I’m incredibly excited to be co-curating an exhibition on the revolutionary fashion designer, Mary Quant, which opens at the V&A next April. My colleague Steph Wood and I have been delving into the V&A’s fashion collections and have been given unprecedented access to Quant’s personal archive for the show. The exhibition will span the years 1955 – 1975 to explore how Quant launched a fashion revolution on the British high street and around the world with her playful designs for a younger generation, from hot pants and miniskirts to vibrant tights and makeup.
From the 1955 opening of her shop Bazaar at 138A King’s Road, London, Quant liberated fashion, freeing women from rules and regulations, and from dressing like their mothers. She made the Chelsea look and the miniskirt an international style, and showed that fashion could express personality and attitude. Famed for its eccentric window displays and irreverent, ‘club-like’ atmosphere, Quant created a truly innovative retail experience with Bazaar, and in many ways invented high street fashion as we know it today.
Unbelievably, it’s almost 50 years since Mary Quant was last the sole focus of an exhibition, which took place at the London Museum (now the Museum of London) in 1973. Quant is a fashion icon and one of the UK’s most well-known designers, so it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to fully celebrate her contribution to global style.
To bring our exhibition further to life, we are launching a public call-out to help track down rare Mary Quant garments, and gather personal stories, recollections and photographs – and for this we need your help! Did you wear Mary Quant’s distinctive designs in the 1950s, 60s and 70s? Do you still have these remarkable garments or photographs of you wearing these? Or perhaps you know a friend or relative that did? If so, we want to add your voice and clothes to the exhibition to celebrate this important part of fashion history. Please get in touch with us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your stories. We’re particularly keen to uncover:
- Early dresses with Bazaar labels from the 1950s – these were made in limited runs and few survive in museum collections today.
- PVC garments from Quant’s 1963 ‘Wet’ collection. These are particularly rare as although the collection was a great success and secured the brand’s first Vogue cover, there were technical difficulties with sealing the seams as the material was still a work-in-progress.
- Dresses from 1964 and 1965 with Peter Pan collars. A signature style of Mary’s, they are simple, short, with design features influenced by traditional childrenswear.
- Dresses made at home using Mary Quant for Butterick paper patterns.
- Cardigans and sweaters knitted at home using the Quant-designed Courtelle patterns from the 1960s.
- Mary Quant swimming costumes and shoes.
For the chance to feature in the exhibition, garments need to be in good condition, and ideally, we need to know the name of the wearer, and where the garment was first bought.
We’d love to hear from you – even if it’s just to share a memory or photograph of your favourite Mary Quant design. Many women were married in Quant, so pictures of brides would be especially welcome too! We hope that through this public-call out we’ll discover some amazing garments and inspiring stories about what Mary Quant and her ground-breaking, playful fashion designs meant to you.
For more information on the exhibition, visit the V&A website, and join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #WeWantQuant.