Of Madness and Miniskirts

Farewell, Mary Quant, spirit of the 1960s. I owe you a lot. You brightened up my life as a young teenager and twenty-something with your short skirts, hot pants and sharp haircuts. You were there for me when I left home, started my first job, and when I met my husband. And when I got married, I wore a minidress. Of course.

And, much, much later on, you and others in the fashion industry were the inspiration for my debut novel, Note to Boy.

Not that I’m suggesting Mary Quant was in the least little bit like my main character, Eloise Slaughter. Eloise is an unprincipled, egotistical monster who shamelessly uses everyone she meets on her way up the fashion ladder. And I am very fond of her. What does that say about me? In contrast, Mary Quant was a retail pioneer and visionary who brought affordable style to the high street and changed the face of fashion forever.

People – nosy people – sometimes ask why I chose to write about the madness of Swinging London. How could I not? It was a crazy, creative and colourful time. Britain was the hub of all popular culture, with the rest of the world taking its lead from us for films, music, books and, of course, fashion. And I had the inside track on all of this. During the late 1960s and early 70s, when I was single and carefree, I worked for an American film company, shared a flat near Oxford Circus, bought my clothes in Carnaby Street, and went to the sort of parties where you might bump into a James Bond actor. Glamorous, hey?

Not so glam when you’re living it. I was an underpaid office dogsbody at the film company, the occupant of the flat next door to ours advertised her ‘modelling’ services on a handwritten postcard pinned to the door, and the James Bond actor I met was the Australian one whose name no-one can ever remember.*

Ok, so real-life wasn’t quite so ‘fab’ and ‘trendy’. Nevertheless, those times became a rich source of material for me as a writer of humorous fiction. I wanted to explore celebrity, from the point of view of someone who’d had it and lost it. As I had observed that glamorous lifestyle, and the behaviour that sometimes goes with it, from the sidelines, it was the obvious time and place in which to set Note to Boy.

So, thank you Mary Quant. Thank you for everything.

*Oh, and the James Bond actor? George Lazenby