Chaos mini skirt! Nine Ways Mary Quant Revolutionized Women’s Clothing and Lives | Fashion

Bbefore Mary Quant, it was almost impossible to climb the stairs in a skirt or shed a discreet tear while wearing mascara. The ’60s fashion designer, who gave mass-market appeal to thigh-low mini skirts and pioneering clothing for working women, is the subject of a feature film hitting theaters this week. Quant, directed by Sadie Frost, traces the designer’s career, from opening her boutique in Chelsea to running the world’s first supermarket. While contemporary designers give us trends, Quant puts the dial back to the way we dress. Under his influence, women rejected their parents’ vision of beauty and embraced theirs. Her legacy continues today – here are nine ways she changed the way women dress.

The miniskirt

Quant wearing a miniskirt with flat boots in 1967. Photograph: Bettmann / Archives Bettmann

It’s a coincidence that this retrospective of Quant’s lasting impact as a designer coincides with a major moment for the miniskirt. Or maybe it’s a sign that life is about to improve dramatically. Quant, who is often credited with inventing the miniskirt (and reportedly named the style after his beloved Mini Cooper car), felt that the high hems represented “life and a tremendous opportunity.” She brought with her “a festive atmosphere,” notes Jenny Lister, curator of textiles and fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum: “It was a renaissance. A time when young people could meet different people, listen to different music, a time when they could be themselves. During recent parades in Paris, this idea of ​​the garment shaving the thighs as a symbol of optimism and youthful rebellion seemed to once again inspire designers, from Maria Grazia Chiuri of Dior to Pieter Mulier of Alaïa. “I really like the ideas of the younger generation right now,” Chiuri noted, ahead of her recent show. “The miniskirt represents that spirit.”

Original work clothes

“Clothing is a statement about what you want to be,” Quant said. For her clients, the first generation to have access to the birth control pill and the ability to plan for careers and families, liberation was high on the agenda. As his godson, Jasper Conran, points out in Frost’s documentary, “The Young Worker Set the Tone.” This is where contemporary workwear – the versatile and dynamic approach to clothing we take for granted – was born. “She was the first to make clothes you could run in for the bus,” says retail expert Jane Shepherdson. “Quant gave us fashion with flexibility. His clothes were to allow women to get up and go where they wanted.

Say no to stockings

Mary Quant and mannequins in her shoes and tights
Mary Quant and mannequins in her shoes and tights. Photograph: PA

It wasn’t until Quant got its hands on hosiery that tights – instead of stockings – found mass market appeal. “Quant didn’t invent the tights, but she made them known to everyone,” Lister explains. Eager to find a companion for his iconic skirts and dresses, they have become Quant’s secret weapon and remain his most underrated of ideas. In partnership with the Nylon Hosiery Company, Quant has created tights to complete its collections in the colors of jewels. This season, with party tights back on the agenda – McQueen’s dripping with rhinestones as German company Falke unveils tights in primary colors – it’s impossible to ignore their enduring appeal.

Pockets with everything

The next time you slip your phone into your dress pocket or dig your hands into the sides of your jumpsuit when you’re feeling uncomfortable at a party (Victoria Beckham is an expert in this area) , send Quant a mental note of thanks. She once said, “Pockets make dress” and undoubtedly understood the value of this hidden detail long before much of the rest of the fashion industry. In her quest to dress women desperate to escape their mother’s style, the pocket has established itself as an emblem of modernity, as well as the perfect place to stash a lipstick and the return bus ticket.

The “boyfriend” cut

Model Gala Gonzalez at New York Fashion Week in 2020 - wearing a Quant-style cricket sweater borrowed from '60s men's wardrobes.
Model Gala Gonzalez at New York Fashion Week in 2020 – wearing a Quant-style cricket sweater borrowed from ’60s men’s wardrobes. Photograph: Christian Vierig / Getty Images

Flowing clothing is regularly touted as the future of fashion, but Quant was ahead of its time. Finding that the fit of the men’s knitwear more closely matched the laid-back, laid-back aesthetic she wanted to create, the designer purchased men’s suits from Harrods and repurposed them for the women. She also worked with Scottish knitwear suppliers to develop the loose, easy cricket sweaters that defined her brand. The look lives on today with sloppy, masculine cuts, an emblem of cool for contemporary knitwear designers. It also has a strong appeal in the resale market, with Gen Z consumers on Depop buying cricket knits made into sweater dresses. Quant would be proud.

Athleisure 1.0

The Mary Quant zipped outfit, forerunner of athleisure in 1967.
The Mary Quant zipped outfit, forerunner of athleisure in 1967. Photograph: Mirrorpix / Getty Images

Our obsession with clothes designed to be worn on the couch as well as for training peaked during the pandemic. Without Quant, the fad known as athleisure might never have happened. Jersey was her Lycra, and she was the first designer to approve a fabric on the grounds that it was comfortable and, most importantly, didn’t wrinkle. Having discovered the concept of “house wear” during a trip to the United States, she pushed the idea that clothing could be both cool and comfortable with a line of babygrows for adults, launched in the late 1980s. 60. Somewhere between a tracksuit and a dressing gown, this was the original adult jumpsuit.

Ribbed sweater

This fall, the turtleneck sweater is defended by everyone from Adele to Prince Guillaume. But fine ribs first became a style staple in the hands of Quant. In her 1966 bio, she describes when she tried on an eight-year-old boy’s top and was thrilled with the results. For Quant, the fine-knit ribbed sweater matched perfectly with his iconic apron and became the basis for a look that was emulated across the world.

Party apartments

The designer, in the center, at the launch of Quant Afoot, her range of flat ankle boots in 1967.
The designer, in the center, at the launch of Quant Afoot, her range of flat ankle boots in 1967. Photograph: Evening Standard / Getty Images

For the women of Quant, a generation that worked all day and danced all night, flats were a logical accessory. Previously apartments were an old-fashioned and utilitarian option, but under Quant they have become associated with glamor. “Everyone who wears sneakers is now on the same line of progress,” says Lister. “Quant was looking for comfortable and practical shoes that looked good as a way to extend her look. In doing so, she opened up a new path for women.

Fun mascara

“Now that the clothes are different, the face was wrong,” Quant noted in 1968, realizing that women need the right makeup to go with the look. Its pioneering line of cosmetics quickly followed, with a waterproof mascara, unprecedented at the time, at the heart of its success. Not only could women run for the bus in one of her skirts and do a day’s work standing in her shoes, but they could also shed a tear in her mascara and still look great. “With everything she’s done, Quant has shaken off the idea that women should behave a certain way. Instead, she made room for people to be themselves. Lister explains.

Quant is released nationwide on October 29


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