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Mary Quant

After studying Illustration at Goldsmith’s College and then working for a milliner, Mary Quant opened Bazaar in 1955 on the King’s Road, one of the first London boutiques. It became the social centre for the so-called Chelsea Set, a bohemian crowd of trend-setters, writers and artists who became the staple of the gossip columns.

Mary Quant
Mary Quant in 1965
A café style society blossomed amongst the King’s Road bistros and artists’ pubs linking up with the Angry Young Men at the Royal Court Theatre in nearby Sloane Square. Quant's window displays were an event in themselves.

She rejected the concept of haute couture, producing as many as 28 collections during her early years, rather than working seasonally. Her designs were simple, practical and had a mix-and-match element which could be combined to create the “Chelsea Look”.

The clothes were classless, androgynous and bold and, most importantly, within the price range of young people. In addition to the miniskirt she popularised white detachable collars for dresses, knee-high boots, patent plastic, kohl eyeliner, the Sassoon bob, skinny-rib sweaters and pinafore dresses.

1963 Dress of the Year
Bath Museum of Costume's 1963 dress of the year - a Mary Quant grey wool dress and chiffon blouse
©Museum of Costume, Bath & North East Somerset Council
In 1963 she was presented with the Sunday Times International Award for “Jolting England out of its Conventional Attitude towards clothes". In 1966 whe was awarded an OBE for her contribution to the fashion industry – apparently Quant showed up at the Palace in a mini and cutaway gloves!

The Museum of Costume in Bath features a Mary Quant grey wool dress and cream chiffon blouse to represent 1963. Being the year the museum started, it is the very first "Dress of the Year" and was chosen by members of the Fashion Writers' Association.

Now in her 70s, Quant has shops in Paris, New York, Tokyo and Londons' Knightsbridge selling make-up, clothes and accessories. See www.maryquant.co.uk