Mary Quant – Defining an Era and Inspiring the Future of Fashion

Mary Quant has had a huge impact on the fashion industry. There is a very good chance that some clothes you wear today can be traced back to the foundations she laid. 

However, unless you are a fashion-geek, you may have never heard of her. You may ask who she is, or what did she create? Mary Quant is credited as one of the creators of both the miniskirt and the hotpants, both of which revolutionised fashion. 

Despite being an iconic fashion item today, hotpants have had a scandalous reputation. Quant is accidentally recognised as their creator, as her shorts in the 1960s were originally meant to be worn under minidresses. However, they had an amazing liberatory impact on fashion history. In response to the midiskirt, midiskirts came about. At the time, the short-shorts came as a direct backlash against the attempt at modesty. Women, men, and children all wore them until they became associated with the sex industry. They then took a backseat in fashion, unless worn as party-wear. Icons such as Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue brought them back during the turn of the millennium, for them to become a clubwear statement piece by the 2010s.

Since their creation, hotpants have been included in women’s uniforms, from cheerleading to air hostesses. In 1971, the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team introduced the Hot Pants Patrol, a group of female ushers wearing hotpants jumpsuits. This retired in 1982 due to pressure from feminist organisations. But I wonder if they would be seen as liberating today?

Even now, hotpants are included in uniforms for cheerleading groups and ‘breastaurants’ such as Hooters in the U.S.. There is a lot of discourse as to whether these uniform requirements are liberating or sexist, though I believe it is dependent on the person or reason for the person wearing them. They are also popular among gay men in pride parades, as a way to express their pride in their body and sexuality. Hotpants have a dual status. There is no denying that they are revolutionary. Another item associated with liberation is the miniskirt. In the 1960s, Quant wanted skirts to be easy to move in. Listening to her customers (often the youth), she responded to their requests to shorten hemlines. Whilst Quant is credited as the creator, she also credits the young women on the streets at the time. The miniskirt has an incredible history, being named after the Mini car – banned in European countries for inciting sexual misconduct – with women fighting to wear them to the workplace.

Miniskirts have dipped in and out of fashion, but they are still here today in some form. Typically, there are the skater-skirts, midi skirts, circle skirts, and tennis skirts popular today, but fashion is forever changing. Who is to say that Quant’s style won’t come back with a bang?

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Louise Collins

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May 2022
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