Object of the month

Object of the month

Plastic knee-high boots by Mary Quant

Plastic knee-high boots by Mary Quant
Plastic knee-high boots by Mary Quant, about 1965

Mary Quant was one of Britain’s most influential fashion designers of the 1960s and this example of her work has been chosen to link to the 40th anniversary of the Vale of Aylesbury DFAS (Decorative and Fine Arts Society). 

After studying illustration at Goldsmith’s College and then working for a milliner, Mary Quant opened her first retail boutique, Bazaar, in 1955 on the King’s Road. She wanted fashion to be both accessible and affordable to the young. Her advantage was that she was the contemporary of her desired market rather than from an older generation.

Failing in her quest to find sufficient new and interesting clothes for Bazaar she decided to design and produce the clothes herself. Rejecting the concept of haute couture she began to produce multiple rather than seasonal collections. Her designs were simple, fun and youthful with a mix-and-match element that could be combined to create the ‘Chelsea’ or ‘London Look.’ She held trendy fashion shows and designed eye-catching window displays. By the mid 1960s she had also launched her range of footwear and make-up.

Her clothes were classless and within the price range of many young people. Although most famous for her mini skirts, she also popularised white detachable collars for dresses, knee high boots, patent plastic raincoats, kohl eyeliner, ‘paint box’ make-up, the Sassoon bob, skinny-rib stripy sweaters and pinafore dresses.

Boots, both long and short, were the ideal accessory to complement the mini skirt and they became one of the main fashion footwear trends of the 1960s. These red fabric and clear plastic boots were part of the ‘Quant Afoot’ range. A zipper runs down the inside of the leg and around the ankle so that the top part of the boot completely unzips. This means that they can also be worn as ankle boots. The square toe was typical of her designs of this period. 

The six petalled daisy was a distinctive feature of Mary Quant’s designs. If you look on the clear plastic heel of these boots you can see this famous trademark impressed into the base.

The choice of materials for shoes and boots had undergone radical changes in the 1960s, partly due to a steep rise in leather prices. Plastics and other synthetics complemented the ‘space age’ geometric look promoted by designers such as Andre Courreges and Pierre Cardin as well as Quant.

These boots were bought in Princes Risborough in 1965 and were donated to the Museum in 1978.