Mary Quant, Icon of the 1960s, is the Topic of a New Fashion Exhibit

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British Designer Mary Quant is often associated with the Swinging Sixties. The era was defined by mod fashion; an aesthetic that Quant helped develop with her revolutionary designs, the most famous of which was the mini-skirt.

The 88-year-old designer will now be honored by an exhibition in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. According to Refiner29, the exhibition, called Mary Quant, will be the first “retrospective” display of the designer’s work since its debut over fifty years ago.

Quant, who was born in 1930, majored in illustration at Goldsmith’s college. She began her career as a milliner’s apprentice. She opened her own boutique, Bazaar, over a restaurant owned by her future husband, Alexander Plunket Greene. It was there where Quant would first debut her designs in 1955. Quant eventually began her rise to fame in the mid to late 1950s. Much of the designers early work reflected the Mod aesthetic she would be famous for, as Refinery29 describes Quant’s first designs to consist of “vinyl Peter Pan collars,” and “oversized men’s cardigans designed to be worn as dresses.”

Jenny Lister, the curator of the exhibition, described the extent of Quant’s legacy, stating “She freed young women from rules and regulations and from dressing like their mothers.” Lister points out that “She made high fashion affordable.” If anything, this description hits the nail on the head. Quant is associated with the 1960s Youthquake, a term first used by then Vogue Editor Diana Vreeland to describe the new youth culture popularized in metropolitan areas such as London.

Lister was correct to say that Quant prevented girls from dressing like their mothers; prior to this period in history, the notion adolescence did not exist in the same sense that it does today. Most teenagers did dress like their parents. But, the 1960s, with the rise of what was then seen as rebellious music and fashion, saw the birth of the idea of youth culture; a phenomenon we’re hardly aware of today.

While the Victoria and Albert Museum will be stocking the exhibition with pieces from their archive, they have a rather interesting request. Both the museum and Quant are calling to the public, asking if anyone with original pieces from the 60s to make donations to the exhibition. Lister put out a statement saying “We want to hear from women who wore Mary’s radical designs and experienced the appeal of the Mary Quant brand first-hand.” The curator asked people to “…check attics, cupboards, as well as family photo albums, for the chance to feature in our exhibition.”

Whatever this request wind up producing, the decision to involve the public means that the exhibition might provide the opportunity to see the not-so-distant era to come alive.

Featured Image via Flickr/storebukkebruse

Proud Latina Feminist. My likes include strong coffee, watching the previews that come on before the movie, and things that come in pretty packages. I've been a bibliophile and fashion lover since well before I could read or tie my own shoes.

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