Mary Quant and the mini skirt. The two go together like biscuits and tea (or if we want to be really literal, needle and thread). Quant was a name to shake a head and tut in disgust over. Secretly, it was a name to raise an eyebrow of curiosity in the minds of the world’s women at the idea of shorter hemlines and, gasp, more of that risqué, leg skin.
Radical change came like fireworks in the 1960s so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that someone was going to twist the corners of fashion a little and rough them up, Mod style. Try to imagine, if you will, this black and white photo splashed with bright colour enough to give your eye balls a tango and you will be half way to seeing how Mary Quant infused colour into her revolutionary designs. Bold, sharp and achingly modern was the code the young girls of the 60s dressed by – sick of the voluptuous, longer styles worn by their mothers. They were ready for a change and though designers had experimented previously with raising the hemline (John Bates and André Courrèges), Quant’s designs sealed the deal.
The progenitor of the mini-skirt, Mary Quant was a symbol of change in the exponentially growing permissive society of the 60s. She gave a whole new uniform to the youth of Britain at the time: carefree and reflecting the new found sexual freedom which came from landmarks such as the introduction of the contraceptive pill in 1961. This, along with the equal pay act of 1970, gave way to a flourish of independence and liberalisation for women, in both work and relationships. Inspired by the Mods’ neat, geometric and Italian-influenced dress, Quant set about on her sewing machine and produced mini dresses and then mini-skirts to sell at her King’s road boutique, Bazaar.
Whenever we see black and white in contemporary design, the 60s seems to be named as the culprit of this striking look and indeed, the op art, geometric style that was all the rage at the time played the perfect companion to Quant’s short hemlines for a look that was undeniably sharp and cool. The advances in synthetic fibres also meant that opaque woven tights in the same colours as the skirts could be designed, a nifty way of rising the hemline but still preserving modesty, an inch or two of it at least…
Cataclysmic was the effect of the mini skirt Quant released in 1965, with the ideas of sexual freedom and a more permissive society; a key kick which got the 60s swinging. Vidal Sassoon and David Bailey were close friends and The Beatles, of course, nipped in to grab a skirt for their girlfriends from time to time. With this kind of following Quant’s mini skirts became a popular and coveted choice for girls in Britain. It might wander in and out of fashion now, but there’s no denying, it was an exciting proposition for fashion and set its pulse beating as fast as the ones of the fans lining a Beatles concert.
Written by Daniella Golden.