A piece of fabric that lays on average only 4 inches below the bum might not seem like a big deal to some, but for others it is revolutionary. We can tip our hats to Mary Quant, London designer and British fashion icon for this insurgent piece she lovingly coined after her favorite car brand, the “mini”.
In her early days, Mary Quant acquired a diploma in art education from Goldsmiths College of Art in London, where she met her future husband and business partner, Alexander Plunkett-Greene. After receiving her diploma, Quant went on to design hats for the Danish milliner Erik for two years until she partnered with her husband and former solicitor Archie McNair, to open a boutique on the King’s Road in London in 1957, called “Bazaar”. The opening of Bazaar introduced the "mod" era and the "Chelsea look”. Bazaar was an immediate success and within seven short years, the company had expanded throughout Europe and the United States, mass-producing designs and bringing in millions of dollars annually.
While André Courrèges and John Bates are credited for the revolution of the rising hemline, Quant is the one known as the, “Mother” of the mini because of her mass success of making it a staple piece in every young, rebellious teenage girls closet in the 60’s.
What made Quant a staple in history rather than a temporary trend was a distinct advantage she had over her fellow designers, and that was she was a contemporary of her clients. Quant knew the wants and needs of the youth, because she was one of them.
Quant secured her reputation through her affordable prices and original designs in her youth-oriented market.
An article from BBC states, “For Quant, it was the girls on the street who invented the miniskirt. Her customers, would demand that she go ever shorter with her creations. “It all started in Chelsea, really. There was this sort of mood; rules were there to be broken,” the designer told the Sunday Mirror. Before the 1960s young women had been expected to dress like their mothers, whereas this was about the young looking young.”
The mini skirt was more than just fabric, though. For many, it was a symbol of power, youth, and sexuality. As the skirt’s became shorter, so did women’s intolerance for the treatment they were receiving and the growing popularity of the miniskirt grew along with the increasing power of the women’s rights movement in the 1960s.
Before the mini skirt, teenagers and young women were expected to dress like their mothers: conservatively with lifeless colors. But the rise of the mini was an undeniable message that young women were their own person and they were ready to embrace their sexuality which had always been seen before as taboo for women.
While Mary Quant attributes the rise of the mini to the women who were brave enough to embrace the daring look, we have to give credit where credit is due. Mary Quant gave women the option of choosing to make a statement, and a fashionable, straightforward one at that.