One thing I miss is taking the train and tube to South Kensington, London and having a whimsical walk along quiet side roads to my favourite place to escape to – the V&A museum, described as the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance.
I have visited numerous curated exhibitions here over the years, tempted away from these exhibitions only by the alluring pergola-inspired garden café where I have sat unwinding with a coffee on a sunny afternoon. This fashion exhibition grabbed my attention with a bright and bold style statement.
Mary Quant quote: ‘I saw no reason why childhood shouldn’t last forever. So I created clothes that worked and moved and allowed people to run, to jump, to leap, to retain their precious freedom.’
Mary Quant Exhibition in London
Earlier this year, I managed to get tickets in the last week of February for the Mary Quant Exhibition. A lavish collection of vibrant clothing from the iconic and groundbreaking fashion designer, showcasing her designs, known and unknown. A retrospective look at the fashion revolution of the swinging sixties and the British high street.
Upon entering, you can’t help but smile. The positivity and array of rainbow colours that greets your eyes is simply breathtaking. The instantly recognisable daisy logo. The display that stands out to me, ironically – is the plain white minidress with accompanying white beret signposted with the caption ‘Quant meets the Queen’. Simple yet, stunningly poignant.
Mary Quant’s style was all about minimal style in the sixties with hot pants, skinny ribbed sweaters, mini jersey dresses with varying permutations on collars and cuffs, onesies, raincoats and matching tights and accessories flooding catwalks and ultimately filling wardrobes around the world in colourful abundance. The most striking display is the walking models modelling brightly coloured Alligator raincoats and holding career bags. This represents more than fashion. It is a bold statement. It shows a change in women’s attitudes, a feeling of empowerment and being able to stand out and be counted in the workplace.
The only thing lacking is trouser displays in the exhibition. Although women mainly wore them in private or non formal occasions at this time Quant’s collections were featuring knickerbockers (baggy trousers), dungarees and pyjamas in her early/mid sixties collections. (I have to admit I loved dungarees as a kid, still do now and one of my favourite memories is my mum telling me to stop being a messy dresser for wearing just one strap).
A further style evolution is tastefully illustrated in the display ‘Switching to the swinging seventies’, a time of economic unrest. Retaining her characteristic sense of loving life, garments are now more eclectic, with more patterned styles emerging, consequently spilling over into more interesting prints for home décor. Still a lucrative market and even more so whilst we are still following Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and spending all our time at home. A beautifully designed cushion or duvet cover has never been so appreciated!
Mary Quant’s positivity for a brighter future
A truly inspiring exhibition, Quant’s innovative designs and colourful outlook is a great reminder that even in a tough economic climate, where we are all struggling financially and emotionally -there is light at the end of the tunnel, we have to remain optimistic in our thinking that the future will be brighter in the coming months.
For all future exhibitions at the V&A visit www.vam.ac.uk
© May 2020
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