Mary Quant exhibition

Mum and I got back from a road trip last week to see the V&A’s Mary Quant exhibition in Bendigo, Victoria.

We drove from Adelaide, 8 hours away. Mum did the driving and I navigated with an old-school paper map on my lap. When we got really lost we used the car’s sat nav!

Mum and Liz

We are really fortunate to have exhibitions like this in Australia. It was great to see it with Mum who was a young woman during the 1960s, and she filled me in on what things were like as we walked through. She said fashions took a while to filter through to regional Australia.

There was lots to see. Due to social distancing protocols, the exhibition was very spaced out and often you could walk around to see the backs of things.

Here are some highlights:

Oldest Mary Quant outfit known
This top from 1957 is the oldest Mary Quant garment in the exhibition. The top’s fabric is Australian; it’s a remnant of Frances Burke furnishing fabric called Goanna.
Mary Quant meets William Morris
Mary Quant meets William Morris 🙂
Quant threee dresses
One of the enjoyable things about the exhibition was that, alongside the archival collection, there were Quant clothes worn by women who’d kept them and lent them to be exhibited. The dress on the left is in the photo below.
Vivien Wearing in Quant
Georgie dress
All of these garments belonged to women who lent them for the exhibition.
The dress on the left is called Georgie. You can make one yourself from this free sewing pattern.
The outfit in the middle isn’t by Mary Quant; it’s a Thai outfit sold by her in the early days of her boutique.
Mary Quant PVC rain capes
PVC was a new material in the fashion world, and Quant’s “Wet Collection” was shown in 1963. The clothes had a futuristic, space-age look. However, it was such a new material for clothes and the technical difficulties weren’t sorted until 2 years later in a collaboration with British manufacturer Alligator Rainwear.

There were little side rooms off the main exhibition, showing Mary Quant makeup, hosiery, undies, sewing & knitting patterns, fashion dolls and accessories:

Mary Quant homesewn dress
Mary Quant’s clothes weren’t always affordable. Some cost a week’s wages for a shop assistant and some much more.
Luckily, if one could sew, one could make a Quant outfit using a Butterick pattern.
Sheila Hope made this dress from Liberty wool for her 21st birthday.
Miss Muffet was one one of Quant’s most iconic designs and the first to be adapted for a sewing pattern.
Quant underwear
In the 1960s women still wore stockings and suspenders, but panty hose were on the horizon. Mum said she resisted panty hose for a long time because she thought they were wasteful – if you got a hole in one leg then the whole thing was no good.
Mary Quant’s cosmetics line was as full of new ideas as her fashion. This was the point of sales leaflet, designed like a comic strip.
Quant wanted to streamline cosmetics and her packaging concept was a make-up box where everything for eyes, lips and face was in one box. Mum actually owned a Mary Quant make up box; she still has the mascara brush from it (it looks like a tiny black toothbrush).

Another highlight of the exhibition was the outfits worn by other visitors – some were rather fab and it was worth the ticket price for that alone!

It was a really interesting and worthwhile exhibition and it would be fun to see again.

Here’s an overview of the exhibition from Bendigo Art Gallery curator Emma Busowsky Cox:


Mum and I had two days in Bendigo, and went to see other things too.

Quant cutouts
The visitors information centre also had life-sized Mary Quant cutouts to be photographed with!
We went on the Talking Tram, a tourist tram that runs through Bendigo with a commentary on the sights. You could hop-on and hop-off to visit attractions. It was the only time we had to wear masks.

Bendigo city is a former gold-rush town with rich architecture and gardens. We went for walks before breakfast and stopped to look at all sorts of houses, shops and churches.

Actually, as soon as we crossed the border into Victoria we could see the change in architecture styles. Wonderful lace-encrusted two-story pubs, wooden houses, large round feature windows, quirky accents, and all those delightful wood and cast iron trims…

Home again was another day in the car. I used the time (in between map reading) to mend all 9 pairs of socks for my Me-Made-May challenge. Job done! There was another 3 hours travelling to get back to my house the next day.

Cheers!

PS Kay, here’s the shoes:

6 Comments

  1. Kay Trevan on May 25, 2021 at 8:13 am

    Hi Liz what a lovely post. I would love to see it. Did you see any shoes?
    I loved the square toes. I had a pair of white plastic short boots.
    What a great trip with your mum.
    Love Kay

    • lizhaywood on May 25, 2021 at 9:06 am

      Yes, they did have shoes – just the kind you describe, with square toes, short and plastic. I’ve added a photo at the end of the post for you 🙂

  2. Carmen Grantham on May 25, 2021 at 10:25 am

    That is a long car trip Liz, I have stayed in Bendigo a few times as it’s about halfway between Adelaide and Canberra.

    The BBC’s Secrets of the Museum series had an episode on the Mary Quant exhibition that looked at the work behind the scenes which was fascinating. Available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYkrh-qAznI.

    • lizhaywood on May 25, 2021 at 6:21 pm

      Thanks for that link Carmen. I’ve just started watching it and it does look fascinating.

  3. Lenore on June 1, 2021 at 7:34 am

    Seeing the packaging of the Mary Quant stockings brought memories back when I was a youngster. How time flies. ❤️

    • lizhaywood on June 1, 2021 at 9:51 am

      Hi Lenore, you’re not alone – going by the snippets of conversation overheard at the exhibition, there was a lot of walking down memory lane!

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