Some Said She Was to Fashion What the Beatles Were to Music

Mary Quant, mastermind of Swinging '60s style, dies at 93
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 13, 2023 1:58 PM CDT
Some Said She Was to Fashion What the Beatles Were to Music
British fashion designer Mary Quant carries rolls of fabric in her arms, which were used for her new designs shown at the Savoy Hotel earlier, in London, England on Sept. 18, 1974.   (AP Photo/D. Royle, File)

Mary Quant, the visionary fashion designer whose colorful, sexy miniskirts epitomized London in the 1960s and influenced youth culture around the world, has died. She was 93. Quant’s family said she died "peacefully at home" in Surrey, southern England, on Thursday. Quant helped popularize the miniskirt—some credit her with inventing it, reports the AP—and the innovative tights and accessories that were an integral part of the look. She also created dresses and other simple mix-and-match garments that had an element of whimsy. Some compared her impact on the fashion world with the Beatles’ impact on pop music.

"I think it was a happy confluence of events, which is really what fashion is so often all about," said Hamish Bowles, international editor at large for Vogue. "She was the right person with the right sensibility in the right place at the right time. She appeared on the scene at the exact cusp of the ’60s." Quant was also an astute businesswoman and one of the first to understand how branding herself as a creative force could help her sustain her business and branch out into new fields, like cosmetics, he said.

Quant introduced miniskirts with hemlines up to 8 inches above the knee to the London scene in 1966 and they were an instant hit with young people, in part because they shocked and offended their elders. While some insist she first developed the style, many also credit French designer Andre Courreges, whose 1964 spring collection included minidresses that were popular in Paris but did not have widespread impact outside France. Others cite the short skirts worn by actress Anne Francis in the 1956 film Forbidden Planet as the first example of the miniskirt. Whether or not she was the first to design them, it was Quant who figured out how to market miniskirts to the masses.

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Quant, who named the skirt after her favorite make of car, the Mini, recalled how it offered a "feeling of freedom and liberation." From her shop on King's Road in London's trendy Chelsea neighborhood, she was part of a clothing revolution. "It was the girls on King’s Road who invented the mini," she said. "I wore them very short and the customers would say, 'shorter, shorter.'" While Courreges came from an haute couture tradition and his expensive clothes were aimed at a limited audience, Quant used a variety of materials and colors to make miniskirts popular with young women on a limited budget. Quant was unusual in that she often modeled her own clothes, usually with her hair styled in a distinctive, angular bob by hairdresser Vidal Sassoon.

(More obituary stories.)

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