In memoriam: Mary Quant (1930 – 2023)

Mary Quant and Alexander Plunket Greene on Park Avenue, photo by Ken Heyman for LIFE magazine, December 5, 1960.
Mary Quant with husband and business partner Alexander Plunket Greene on New York City’s Park Avenue, LIFE magazine, December 5, 1960. Photo: Ken Heyman. Image: LIFE archive.

Farewell to the legendary Mary Quant, a true fashion revolutionary. The influential British designer and lifestyle brand pioneer died earlier this month, at the age of 93.

Read the designer’s Vogue obituary. (New York Times obituary)


Neo-Egyptian cover of Needlecraft, June 1929. Illustration: Reginald P. Ward. Image: eBay.

The tomb of Tutankhamun was rediscovered in November, 1922, making 2022 the centennial of all things King Tut. Yet as an early McCall transfer pattern shows, Neo-Egyptomania was already underway:

4 long wing motifs 1 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches2 scarab motifs 1 1/2 x 1 1/4 inches, 16 scarab motifs 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches 4 yds. of 3/4-inch double banding (given in a double strip) 4 scarab and scroll motifs 2 3/4 x 6 inches 4 large motifs 8 x 14 inches
McCall 1039 (1920) Kaumagraph Transfer Pattern – Egyptian Design for Dress Trimming. Image: eBay.
McCall 1039 in McCall’s magazine, June 1920. Image:

“Egyptian Design for Dress Trimming” (McCall 1039) dates to spring 1920, but was still being advertised three years later, explicitly referencing the King Tut trend.

Update: This design was in fact reissued in 1923 in the company’s new format. A note on the back reads, “These motifs are decidedly smart for embroidering dresses, blouses, panels of skirts, pockets, belts, hats, etc. The Egyptian colorings of royal blue, henna, green, gold and silver are the leading style.”

McCall 1039 (1923 reissue) Kaumagraph Transfer Pattern – Egyptian Design for Dress Trimming. Image: YeHouseOfStuff on Etsy.

In summer 1923, Anne Rittenhouse wrote, “Ancient Rome as well as ancient India supplies inspiration for the figurations you should put on your clothes. The famous mosaic design found on marble tables and on floors in Italy has crept upward to our gowns. Straight bands of it are used in what is known as spinal decoration, also for skirt hems and sleeves. If you do not like to omit Egyptian embroidery, which appears to be the Twentieth Amendment to the Fashion Constitution, use the lotus flower rather than Tut’s guardians of the tomb…” (“Embroidery Everywhere,” McCall News, Aug. 1923)

“Embroidery On Spring Frocks Shows The Egyptian Influence,” McCall’s magazine, May 1923. Image:
Egyptian transfer - Pittsburgh Press 13 May 1923 p150
“Designs of Tut-Ankh-Amen”: Kaufmann’s ad featuring McCall 1039, The Pittsburgh Press, May 13, 1923. Image: Google books.

Contemporary fans of Egyptian embellishment can find a reproduction of the 1920s transfer on Etsy. Happy New Year!

With thanks to Susan Ward.

Image: Vintage Pattern Lending Library on Etsy.
Egyptian backdrop on the cover of McCall Quarterly, Summer 1923. Image: Etsy.
Howard Carter and A.C. Mace, The Tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amen. Image: Weiser Antiquarian Books.