Mary, Mary Quite Quantrary

Mini skirts, turtlenecks and sleek bobs. All these items should scream the 1960s to you, a time of great fashion change which is still seen to inspire fashion today. The V&A Museum is currently hosting an exhibition showcasing all things Mary Quant and therefore all things Sixties.

The 1960s was a time when youth culture was blossoming: there was new music, television was starting to grow and most importantly fashion was transforming. For the first time young people no longer dressed like their parents, they had their own individual style with fashion companies starting to target them specifically. Mary Quant was one of the first and one of the most successful to do so. She opened a famous store on King’s Road which was the go to hang out for the youth who were attempting to escape their everyday lives.

Fashion was becoming more about the ordinary teenager, where as previously it had been dictated by the upper class aristocrats, it was now becoming more accessible. Quant appealed to these changing times, by transforming traditionally aristocratic outfits into cooler, more youthful looks.

New takes on aristocratic looks pictured on the left. A new feminised look of a waistcoat suit seen with the grey outfit on the far left. Traditional coat and tails trousers seen second from the left with the brown v-necked jumper. Mary Quant V&A exhibition.

The 1960s also saw a growth in female emancipation with the second wave of feminism beginning to take shape. Quant saw these gender inequalities and used her clothes to empower women. She designed masculine suits for them and helped to normalise trousers amongst them. One of her designs was the ‘Bank of England’ dress, at the time women were unable to open a bank account without the permission of a male relative in writing. Quant created an empowering dress with a masculine pinstripe and large powerful lapels almost like a shirt collar. Yet, she feminises it by making it a dress in a simple and flattering A-line shape.

‘Bank of England’ dress, Mary Quant V&A exhibition.

Quant also brought practicality that was still stylish to her clothes, allowing women to complete their daily tasks whilst also still feeling good. For example, she designed raincoats and hats in many different colours, shapes and patterns. Women could pair these with their normal outfits to protect them from the rain and still feel fashionable. She also designed excitingly patterned shopping bags which customers carried around as fashion accessories due to their beautiful details. An idea that would be warmly welcomed in today’s push for reusable bags for the protection of our planet.

Mary Quant raincoats, Mary Quant V&A exhibition.

Mary Quant raincoat and shopping bag, Mary Quant V&A exhibition.

The Mary Quant exhibition runs until 16th February 2020 with tickets priced at £12.00.

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