Thursday, September 18, 2008

How Quant

Those of you who remember Twiggy will remember Mary Quant and Carnaby Street and this dress.


"Mondrian" day dress, autumn 1965
Yves Saint Laurent (French, born Algeria, 1936)
Wool jersey in color blocks of white, red, blue, black, and yellow


As the sack dress evolved in the 1960s into the modified form of the shift, Saint Laurent realized that the planarity of the dress was an ideal field for color blocks. Knowing the flat planes of the 1960s canvases achieved by contemporary artists in the lineage of Mondrian, Saint Laurent made the historical case for the artistic sensibility of his time. Yet he also demonstrated a feat of dressmaking, setting in each block of jersey, piecing in order to create the semblance of the Mondrian order and to accommodate the body imperceptibly by hiding all the shaping in the grid of seams.

Another designer, Mary Quant, took the credit for inventing the mini skirt and hot pants. Supposedly she named the short skirt length after her favorite car, the Mini.

Skirts had been getting shorter since about 1958 – a development Quant considered to be practical and liberating, allowing women the ability to run for a bus. The miniskirt, for which she is arguably most famous, became one of the defining fashions of the 1960s. The miniskirt was developed separately by André Courrèges, and there is disagreement as to who came up with the idea first. Mary Quant named the miniskirt after her favorite make of car, the Mini, she loved this car so much, she had one designed especially for her.

In addition to the miniskirt, Mary Quant is often credited with inventing the colored and patterned tights that tended to accompany the garment, although these are also attributed to Cristobal Balenciaga.

Quant started out as a boutique owner in 1955 on King's Row in London. For the opening of her store, Bazaar, she designed a pair of "mad house pyjamas" which were quickly grabbed by Harper's Bazaar for an editorial and then copied by an American manufacturer. This event convinced her that she should stock her shop with clothes made by herself. Although she had an art school background, she had no formal training in the fashion business. She experimented by mixing spots and checks, with balloon style dresses and with knicker bockers.

Her designs were simple and she wanted them to be accessible for the mass market.

Remember this big zipper? I had a couple of things that featured this oversized zipper.

Doesn't this dress make you think Mary Tyler Moore? It does me.

As her popularity grew as a designer, she created shiny plastic raincoats, pinafore dresses and patterned tights. She expanded into the wholesale market and began exporting to the USA. Her last fashion invention of the 60s were hot pants. She said in 1967, "Good taste is death. Vulgarity is life."

With all of this nostalgic looking back that I've been doing I've caught myself repeatedly humming "Mrs Brown, you've got a lovely daughter...." Thanks Herman and Mary for the memories!

20 comments:

  1. I just love the fashion history! :)

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  2. Ahhhhh! I used to have a Modrian dress just like that... a copy of course! I wore it to my uncle's wedding agggges ago!

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  3. I want one of those big zipper dresses! So easy to get in and out of without messing up your hair! And you could be dressed in 30 seconds! :)

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  4. Wow, a boy how exciting. When I fist read the caption I was like, that was a fast nine months. Then I read on...
    I was just a little to young to wear all those lovely fashions you have been showing. I can remember that when I was in the 4th grade it was a big deal becasue we were allowed to wear pants to school. Girls were allowed to wear them to catch the bus in cold weather but not all day in school. When I was in high school the normal dress for girls was jeans and cords not much more than that. The fashion you a writing about was gone and we basically dressed like the boys. How sad! I love the fashion in "Mad Men". I think you said you were watching that show on AMC. The hats, gloves and scarfs.
    Well I must get ready for an exciting Friday here in RI. It is a bit chilly this morning.

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  5. Alex, I do too!

    Marie Reed, I didn't have one but I've never forgotten the look. I bet you looked really mod. Did you have the white go-go boots? That would have completed the look. You should have borrowed Pat's boots, she had some.

    Betsy, I had a big zipper bathing suit...I never thought that was such a great idea. I lived in fear it would come unzipped when I dove into the water. hehe

    Denise, I am older than you...we were in high school when we were allowed to wear pant suits...never jeans.

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  6. What a great walk back to the 60's! Those were my favorite years for clothes! I was just out of high school, working And skinny - all at the same time and loved to shop!

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  7. Oh, the Mondrian dress is the perfect Mod Girl dress! Matches the Mondrian print that is hanging in our study.

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  8. These scarcely look dated, for the most part. Goes to show how 'classic' looks never go out of style. One could practically slip into any of these dresses today and be 'good to go'. Amazing.

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  9. This was so much fun to read! And, you're right, Herman is the perfect soundtrack. Or maybe, Georgy Girl!

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  10. Hi...I hope you're having a good weekend. :)

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  11. In looking at these pics again, I have to say that Mary Quant bears a striking resemblance to Liza Minellie. Funny how I didn't notice that before!

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  12. oh the memories this post brings back. i loved the mini skirt and wore them as short as i could get away with. thanks for the trip down memory lane!

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  13. Gosh, I miss the 60's and 70's! Especially the fashions and music. It was fun to 'walk' down memory lane again.
    Your blog is so well done and wonderful! I need to work on mine. I must have too many irons in the fire these days. :o)
    Sparky ♥ ∞ (Patterson, Georgia)

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  14. Fun post! Do you remember the "Tent Dress" ? I was a skinny young thing wearing it in the late 60's early 70's. Who knew I'd NEED the real thing one day to hide all the bulges ripples and bumps? :-)~

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  15. Hi Sparky!

    Yes Pat, I need a tent dress myself. That is one style that I need to come back...or maybe the mu-mu.

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