Mary Quant at the V&A – and how her designs might have been worn at the races

V&A opened the first international retrospective on iconic fashion designer Mary Quant. She revolutionised fashion by creating a modern look with mass production techniques making it more accessible for everyone.

Think Mary Quant and the mini skirt springs to mind. Paris couturier Andre Courreges may have achieved international publicity for higher hemlines in 1964, but it was Quant who became recognised as inventor and ambassador for the style.

Let’s see what the Quant girl would have worn to the races:

Royal Ascot

Abiding by Royal Enclosure dress codes with pale pink tulip shaped silk satin dress (1959–60). For Queen Anne’s Enclosure, the blue prom style dress and sparkly hat.

Glorious Goodwood

Perfect for ’70s boho halterneck maxi dresses in red or monochrome stripes and PVC handbag with daisy motif Quant registered as a trademark.

Follow the gents with linen. This linen mix dropped waist pinafore (1960) was typical of the style regularly worn and designed by Quant. Inspired by 1920s flapper and schoolgirl uniforms.

St Leger

Long sleeves but still summery for this Northern festival.

Miss Muffet dress in Liberty printed Varuna wool, one of Quant’s iconic designs and first to be adapted for her range of Butterick dressmaking patterns.

Smocked dress (1967) in Liberty printed cotton Tana lawn.

Quant established an informal partnership with Liberty’s of London from 1964 onwards, choosing prints intended for little girls. Her designs often incorporated details from traditional children’s clothing such as smocking and Peter Pan collars.

Ayr Gold Cup

Meringue dress AW1969 in clove and cream machine made synthetic fibre lace.

Alice dress (1971) in Liberty printed Varuna wool.

Both in the fashionable brown palette of the ’70s.

British Champions day

Mini skirt suit in William Morris Marigold furnishing fabric (1967) for the colder weather.

Autumn Races

The Wet Collection launched April 1963 featured relatively new material: PVC. Collaboration with Alligator Rainwear ensured the raincoats were completely waterproof. Ginger coloured PVC raincoat (a colour Quant adored) used a giant safety pin belt fastening way before the Punk era.

Team with striped top pinafore (1963) in black & ginger thick double jersey fabric. Quant’s designs were often based on practical schoolgirl pinafores, adapting the look for grown-ups with hemlines gradually rising well above the knee.

Swinging capes (1967) for Alligator Rainwear in the then season’s bold colours. Showerproof cotton canvas with slash pockets, central zip front, metals studs and Quant’s signature colour contrast top stitching at the hem.

PVC Handbags in black, white and red were manufactured by Bagcroft in 1966. Designs included chequers, spots and stripes as well as the daisy trademark design.

The yellow cape complements the green skater style jersey dress (1967) worn with wool felt beret manufactured by Kangol for Mary Quant. The Psychedelic Carrier bags were designed by Nigel Quinney and displayed in Quant’s Bazaar shop window.

The Jersey dress became Quant’s signature sporty mini dress worn with matching beret, tights and shoes for that total top to toe colour blocking. Previously used in underwear and for rugby or football gear, Quant discovered a wool jersey that is heat bonded to acetate backing and available in bright deep colours. Quant designed a range of styles including the Footer dress 1967.

Winter & Xmas Races

A statement coat is always a safe bet for the colder winter races.

Wool coat with cape (1967) featuring Quant’s signature circular zip pull tab. Team with a pair of wet look boots.

 Goatskin painted and dyed to imitate cheetah fur with leather covered buttons (1965). With animal prints this year’s trend, this coat stands the test of time. Wear with a long sleeved jersey dress. Mary wore this cream dress with circular zip pull and contrasting top stitching on 15th November 1966 to receive her OBE, plus a bonded wool jersey beret.

See the New Year in with the sparkly tartan dress (1967) in rayon and Lurex thread with Victorian inspired frills.

Cheltenham Festival

Tweed and tartan is the norm for this racing festival and the Quant girl had a lot to choose from.

Make a statement with the colourful tartan two piece in woven wool MacLeod (1960) and the monochrome coat dress in bold check wool tweed with silk frogging (1962).

Checks and Stripes dress (1963). Double woven wool using one side for the bodice and the reverse side for the skirt.

Bank of England dress (1962) is a striped cotton twill dress with enlarged collar and cuffs. Ironic name as in those days most women could not open a bank account without a male relative’s permission.

Grand National/Chester May Festival

Not worrying about the cold weather, the Quant girl would choose this cheeky mini culottes dress in printed flocked rayon and nylon.

The Guineas Festival

Layering is best for this festival.

Arundel coordinating separates (named inspired by Arundel Castle): wool mix jersey top and skirt with rayon shirt.

Snob pinafore dress in ginger, worsted wool worn with Marshmallow blouse.

Derby Festival

Daddy’s girl dress (1964) in white with wide neck and wrist ruffles. Typical of Quant’s dresses of that year – overtly feminine, often using lightweight fabrics. Worn here with straw hat.

Go exotic in Yum Yum (1975) a Japanese inspired Kimono style in Liberty Lantana printed cotton with quilting.

Or more tailored in stripes with the structured sailor style dress in printed cotton (1972) and the Georgie cotton wrap dress.  

The exhibition runs at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London until 16th February 2020 and is sponsored by King’s Road with support from GRoW @ Annenberg.

Tickets are £12.

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