Quant, Mary: Living in the ’70s

Hey there, Georgy girl,

Why do all the boys just pass you by?

Could it be you just don’t try

Or is it the clothes you wear?

You’re always window shopping but never stopping to buy

So, shed those dowdy feathers and fly

A little bit

Georgy Girl- The Seekers-1966

Mary Quant is now 92 years old but in the 1960s she was one of the designers who took credit for the miniskirt and hotpants. Quant has been quoted as saying, ‘It was the girls on the Kings Road who invented the mini.  I was making easy, youthful simple clothes, in which you could move, in which you could run and jump and we would make them the length the customer wanted.  I wore them very short and the customers would say “shorter, shorter”.’

Leo told Joanne of his arrival in England in 1967.  He met up with the girls from the ship at Earls Court a few days after arrival and noticed they were all wearing mini-skirts.  Apparently they had spent their first day in England taking up their hems.

Joanne in 1972

It wasn’t long after this that Joanne looked through her wardrobe of homemade dresses and decided which ones could be shortened. When she finally began earning a wage in 1971 she spent quite a bit of it on clothes.  Her most daring purchase was a black velvet pair of hotpants with a bib and brace, worn with a long-sleeved white shirt, black tights and knee high boots.

Joanne’s mini dress 1972

Teaching with a mini skirt required very careful bending to retrieve items off the floor.  It must have been about 1973 that Joanne started wearing midi skirts.  These were long, well below the knee, but had a split up one side or the front to allow for easy movement.

Joanne loved long dresses for evening wear.  Dinner dances were very popular so she had quite a few in her wardrobe.  Her favourite was a long pink and white gingham dress she called  ‘Ryan’s Daughter’  after the film of the same name.

Denim on denim was popular, as was velvet and delicate floral patterns 1978

Leo was not to be outdone. His green velvet suit was almost as eye catching as his black jacket trimmed with tartan ribbon from the House of Merivale in Sydney.  When Joanne first met him he wore the teachers’ uniform of shorts (quite short), knee high socks, coloured short sleeved shirt and a tie.  

The Premier of South Australia, Don Dunstan, took the short shorts to extreme in this famous photo.

Flinders University Library Dunstan Collection

Joanne started wearing slacks to school, usually with a long jackets but later, more daringly, with a close-fitting top.  The bell bottoms became wider as the tops became smaller and tighter.

When Joanne’s mother remarried in 1978, skirts were just below the knee.  Joanne bought an outfit which brought cries of horror from her mother-in-law.  The material resembled a hessian bag, maybe a little smoother.  The skirt and waistcoat were beige in colour, worn with a loose cream shirt and a brown beret.  This is quite a contrast to fashion of the early 1970s.

8 thoughts on “Quant, Mary: Living in the ’70s

  1. I enjoyed the Mary Quant exhibition in Bendigo last year I think it was.
    When I went into year 11 we got a new senior uniform and I was lucky that my mother allowed me to buy a new skirt which I could have longer – all the second hand skirts were too short for the 1976 fashion 😉
    I can remember the teachers liked to wear woollen maki skirts in winter in the mid 70s – Canberra was not warm.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think your minis were shorter than mine 🙂 Loved the green and pink ones. Can’t say I loved the 1978 outfit though. Maxis must have come in about 1973 as I have photos wearing the first maxi I made. I had to laugh at the “gymnastics” that wearing minis would have caused for teachers. As for our 1960s high school uniform, not a chance they were anything other than knee length.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You were much more up to date and fashionable than I was. Seems to me my clothes consisted of jeans, t-shirts, dresses and skirts I made from the simplest patterns and what my sister and mother gave me. Some of those short dresses ended up as tops over longer skirts.

    Liked by 1 person

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