We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Mary Quant’s and John Stephen’s Contribution to Mod Fashion Style in 1960

The whole doc is available only for registered users
  • Pages: 11
  • Word count: 2592
  • Category: Fashion

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now

The aim of this essay is to compare the influence of Mary Quant’s and John Stephen’s fashion achievements on mod movement in Britain in 1960. Although, they had performed within the similar fashion trend, during the same time period, designers proposed completely opposed concepts of new femininity and masculinity for modern youth. Mary Quant led the youth power movement in female clothing, by dressing young girls comfortably yet sexily, in a different way from their mothers. Oppositely, John Stephen has influenced men’s attitude to fashion through his presentation of a narcissistic and ambivalent look for modern man. Both designers achieved a great success within their carrier and made a significant breakthrough in British fashion of the time.

The 1960s were characterized by the rise of youth power in Britain. It has happened due to several reasons. Firstly, Post World War ll teenagers were eager to rebel, to define conventions of the time and they had an ability to do so. Most of them were employed and had a disposable income, that gave them independence and freedom to act the way they wanted. Also, with the spread of mass communications and entertainment sources, youngsters became easily informed about latest inventions in fashion and music. That allowed them to declare which of these trends had more value to them and by adopting new influences they began to form their own style. The one of the most conspicuous example of the time was the development of mods subculture. David Grosshans, (2009) describes this movement as «streamlined, narcissistic, and androgynous». Indeed, appearance and clothing style was the representative feature of mods culture. Young people wanted to embrace the bright, fresh, «…youth-centric look» to counter «… the boring styles worn by their parents». (Breward,C. 1999., Pp.81).

Mod clothing was characterized by bright colors, geometric and color block prints, which were mainly taken from Italian Pop-Art Movement. As the mod style grew in popularity, many other groups picked it up. So, the rapid rise in demand of clothes consumption among youngsters and their ability to consume turned the original countercultural movement into commercial fashionable trend. Fashion designers of the time captured the youth needs for style change and quickly responded with revolutionary solutions. Mary Quant and John Stephens were the most famous people for defining the style and having a significant impact on British fashion in1960s. Considering the fact, they had performed within the similar fashion trend during the same period of time; their work had a lot of resembling and distinctive features. The purpose of this essay is to compare the contribution of these two British designers and identify the distinctions and similarities within their influence on mod fashion style in 1960.

Mary Quant and creation of «Chelsea Look»
Mary Quant is commonly known for introducing more relaxed and provocative look for young “fashionistas” of the time. «With the observation, Quant desired to empower youths to wear clothes to feel good and to feel sexy.” (Horton R., Simmons S., 2006). Without having any formal training in the fashion industry, she started create clothes that she would want to have purchased herself.” As a designer, she disclaimed snobbish and luscious look imposed by high fashion trends. Sleek design and alluring style became distinctive features of Mary Quant line. As cited in The Guardian, Oct,10, 1967, Quant stated herself – «Good taste is death, vulgarity is life». Taking into account, the youth’s need for changes and spread of mod movement in Britain, Quant was the right person on the right time with her provocative designs. Indisputably, she achieved a fashion breakthrough with the invention of her fancy hot pants, popularizing mini-skirts and the usage of PVC textile. These fashion novelties brought a radical change into youths clothing style. They completely deposed the girls dressing style of the past and offered the new dressing concept, which was called «Chelsea Look». According to Gerda Buxbaum (1999), historically, «the youth clothes for girls were always simpler, smaller, cheaper versions of what their mothers wore».

Figure 1: Simplicity Patterns for Girls-1950s

Figure 2: Simplicity Patterns for Women- 1950s

Figure 1 and Figure 2 illustrates the youth and adult dress patterns in 1950s. As it follows, youth fashion strongly imitated their mothers’ way of dress – clinched waist, gored skirt and knee-length dressing style. Overall, fashion trends did not vary significantly within different age groups. Oppositely, Mary Quant created the gap between youth and adult fashion with creation of her «Chelsea Look». She strongly believed that «young must look like the young» (as cited in J.Olian, 1967). Therefore, she led the youth movement in dress through introduction of «new femininity», which was completely differnet from their mothers’.

Her garments were designed in order to emphasize the sexual allure of contemproary girl. This fact is mainly connected with the sexual revolution, which took place in 1960. As women started to play more assertive role in society, they also wanted to» regain control over their own bodies. With invention of new contraceptive measures, women became «the sex in charge» (M. Quant, as cited in The Guardian, Oct,10, 1967). Sexual liberation allowed young ladies to wear more provocative and sexier clothes, which revealed naked parts of the bodу and displayed female curves. For instance, Quant miniskirts could be seen as a celebration of female forms, asserting the right to be proud of their figure and an ability to show it. Additionally, revealing miniskirts (6 to 7 inches above the knee) became incredibly popular with mod girls, because they embodied female liberation-active young women could now move easily rather than being restricted by long skirts. (Horton and Simmons, 2006).

Figure 3: Mary Quant Models, in her mini skirt design, revealing long legs

In order to sell her clothes, Mary Quant founded her first boutique called “Bazaar” on Kings Street in London, where she sold her designs in price range of young people. Apart from creating conspicuous window displays, Quant hired young girls, who promoted her garments and act as «sandwich» to men. According to Breward C.,(2004), «these girls, elegantly dressed, and looking tremendously chic were a sensation and 1960’s generation of youths was clearly thrilled by such innovations».

Figure 4: Bazaar’s»window display

Figure 5: Mary Quant and three Models in her designs

John Stephen and the presentation of «new man» masculinity While Mary Quant was covering the market of women’s clothing with her innovative «Chelsea look» concept, her fashion colleague -John Stephen was just as revolutionary in a field of male fashion. After moving from Glasgow to London, at the age of 18, Stephen got a job in tailoring establishment Moss Bross, specialized in evening suits. While learning subtleties of men’s fashion wear, he spotted the lack of outlets, selling modern clothes for youth in London. Stephen observed the explosion of mod movement among local youth and he had seen it as – «a beginning of an era where teenagers would search for their own identity which they could express through clothing»(as cited in John Stephen – A Forgotten Fashion Revolutionary, 2011). Being a part of «youth» himself, John clearly identified the dynamics of street style.

He realised, that modern youngsters no longer wanted to follow their fathers way of dressing, wearing work grey suits and flannel trousers. Oppositely, young modernists were longing to be seen, to be the “Face» of the movement they represented. Considering these facts, Stephen was aimed to change old approach to men’s fashion with a modern, eye-catching and outrageous look. Stephen’s biographer, Jeremy Reed (2010) stated that, «Stephen had a mission that was compounded into youthful genes, not only to change the way men looked forever, but o make clothes and the compatible awareness of self-image into necessary lifestyle». John Stephen started to innovate with a novel idea of bringing color and sex appeal into menswear. He introduced paisley and polka dot patterns as print designs for his garments. In addition, he decided to apply buttons in an innovative way, by placing them in double or triple groupings on the shirt and jacket fronts. Then, he was the first to import Levi jeans and introduce them to the streets of London.

Figure6: Paisley- print pattern kaftan by John Stephen,1967

Figure7: Double-buttons suit,1968

Additionally, the fact of sexual revolution also had a significant impact on the way man started to look like. Following fashion trends became no longer an inappropriate activity for males. Especially, narcissistic generation was obsessed with their appearance. Selfadornment, ambivalent look – became new fashion trends among male modernists. These changes became the starting point in creation of «new man» masculinity, which has been successfully developed through John Stephens designs. Reed J. (2010) claimed that the attitude of «Mods was one of remaining unattainable, and their exclusively male coterie invited mental homosexuality and gossip as a substitute for intimacy with girls. While Mods were their own, and not John Stephen’s creation, their sexual ambiguity ideally suited his equally ambivalent clothes», this phenomenon has its origins from social movement of the time.

Figure8,9: Illustration of how the young mod should look like, May 1966

As his designs were growing in popularity, Stephen opened his own boutique at 49/51 Carnaby Street, which became the epicenter of mods fashion world.

Figure10: Carnaby street in 1966 – at the height of Stephen’s career.

Apart from selling his original designs for relatively low prices, the success of the shop was assured by the fact that many celebrities of the time became its frequent customers. Rock’n Roll idols, such as David Bowie, members of the Rolling Stones band, the Who and the Kinks were constantly sporting John Stephen’s clothes. The display of Stephen’s designs on such cultural figures, also resulted in expansion of the «new man» masculinity style among young modernists.

Figure11: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards shopping at John Stephen’s, 1965.

Figure12: Mick Avory from The Kinks modeling for John Stephen, 1966.

Differences and similarities between Mary Quant’s and John Stephen’s influence on mods fashion movement The rise of both Mary Quant’s and John Stephen’s carriers fell within the period of time, when the mod movement has started to build up. Belonging to «new» generation, helped young designers to spot the absence of clothing for rapidly forming subcultural niche. Designers timely captured mods need and their availability to adopt new things and started to fill the youths’ market gap with innovative designs. Whereas, Mary Quant led the youth movement in girls clothing, John Stephen played the central role in «new men’s» look development in 1960. Both designers aimed to create a brand-new dressing concept for their target audience, however their performance resulted in shift of gender roles within men’s and women’s fashion style. For instance, the introduction of «Chelsea Look» could be seen as a brave proposal of new femininity concept. Through her designs Mary Quant created the outrageous, fanciable and independent look for liberated woman.

Even though she standed by alluring clothing style, Quant’s designs were «classless, androgynous and bold» (Buxbaum G., 2006, Pp.132). Taking into account, that women have started to gain more power and struggled for female liberation – the new icon of «courageous woman», suggested by Quant, greatly suited and appeled to their interests. Conversely, as female clothing design was simplified, men’s clothes had became brighter, more eye-catching and featured lots of details. Young mods started to show more interests in fashion trends, as they had felt the need to demonstrate themselves. Catching this movement, John Stephen wore the young mod in bright suit, patterned shirt and hipster trousers. This look has completely changed the established idea of man’s masculinity and presented the new, self-centric and ambivalent hero of the time.

Figure13: Modern Girl’s Look,1960

Figure14: Modern Boy’s Look, 1968

Moreover, with opening their own shops, Mary Quant and John Stephen were closely involved with the sixties revolution in shopping habits. Firstly, the success of shops was closely related with prevalence of visual impact through window displays. Moreover, thence force, men became equal fashion consumers, as women were.

To sum up, the Post World War ll, newborn generation in London wanted to displace the throwback of the past with new, modern lifestyle. The youth started to form its own subcultural movement of modernists, who tried to express themselves through innovative fashion looks and creation of their own popular culture. Being a part of «youth power» themselves, Mary Quant and John Stephen quickly identified the demand for trendy and affordable clothes and started to design for young fashion-obsessed consumers. While, Mary Quant was influencing young women’s fashion market, John Stephen desired to change men’s attitude to fashion. Although, they had performed within the similar fashion trend, during the same time period, designers completely shifted the common trends for both sexies. Mary Quant led the youth power movement in female clothing with the proposal of her innovative «Chelsea Look». She started to dress young girls comfortably yet sexily, in a different way from their mothers, in order to create the outrageous, alluring and liberated look of modern woman. Whereas, young women began to adopt androgynous style, their male contemporaries started to experience more sophisticated and ambivalent look through John Stephen’s presentation of «new man» masculinity. Both designers achieved a great success through their performance and set in the revolution in British fashion of the time.

List of references

1. Adburgham, A., (1967) Mary Quant talks to Alison.Adburgham. The Guardian, [Online], Available at http://century.guardian.co.uk/1960-1969/Story/0,,106475,00.html .[10 October 1967]. 2. Breward,C., (1999), Swinging London, In: Buxbaum G., ed. 1999. Icons of Fashion, Pp.81 3. Breward C., (2004) Clothing Desire: The problem of the British Fashion Consumer. 1955-1975. Cultures of Consumption. [Online], Available at: http://www.consume.bbk.ac.uk/research/breward.html [19 March 2004]. 4. Buxbaum G., ed. 1999. Icons of Fashion, Pp.132 5. Dandy in Aspic, (2011), John Stephen – A Forgotten Fashion Revolutionary, , [Online], Available at: http://dandyinaspic.blogspot.ru/2011/08/john-stephen-forgottenfashion.html [3 August 2011]. 6. The Goldsmith Magazine , (2012) no-37,Interview, Looking back with fashion icon Mary Quant [Online], Available at: http://www.gold.ac.uk/media/Issue37_small.pdf . [Summer 2012]. 7. Grosshans D.(2009), The Mod Movement-Mod Clothing and Style, [Online], Available: http://EzineArticles.com/2629438.[18 July 2009]. 8. Hebdige D.,(1979) Subculture: The meaning of style 9. Horton R., Simmons S., (2006), Women who
changed the world. UK: Quercus 10. Olian J.,(1999) Everyday Fashions of the Sixties: as pictured in Sears catalogue 11. O’ Neill A., John Stephen: A Carnaby Street Presentation of Masculinity 1957-1975, ed. In Fashion Theory, Volume 4. Pp. 487-506 12. Reed J,(2010) John Stephen – The King of Carnaby Street, Pp 24, 67


List of figures
Figure1 – Simplicity Patterns for Girls-1950s [Online], Available at www.OldPatterns.com Figure2 – Simplicity Patterns for Women- 1950s [Online], Available at www.OldPatterns.com Figure3 – Mary Quant Models, in her mini skirt design, revealing long legs [Online], Available at www.examiner.com/article/mary-quant-from-miniskirts-to-makeup-video Figure4 – Bazaar’s»window display [Online], Available at http://fabmagazineonline.com/fab-fashion-mary-quant-by-rachael-divers/bazaar/ Figure5 – Mary Quant and three Models in her designs [Online], Available at http://www.fashionencyclopedia.com/Pi-Ro/Quant-Mary.html#b Figure6 – Paisley- print pattern kaftan by John Stephen,1967 [ Online], Available at http://dandyinaspic.blogspot.ru/2012/01/johns-children-modeling-for-john.html Figure7 – Double-button suit,1968 – [Online], Available at http://dandyinaspic.blogspot.ru/2011/08/john-stephen-forgotten-fashion.html Figure8 – Illustration of how the young mod should look like, May 1966 [Online], Available at http://www.paulgormanis.com/?p=6568 Figure9 – Illustration of how the young mod should look like, May 1966 [Online], Available at http://www.paulgormanis.com/?p=6568 Figure10 – Carnaby street in 1966 – at the height of Stephen’s career [Online], Available at http://dandyinaspic.blogspot.ru/2011/08/john-stephen-forgotten-fashion.html Figure11 – Mick Jagger and Keith Richards shopping at John Stephen’s, 1965 [Online], Available at http://dandyinaspic.blogspot.ru/2011/08/john-stephen-forgottenfashion.html Figure12 – Mick Avory from The Kinks modeling for John Stephen, 1966

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59