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Fashion Trivia: Mary Quant's Original Mini Skirt Muse

The late British designer is credited with popularizing shorter hemlines — but where did she get the idea?

Photo: Getty Images. Artwork: Angela Wei/Fashionista

Test your fashion-industry knowledge with our new-old weekly series, Fashion Trivia! There’s no prize (yet) for having the right answer, but you get theoretical bonus points for not using Google.

Q: What inspired Mary Quant’s groundbreaking ’60s mini skirt design?

(Hint: it’s a trending reference for many of today’s designers as well.)

Scroll down for the answer…

A: Ballet class.

Mary Quant, who passed away Thursday at the age of 93, built a massive womenswear brand in the 1960s, and is perhaps best remembered for popularizing the mini skirt. (Whether Quant actually “invented” it is up for debate.) Much has been written about the way her signature, era-defining minis liberated a generation of young women and represented a global cultural shift, but there’s been less discussion around where Quant got the idea for those scandalous thigh-skimming skirts and dresses in the first place. 

In a couple of rare interviews given long after her brand’s heyday, Quant revealed that her childhood ballet lessons started it all.

“During [one ballet class], I could hear exciting music coming from next door, and when I peeked through the glass, I saw a tap-dancing class take place, and in the middle of the room, a girl a couple of years older than me who was the vision of everything I wanted to be,” Quant told The Week. (Her quotes were republished by the BBC and Vogue UK.) “She was wearing a short pleated skirt about 10 inches long, with a skinny black sweater, black tights and a bob haircut. What struck me was how the whole outfit focused on what she had on her feet: a pair of white ankle socks and a pair of patent tap shoes with ankle straps … From that day on I was struck with this lovely vision of legs and ankles.”

As for the name, Quant says it was inspired by her favorite car: the Mini Cooper.

Quant’s legacy couldn’t feel more relevant today. Not only are mini skirts enjoying an unprecedented resurgence right now, but we’re also at the height of the balletcore trend. 

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