In the 1960s, Great Britain was the centre of a cultural revolution. It was dubbed the Swinging Sixties. This movement, led by young people, broke with the rigour and conformity of the previous decade. It promoted all that was modern and carefree. New forms of art blossomed and pop music exploded, launching the careers of bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Fashion was also central to this revolution. In the 1950s there were no clothes designed for young people, leaving them with no choice but to dress like adults. But, in the 1960s, shops and boutiques that offered clothing specially made for youngsters started appearing. One of these was Mary Quant’s boutique, Bazaar.
Quant liked to experiment and challenge the rigid prevailing fashion standards. She used unusual materials, colours, patterns and designs. Her outfits were practical, comfortable and exuberant. Above all, she became famous for popularizing the miniskirt. She never claimed to have invented it; “It was the girls in the street who did it,” she said. Nonetheless, it was her miniskirts and minidresses that became famous in the UK and around the world.
Quant wanted her miniskirt to be functional rather than sexy. She wanted it to liberate women from the long skirts and strict women’s wear of the 1950s. She aimed for “freedom and liberation.” Skirts had to allow women to do all kinds of activities. “I liked my skirts short because I wanted to run and catch the bus to get to work,” she joked.
This is why today Mary Quaint is remembered not only as a fashion pioneer, but also as a feminist icon. She was a protagonist of the Swinging Sixties, and her miniskirts championed the sexual emancipation of those years.
Pair up with one of your classmates and look at two propositions below; one of you will argue in favour of the first and one of you in favour of the second.
Proposition 1: Fashion is frivolous and superficial, and it leads to over-consumption and the creation of waste.
Proposition 2: Fashion is part of politics and culture, and it promotes creativity and self-expression.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)