Mary Quant: The British Fashion Icon Who Revolutionised Women's Style

Mary Quant, the British fashion icon who challenged conventions and revolutionised women’s style, has left an indelible mark on the fashion world. In commemoration of her bold and bright designs, her role in women’s liberation, and her aim to make fashion accessible to all, we look back at her incredible life and work.

Bazaar, the first shop opened by Mary Quant in Kings Road, Chelsea, 1955


Born in South London in 1934, Mary Quant grew up in the heart of the wartime era. Despite this, she pursued her career as a fashion illustrator, working for various designers and publications before opening her own boutique, Bazaar, in 1955. The boutique was defined by the sophisticated yet playful fashion of 60s Mod aesthetic. Some of Quant’s signature designs included short tunic dresses, white plastic collars for jumpers and dresses, and plastic calf-length boots. Bazaar quickly became a popular destination for young women seeking fun, affordable fashion that was different from what was available in mainstream stores. 

Mary (top) with Alexander and models, 1966. Image: National Portrait Gallery London

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Before Mary Quant, women's fashion was largely dictated by traditional gender norms and societal expectations. In the 1950s, Britain was still experiencing post-war austerity, and young women dressed just as their mothers did in conservative tailored suits. Fashion was seen as something reserved for the wealthy and elite, and the idea of fun, playful designs for everyday wear was unheard of.

 Magazine cut out, c. late 1960s

Shop 1960s Women's Vintage Clothing Collection

Quant's designs challenged these conventions and provided a new vision for women's style. Her designs made use of bold colours and patterns, as well as new materials like PVC and plastic - a complete departure from the traditional and inoffensive pastels and florals of the time. A key design move for Quant was the above-the-knee skirt which allowed women to move and dance more freely than in the long hemlines of their mothers.

Mary Quant, photographer: Bettmann, getty images

Shop Womens Vintage Skirts

Shop Womens Vintage Dresses

Her playful and irreverent approach to fashion strongly resonated with young women who were looking for something different and exciting. Quant recalls the women who came into the Chelsea boutique were the ones who invented the 60s mini dress and skirt, her most notable garment: “I was making easy, youthful, simple clothes, in which you could move, 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.’” Quant then coined the "mini skirt" after her favourite British car. Her response to the growing desire of women to break down traditional gender norms helped her designs quickly become a symbol of the changing political and social landscape for women.

Quant feature, Honey Magazine, 1967

Quant's impact on British fashion and culture cannot be overstated. Her legacy continues to inspire new generations of fashion designers and vintage fashion enthusiasts today. Her work has come to be the most notable vintage clothing look from the Swinging Sixties. Not to mention, the mini-skirt still heavily features in women’s wardrobes today.

Mary Quant was a true pioneer in the fashion industry, introducing new trends and styles that would change the way people dressed forever. Her impact on British fashion and women's liberation is still felt today, and her legacy continues to inspire generations of designers and fashion enthusiasts around the world.

From the mini-skirt to women's lib, Mary Quant's contributions to fashion and society will never be forgotten.

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