The music may have been a major part of the mod movement, but it is important to remember that fashion was an integral element to the development and popularity of the movement too. There were a number of key females in mod history and these three female mod icons deserve to be recognised as much as anyone from that era.
Every fashion movement needs a superhero and the mod movement had even better than a superhero, they had a supermodel! You may not be familiar with the name Lesley Lawson but if you say the word Twiggy, people know instantly who you are talking about. While she has been an actress and a singer in her time, Twiggy will forever be recognised as the stunning British model who for many people was the perfect embodiment of the female mod fashion and of the swinging 60s style!
Twiggy’s nickname came about thanks to her thin frame but it was the androgynous look that she provided in her early days that helped to bring female mod fashion to the fore. With large hair and short eyes, Twiggy was a big change from what had been recognised as the top fashion style and by the mid-60s; the world had fallen in love with her, and her look. She was recognised as the “Face of 1966” and was hailed as the British Woman of the Year in the same year. 1967 brought magazine covers in Vogue and Tatler while there were fashion shoots in Asia, America and Europe to go alongside the high demand that she still held in Britain.
As fashion styles move on, Twiggy had the good sense and grace to take a different path, following her acting ambitions, and leaving the new fashion movements to find their own face rather than hoping she could stick around. It is testimony to her hard work and natural beauty that Twiggy is still involved in the fashion industry these days, working with Marks & Spencer’s in the design room and in front of the camera. She may no longer be synonymous with just mod fashion but for a few years, Twiggy was the perfect embodiment of female mod fashion and she was the name on everyone’s lips.
While Twiggy was found in fashion magazines and newspapers, it could be argued that Cathy McGowan had the bigger impact on mod fashion as she was found on TV every week alongside many of the best bands of the day. Cathy was the presenter of TV show Ready Steady Go! and she was a huge part of the appeal for male and female viewers. Given that Cathy was in her early twenties at the time, she was seen as a role model for young women and her fashion sense was copied by a great number of viewers. With Twiggy citing McGowan as a massive inspiration and interviews suggesting that Anna Wintour, who would later be the editor of American Vogue, McGowan was the celebrity that would inspire future celebrities.
McGowan was regularly seen in a miniskirt, which not only boosted her popularity and the popularity of the miniskirt, it helped to bring Mary Quant to a wider audience, with Quant being the major proponent of this style of skirt in the UK. She wasn’t only known for wearing miniskirts, McGowan was also regularly seen in shift dresses but given the shocking nature of miniskirts to many people at the time, it was easy to see why that garment captured the imagination.
The fact that McGowan had her own fashion range on offer at British home Stores and a make-up kit available across the country, allowed many girls and women to imitate her fashion style with ease.
While many mods could have walked by Mary Quant in the street and failed to recognise her, she was an instrumental part of the fashion movement of the times. Mary is the key designer credited with the emergence of miniskirts and hot pants, making her an integral name in the development of mod fashion. Mary was a major promoter of these items in the early 60s, making her name instantly recognisable when it comes to female mod fashion and in loosening up some of the boundaries which had been imposed on female fashion to this point.
With a store on the King’s Road, Quant was in the right place at the right time but to limit her achievements to just the miniskirt would be a great disservice. Quant was also a major backer of the androgynous style that was favoured by many female mods, with one of her successful items being cardigans initially made for men that were worn as dresses.