Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 13, 2019

Mary Quant at the V&A London

“The whole point of fashion is to make fashionable clothes available to everyone” Mary Quant.

Mary Quant and her husband and business partner, Alexander Plunket Greene launched a fashion revolution. They were at the forefront of the youth movement in fashion, young people designing for young people. They opened their groundbreaking Bazaar on Kings Road in London in 1955.

Mary Quant wanted her clothes and accessories to be eye catching, strong and colourful, to offer freedom for the young and be totally unlike the clothes their mothers wore.

Her signature style became synonymous with the Swinging Sixties, which is when I picked up on it. While I didn’t have an original Mary Quant, there were many copies available here in Australia. I remember thinking I was Christmas in a Prue Acton white empire line crimplene dress with a nylon scarf threaded through loops around the neckline. Crimplene was the most hideous fabric, much like wearing a plastic bag, but we thought it was marvellous as teenagers.

She also produced dress patterns for Butterick and I made my own…a lot.

While in London recently I was delighted with the Mary Quant exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The first dress in the collection is the dress she wore to collect one of her many awards in 1966.

The exhibition is a timeline of Mary Quant’s fashions. She introduced new fabrics, or new interpretations of old ones and showed them on the iconic models of the time, Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy and more.

Her fashion parades featured young models dancing to new music, a completely new concept.

She used PVC for clothing for the first time. It took her almost 2 years to work out how the sew the fabric effectively.

The clothes became more colourful as the 60s went on.

There were dolls and cutout figures to dress.

She made underwear. I can recall wearing steppins…Yuk! As if a 14 year old needed these awful things. I also remember wearing pantyhose for the first time, so much better than stockings and suspenders. I did have Mary Quant pantyhose. The packaging was great.

 

She did makeup and had cartoon like illustrations showing how to use it.

 

Her accessories were fabulous, and much copied.

I’m pretty sure I had this Butterick pattern.

It was fun to take a walk back through my teenage years, but the exhibition is excellent for anyone with an interest in fashion. There are hundreds of garments and accessories including unseen pieces from the designer’s personal archive.

The exhibition continues until 16th February 2020


Responses

  1. Love it, will have to look up if it is still on when Im in London September

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    • It is on until February next year. Go, you will love it.

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  2. Oh Deb!! What a trip down memory lane …. I was there for all that. My friends and I would parade down Kings Road and look through the window in our Marks and Spencer’s copies!! Even though Quant changed the face of fashion not many teenagers could afford originals. She gave the High Street labels a bench mark to live up to!
    Ahh… London in the sixties, the centre of the universe!! Jxx

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    • Lucky you to be there for that fun! It was certainly the time to be in London.

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  3. So many memories. I can remember many of my dresses in that style. And the beautiful, colorful raincoats with matching boots….

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  4. I can remember having a Mary Quant ginger group outfit (wish I still had it) and it was the most fashionable thing I’d ever worn. Heading to London tomorrow so will try and get to the exhibition. We’ll have to catch up for a coffee when we’re both back in Brisbane

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    • I hope you get to see it. The Dior Exhibition is on too, but it was booked out while I was there. Just as well I saw it twice in Paris a year or 2 ago.

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  5. Looks like a fabulous exhibition. Great photos. Will be in Scotland in October so might try to go down to London and see it.
    Cheers,
    Robyn

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    • It is a great exhibition. I’m sure you will enjoy it.

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  6. I remember there was a really cute Mary Quant makeup range when I lived in Japan! I used to buy it quite a lot.

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  7. Deb loved this post as it was ‘in our time’ – how we loved pouring through the young magazines and seeing what was hot and hip from her and that whole London scene in early 60’s . Yes I too had a Prue Acton white Pique dress which I am sure was inspired by the dresses of Mary Quant.

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    • It was great to walk through and see so many things I recognised.

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  8. I LOVED Mary Quant and her great clothes and the general “look” she inspired during the sixties. I was a huge fan. I’d love to see this exhibition and hope I manage to see it. I remember the daisy motif on my make up. You brought it all back.

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  9. I would have loved to see this exhibition, Mary Quant fashion influenced so much of wth we wore back then. Thanks for sharing.

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    • It was great fun to wander among so many familiar things.

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