THE EMPRESS'S NEW CLOTHES

Martin Barden and I dropped in at the V&A to see what all the Quant fuss is about. Underwhelmed, we tottered off to quaff vino in the Members' Bar.

Despite the fact that our supreme museum houses the world's largest collection of Quant (as we should expect), this exhibition is disappointing. It has been over-hyped and over-sold. It is small, scant and sparse. The garments and accessories on display are curios. Given the publicity, the #WeWantQuant national appeal to crowd-source popular pieces, the many worthy studies of Mary as the personification of the Swinging Sixties and the inventor of London street style, we didn't quite get it. We were not yet born when Mary opened Bazaar, her Fifties boutique-restaurant on the King's Road. We were infants when she was waking up humanity with pinafores and PVC macs, 'separates', jumpsuits, trews for shrews and miniskirts - all relatively expensive for what they were, at the time, until she diffused her designs into the more affordable Ginger Group. Come the Seventies, when we finally got going, 'style for working women' had progressed from avant-garde to normal, the Butterick dress patterns had been consigned to the loft, Biba had become Shopping Central and Quant, for my generation, was no longer about fashion, but mostly about make-up and nail polish. I was so proud of my collection of black glass, yellow-topped cosmetic pots that I still have them.

I read all about Mary Quant's genius at teaching young girls how not to dress like their mothers and about 'celebrating the female form rather than concealing it' and I think, No! How? Why?! With all those boxy shapes, masculine angles and frankly frigid fabrics? The exposure of nobbly knees and breasts on the turn to tea bags was a good thing? As for the feminist line: this 'quirky', 'eccentric', 'iconic' little woman with the five-point Sassoon cut created for her is lauded as a pioneer. Was she really? Nostalgia and blurred memory have blinded the sheep. Proud Mary is in the altogether here.

Marianne Faithfull once said that 'Swinging London' amounted to no more than about three hundred people in the know, all of whom knew each other. Not that I was there, but it was probably the size of it.

Still craving the Cry Baby mascara. They should bring that back.

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