visited on Wednesday 16 October 2019 and Friday 25 October 2019
This exhibition brings together a beautiful selection of clothes and memorabilia from the years of Mary Quant’s influence on the world of fashion and the way people, especially women, could feel about themselves. Some lent to the V&A by private individuals, giving the exhibition an intimacy which seemed to me to continue the way she presented herself. In films she spoke of her ideas and aspirations: clothes, she mentioned, were meant to make a woman
– be noticed
– feel sexy
– feel good
Bringing this sense of wellness to a mass market, through the way a person could look, seemed to have informed her choices throughout her career.
Mary Quant born 1930, Blackheath, to Welsh parents,
longed to train in high fashion,
set up Bazaar, shop in King’s Road
looking for exciting wholesale garments to stock in Bazaar
bought materials from Harrods and adapted Butterick patterns to her liking, for instance pyjama dress, featured in Harpers Bazaar magazine in 1955
Saturday evening was her time for window dressing
inspiration from schoolgirl uniforms: dropped waist pinafore, pinafore pleats
‘borrowing from the boys’ Mary Quant drew inspiration from gents suits and military uniforms – high necked dresses, large buttons, perhaps and large playful ties?
some dress names referred directly to the inspiration, for instance:
‘Butchers striped dress’ in blue and white stripes with narrow orange edging
‘Bank of England dress’ in striped twill, formal tailoring
‘Sailor dress’ revived for women in narrow blue or red stripes
Mary Quant’s simple shapes made the most of patterns and textures of woven wool
Mary Quant’s focus on design was evident in every aspect of her work, from the design of her carrier bag with very large lettering to the emblematic daisy and throughout her collection.
She seemed to be looking for the perfect design which according to her needed to be functional, sexy and attract attention as well as being mass producible.
This latter aspect seemed to lead her towards jersey dresses in multiple designs which the customer could vary according to preference: round collar, high collar, long sleeve, zip closure, pockets
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
She said she was bewitched by the ‘super shiny man made stuff in shrieking colours’
needed specialist machinery to manufacture
collaborated with Aligator Rainwear to procure commercially viable range of Mary Quant PVC raincoats in 1965
Mary Quant discovered a new type of wool jersey, heat bonded to acetate, available in the brightest colours, previously used for underwear, rugby and football kits
Mary Quant revolutionised the textile industry and further developed this, bringing the new idea from America of intimate apparel, jersey loungewear, to be worn only at home
Her influence was extensive and many of her designs seem to me still perfectly viable today!