From Mary Quant to me…

I grew up almost exclusively embarrassed by a string of outlandishly decorated Mini’s driven by my Dad to and from school. In a previous life Dad had learnt the tailoring trade on Saville Row in the late 60s and had the wardrobe of a particularly louche but dapper lord of the manor.

I would flick through endless photos of my parents looking like complete aliens in mini skirts and daffodil yellow suits and amazing dresses. I heard tales of the Beatles, Carnaby Street and the Kings Road and I spent my life with the soundtrack of their youth playing in the background. It’s taken me a really long time to disentangle The Beatles Abbey Road from the smell of yet another very British undigestible Sunday roast…it’s no wonder I’m vegan now.

“Fashion, as we knew it, is over: people wear now exactly what they feel like wearing” Mary Quant.

So when Alice & Co patterns put a call out for Mary Quant testers I leapt at the chance to have a little bit of fun and see what it would have been like to dress like my parents. Basically I wanted to play dress up.

Alice and Co. have been working hard with the V&A to produce a pattern that all of us can enjoy to celebrate the remarkable achievements of Mary Quant at her V&A exhibition which opens this month. You can download it here!

Mary Quant’s ethos was about liberation, the freedom to dress how you feel and shock the establishment a little bit too. We take for granted that pretty much anything goes, but the advent of Mary Quant’s dresses represented a new equality in fashion for women who had previously had very little ready to wear choice apart from M&S or sew their own outfits at home.

The Quant phenomenon was driven by shop on the Kings Road “Bazaar”, which became the buzzing heart of the community, selling out of dresses before they had even had time to put them on the rails!

If you couldn’t afford a Quant dress, you could even buy a Butterick pattern to make your own. A truly democratic approach to changing the fashion landscape.

In the spirit of the 1960s homesewer I decided not to buy any fabric especially to test this pattern and instead delve into the depths of the stash. Lurking down there was a vintage polycotton sheet and a bit of chambray form a previous project. I really wanted to make a crazy version and an everyday one too.

Alice & Co have designed a really lovely tribute pattern to the spirit of Quant and the advent of fashion that meant freedom.

And best of all for you guys you can access this pattern for free from The V&A website. I loved testing this out and can’t wait to see the reveal of everyone else creations too.

Sewing this dress made me think about why I don’t buy much RTW clothing myself…and there is certainly nothing in my budget range that would have me ripping a dress out of a sales assistants hands. 50 years later a lot of us in the sewing community find our own type of style freedom in creating our own looks from scratch. The liberation I feel from sewing my own clothes has come full circle and belongs right back at my own sewing table in the home and with all those pattern designers and small business owners rather than the big corporate clothing giants.

So download this pattern, have a little play and go crazy with colour or be free with monochrome. Enjoy a little bit of indulgent fashion history!


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