How Mary Quant led the youth power movement in dress in the 60s.

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Cultural and Contextual Studies (CCS) DE 1206A

Essay Question: 2. Discuss how Mary Quant led the youth power movement in dress in the 60s. Briefly analyse how the movement start, how does it influence fashion. Where is it particularly evident in the designersʼ collection? What design elements were used to bring the intended expression of the youth power? Cite no more than two collections from the respective designer as case studies.

Name: Teo Jia En Class: FH3E Student ID: 12565 Date of Submission: 1st November 2010 Lecturer: Lucinda Law


Mary Quant played a pivotal role in the youth power movement in dress in the 60ʼs. She led with a vision to dress the youths in a sexy and free way, birthed forth from awareness of the times and through her mini skirt design. She led through her shop ʻBazaarʼ which revolutionized shopping habits. Mass production and exporting her designs beyond the UK further solidified Quant as the visionary and active leader of the 60ʼs youth power movement in dress. Times featured an article about “Swinging London” in April 1966 stating, “London is the city of the decade… a decade dominated by youth, London has burst into bloom. It swings; it is the scene.” Indeed the 1960ʼs was characterized by the rise of youth power in Britain. Youths were eager to rebel, to defy the conventions of the times and they had the ability to do so. Post World War II teenagers had independence, employment and disposable income that was channeled into music and fashion (Christopher Breward, 1999). Mary Quant was quick to spot and understand these new trends. Quant (1967 cited in Alison Adburgham, 1967) observed, “Fashion reflects what people are reading and thinking and listening to… Thereʼs a new climate of living now, which was started by the young in the late 1950s.”


With this observation, Quant desired to empower youths to wear clothes to feel good and to feel sexy. (Ros Horton & Sally Simmons, 2006).

Historically, clothes for girls were always simpler, smaller, cheaper versions of what their mothers wore (Gerda Buxbaum, 1999). Figure 1: Simplicity Printed Pattern, 1949.

Figure 1 ( shows a youth pattern packaging printed in 1949. It illustrates how the youthsʼ fashion then strongly emulated their mothersʼ cinched waist, knee length dressing style. Quant (1967 cited in JoAnne Olian, 1967, pp.v) believed, “the young must look like the young... The old could, if they wished, look like the young, but the young must not on any account look like the old.”


Thus Quant led the 1960ʼs youth power movement in dress because she first identified the youth power of the times and desired to dress comfortably yet sexily, in a different way from their mothers.

Mary Quant led the 1960ʼs youth power movement in dress through her revolutionary mini skirt that embodied youth power. Figure 2: Mary Quant models in her mini skirt design, revealing long legs.

The revealing miniskirts - 6 to 7 inches above the knee – caught on with youths who were bold and eager to adopt new ideas and trends. The 1960s saw all young women in Britain receive full time secondary education, leading to a huge boost to the numbers of women attending universities and thereafter, the workplace. As women became more assertive role in society, they also wanted to regain control over their own bodies. (Icons of England, 2006) New contraceptive measures also promoted this right. Quant (1967 cited in Adburgham, 1967) states,


“Now that there is the pill, women are the sex in charge. They, and they only, can decide to conceive." Hence the miniskirt can be seen as a celebration of the female form, asserting the right to be proud of their figure and their right to display it. Additionally, Quantʼs designs were popular with youths because they also embodied female liberation – active young women could now move easily rather than being restricted by long skirts and underskirts (Horton & Simmons, 2006).

Mary Quant led the youth movement in dress in the 1960ʼs with a new dressing concept and use of new materials which greatly suited and appealed to the youths. Quantʼs simple and practical designs had a mix-and-match element, which could be combined to create what was termed, the “Chelsea Look”. The clothes were classless, androgynous and bold and, most importantly, within the price range of young people (Icons of England, 2006). In addition to the miniskirt, Quant also popularized knee-high boots, patent plastic, the Sassoon bob and devised satchels with long straps, instead of relying on the customary ladylike handbags (Buxbaum, 1999). As hemlines rose, pantyhose were introduced to overwhelming acceptance. Based on the ideas of Mary Quant, tights and pantyhose where soon available in red, orange, yellow and even greens, blues as well as patterns (Samantha Bleikorn, 2002).


Figure 3: Mary Quantʼs raincoat made in PVC, 1963.

Figure 3 (Victoria & Albert Museum) shows Mary Quantʼs raincoat made in PVC, taken from the famous 'Wet Collection'. It had taken two years of manufacturing trials to bond the seams of PVC garments successfully. (Victoria & Albert Museum) Brigid Keenan (cited in Breward, 2004, pp.10) of the Daily Express recalled that “Suddenly someone had invented a style of dressing which we realised we had been wanting for ages. Comfortable, simple, no waists, good colours and simple fabrics. It gave anyone wearing them a sense of identity with youth and adventure and brightness. No wonder the young journalists raved.”

Keenanʼs comment bears testament that Quantʼs vibrant designs were a huge success with the youths who were eager to adopt the latest trends, affirming Mary Quantʼs lead in the youth power in dress in the 1960s.


Mary Quantʼs shop ʻBazaarʼ made a huge contribution in her lead in the youth power movement in dress in the 60ʼs. Figure 4 & 5: Mary Quantʼs Bazaar shop front vs. a 1950ʼs department store.

Mary Quant was closely involved with the sixties revolution in shopping habits. Prior to the 1950ʼs, stores were seen as outdated, too large and institutionalized to respond to the changing nature of fashions and consumers (David Gilbert, 2006). ʻBazaarʼ not only offered fashionable clothes and accessories at affordable prices but also a variety of novel and experimental clothing combination that appealed greatly to the youths (Horton & Simmons, 2006). Bazaarʼs success was partly achieved through window displays that prioritized visual impact over the necessity to make sales. Quant also hired beautiful girls to act as sandwich men. These girls, elegantly dressed and looking tremendously chic were a sensation and the 1960ʼs generation of youths was clearly thrilled by such innovations. (Breward, 2004)

In addition, by 1966 Mary Quant introduced a range of affordable cosmetics bearing her trademark daisy logo (Horton & Simmons, 2006). Many of these lines were as revolutionary as the clothes. Mary Quant, for example,


introduced a “kinkier” range of colors than had ever been seen. One of her ideas was nail polish that matched the clothes rather than the lipstick, with the heavy eye makeup (Bleikorn, 2002). She attracted users by encouraging them to apply the make up to achieve top model Twiggyʼs look, which was all the rage at that time.

Mary Quantʼs lead in the youth power movement in dress in the 60ʼs is lastly solidified by mass production and exporting the designs beyond the UK. As Mary Quantʼs designs were so popular, mass production was a natural step forward and in 1963, she began to export her designs to the US (Horton & Simmons, 2006). According to Life in 1962, Mary Quant was “making a coast to coast invasion of America. A hundred J.C. Penney stores in 44 towns and cities are putting a special group of Mary Quant clothes on sale. The sprightly but not outlandish, high-styled but astonishingly low-priced ($4 to $30) collection appeal greatly to the Americans.” The fact that Mary Quantʼs designs were well received beyond the United Kingdom shows the far-reaching effect of her impact and lead in the youth power movement in dress in the 1960s.

Mary Quant may not have been the designer who started the youth power movement in dress in the 1960ʼs but it is undeniable that she was a key


figure in leading the movement. She got the mini skirt out among trendy young girls about town and it soon became copied and made popular everywhere (Pauline Weston Thomas, 2001). As Ernestine Carter (cited in Yvonne Connikie, in 2007) wrote: “It is given to a fortunate few to be born at the right time, in the right place, with the right talents…there are three: Chanel, Dior and Mary Quant.” More than just being the right person at the right place and time, Mary Quantʼs global appeal lies in her design rationale that women should “wear clothes to feel good and to feel sexy… and to feel sexy is to know that youʼre alive” (Horton & Simmons, 2006). Word Count: 1021 (Without citation)


Book References Bleikorn, S., 2002. The Mini Mod Sixties Book‬. Last Gasp of San Francisco. Breward, C., 1999. Swinging London. In: Buxbaum, G., ed. 1999. Icons of Fashion. Prestal Verlag. Pp. 81. Buxbaum, G., 1999. Icons of Fashion. Prestal Verlag. Connikie, Y. 2007. Fashions of a Decade: The 1960sʼ. Infobase Publishing. Horton, R. and Simmons, S., 2006. Women Who Changed the World. UK: Quercus. Olian, J., 1999. Everyday Fashions of the Sixties: as pictured in Sears Catalogs. Sears, Roebuck and Company. Online Journal References Adburgham, A., 1967. Mary Quant talks to Alison Adburgham. The Guardian, [Online]. 10 October 1967. Available at:,6051,106475,00.html [Accessed 29 October 2010] Breward, C., 2004. Clothing Desire: The Problem of the British Fashion Consumer c.1955-1975. Cultures of Consumption, [Online]. 19 March 2004 Available at: [Accessed 29 October 2010]


Gilbert, D., 2006. ʻThe Youngest Legend in Historyʼ: Cultures of Consumption and the Mythologies of Swinging London. The London Journal, [Online]. June 2006, 31(1), Available at: art000011969/Story/0,6051,106475,00.html [Accessed 29 October 2010]

Life Editors, 1962. Fashion: Bargains from Britain. Life, [Online]. Oct 1962, 53 (15), pp. 123-124, 127. Available at: ok_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CE8Q6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=mary %20quant&f=false1969/Story/0,6051,106475,00.html [Accessed 29 October 2010] Times Editor, 1966. Great Britain: You Can Walk Across It On the Grass. Times, [Online]. 15 April 1966. Available at:,9171,835349,00.html#ixzz13pO2 tsb1 [Accessed 29 October 2010]


Website References Icons of England, 2006. The Miniskirt and Womenʼs Lib. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 14 October 2010] Icons of England, 2006. Mary Quant In Progress. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 14 October 2010] Thomas, P.W., 2001. Fashion-Era: The 60s Mini Skirt 
1960s Fashion History [Online] Available at: [Accessed 29 October 2010]

Victoria and Albert Museum. Mary Quant: A New Approach Chelsea. 19551967 [Online] Available at: [Accessed 14 October 2010]


Image References Figure 1: Old Patterns: Simplicity Pattern Co. [Online] (Updated 1 July 2010) Available at: [Accessed 14 October 2010] Figure 2: Icons of England, 2006. Mary Quant [Online] Available at: [Accessed 14 October 2010] Figure 3: Victoria and Albert Museum. Mary Quant: A New Approach Chelsea. 1955-1967 [Online] Available at: [Accessed 14 October 2010] Figure 4: Victoria and Albert Museum. Mary Quant: A New Approach Chelsea. 1955-1967 [Online] Available at: x.html [Accessed 14 October 2010] Figure 5: Lewis's: the shop that time forgot. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 29 October 2010]


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