong colors and vibrant designs, and new fabrics, including PVC and stretch fabrics. She introduced waterproof mascara, skin care products for men, and white plastic collars to brighten up black dresses – and she made all of it accessible to the masses.
Quant always maintained that, “the Chelsea girl had the best legs in the world,” and often credited the girls who visited her shops as the true inventors of the mini skirt (named for Quant’s favorite make of car, the Mini Cooper) for wanting shorter and shorter hemlines. Her concepts certainly had its critics: Quant recalled the city gent dressed in his conservative pinstriped suit and bowler hat rapping on the window of her store while shouting “Immoral!” and “Disgusting,” and when Sophia Loren publicly claimed that the miniskirt “destroyed the feminine mystique,” Quant simply replied: “Well, she’s built the other way up.”
No matter. Nothing could diminish, let alone stop the energy of that generation.
Quant was eventually made a dame, the female equivalent of a knighthood in Great Britain, and when Dame Mary Quant passed away last month at the age of 93, another icon of the era, Dame Lesley ‘Twiggy’ Lawson, was among those who spoke of her impact on a generation. Twiggy’s long legs and petite frame were perfect for Quant’s short hemlines, and both had popularized the “Chelsea look” of England, a fashion that crossed “the pond” and impacted American culture, as well. In her tribute to Quant, Twiggy said that “the 1960s would have never been the same without her,” and she was right.
We found it interesting that Mary Quant was born in the Year of the Dog, and while we found no evidence of her having owned a dog, there were plenty purebred dogs in the JC Penny photo shoot of Mary Quant fashions. The shoot included an Afghan Hound and Chihuahua, Bulldog and Saint Bernard, and others. We don’t have permission to reprint the photos, but you can see them all here.
In 2009, England honored Quant with a British postage stamp commemorating her work.
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