This will be the first international exhibition of Mary Quant’s work in nearly 50 years.
The queen of the mini skirt, credited with revolutionising clothing for young women in the 50s, 60s and 70s, will be celebrated in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s retrospective in April 2019.
The exhibition will showcase more than 200 objects from Mary Quant’s fashion archive, many of which have never before been seen by the public.
Mary Quant is one of the most influential fashion designers ever to come from Britain, and for a number of years in the late 50s and early 60s, was one of only two designers consistently catering to a younger generation.
As hemlines rose throughout the ‘Swinging Sixties’ and society underwent a cultural shift in attitudes around things like sex, Quant was one of the first designers to offer a thigh-high skirt.
Women embraced in the mini in their droves, feeling sexy, fun, liberated and better able to run for a bus.
Quant famously said: ‘It was the girls on the King’s Road who invented the mini. I was making easy, youthful, simple clothes, in which you could move, in which you could run and jump and we would make them the length the customer wanted. I wore them very short and the customers would say, “Shorter, shorter”.’
Of the wearer of the mini skirt, which Quant named after her favourite model of car, she said: ‘They are curiously feminine, but their femininity lies in their attitude rather than in their appearance … She enjoys being noticed, but wittily. She is lively – positive – opinionated.’
The defiant 60s hemlines were a symbol of young women shrugging off the more traditional and repressive gendered expectations of previous generations, and embracing a new world where they had more impetus to take control of their bodies and their futures.
Also known for her iconic A-line dresses with Peter Pan collars, coupled with vibrant coloured tights and knee-high boots, Quant’s designs are synonymous with the reign of models like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton.
Not content to popularise the mini skirt, Quant went on to invent hot pants, diversify into cosmetics and homeware, and design the interior of the Mini Designer. Amazingly, Quant had no formal training.
For outstanding services to the British fashion industry, Quant was awarded an OBE in 1966 and a DBE in 2015.
The V&A exhibition curator Jenny Lister has called on the public to help fill the collection with any items or anecdotes about meeting Quant they might have.
‘To help us tell these incredible stories, we are asking people to check attics, cupboards, as well as family photo albums, for the chance to feature in our exhibition.’
Dame Mary Quant says: ‘The V&A is such a precious and iconic organisation for which I have the utmost admiration and respect, and it is a huge honour to be recognised by them.’