The historic city of Bendigo in the central Victorian goldfields, famous for its grand and imposing 19th century streetscapes, is about to get a colourful swinging ’60s makeover, thanks to revolutionary fashion icon Mary Quant.
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Mary Quant: fashion revolutionary or revolutionary fashion?
Few fashion designers can claim to spark a revolution, but that’s exactly what Mary Quant did with her clothes in the 1960s. Her bold colours, knee-skimming miniskirts and joyful outfits not only challenged conventions when they hit the high street in 1955, they captured the zeitgeist of the times – all the youthfulness, energy, radical style and rebellion of the ’60s – encouraging a new age of feminism and making fashion both fun and accessible to everyone in the process. Famously declaring in 1966 that she “didn’t have time to wait for women’s lib”, so influential were her clothes and ethos that if you think of the ’60s chances are you’ll be picturing someone looking very cool in a colourful Mary Quant dress or hotpants.
Mary Quant: Fashion Revolutionary explores the designer’s enormous influence across two decades – from 1955 to 1975 – at the Bendigo Art Gallery this autumn. All up,. 110 garments are on show in the exhibition, as well as accessories, cosmetics, sketches, photographs and – move over Barbie – even Quant’s Daisy fashion doll. Awarded a damehood in 2015 for her services to British fashion, most items on show in the retrospective come from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), although there are lots of pieces from Dame Mary’s private collection and archives as well.
Getting into the swing
The exhibition is exclusive to Bendigo, and the whole city is embracing the Mary Quant spirit. Bendigo Art Gallery’s facade will be given a giant Mary Quant makeover. Shop windows in the View Street Arts Precinct will feature Quant displays. Round the corner on Pall Mall, the Post Office Gallery in the Bendigo Visitor Centre has a ’60s exhibition, too.
Follow the Swinging ’60s street art and fashion trail and you’ll find artwork designed by local street artists and featured in various locations around the city, including street art patterns designed by local art collective Nacho Station and, for the perfect swinging ’60s selfie, a ‘Quaint inspired’ street art mural located in the centre of Bendigo at the Piazza, opposite the Alexandra Fountain.
If you want to really look the part, head to Bath Lane, where Queenie and The Princess and 5ifty Boutique Studio have lots of preloved and new ’60s-inspired clothing. For inspiration on how to really rock the look, arthouse movie theatre Star Cinema will be screening movies that featured Mary Quant fashion. Flow Retreat is offering a Sixties Sensory Experience, a therapeutic element that originated in the 1960s.
Bendigo: UNESCO City and region of Gastronomy
Duck down Chancery Lane and you’ll find ’60s-inspired Quantails (cocktails) at The Dispensary Bar & Diner; neighbouring tapas Bar, El Gordo, is also offering a swinging ’60s cocktail with a two-course meal that also celebrates the decade. The Woodhouse steakhouse has created a Mary Quant-inspired dessert; local chocolatier Hayley from Indulge Chocolate is putting together a Quant-itful chocolate tasting plate; and Bluebird Patisserie is baking up a storm of red-and-white striped Quantsants.
In 2019, Bendigo became the first place in Australia to be designated a City of Gastronomy by UNESCO. Like a culinary version of a World Heritage listing, it means that not only can you expect to find a vibrant and creative food scene in the city, but one that focuses on local foods and sustainability. Book a table at one of Bendigo’s highly awarded restaurants such as Masons of Bendigo, Ms Batterhams, Harvest Food & Wine, Alium Dining or The Woodhouse and you’ll see why. Or pop into one of the region’s many wineries and cideries in and around Bendigo, Heathcote and Harcourt to taste some of the local wine and cider– tops spots for a tipple include Balgownie Estate, Heathcote II, Vinea Marson, Peregrine Ridge, Silver Spoon Estate, and Sandhurst Ridge.
But wait, there’s more
It’s not just Bendigo that’s getting into the swing of things during the Mary Quant exhibition. The nearby farming town of Inglewood in the heart of the beautiful Loddon Valley, an easy half-hour drive up the Calder Freeway from Bendigo, has six vintage, antique and collectable shops in the main street that will be celebrating Mary Quant with shop displays. Call into the Bridgewater Bakehouse in pretty Bridgewater on Loddon on the way back to Bendigo for Australia’s best vanilla slice – lots of places make the same claim, but these guys are a two-time winner of the Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph, so it’s official.
Half an hour in the other direction is Castlemaine, the goldfields capital of vintage. Book lovers who enjoy getting lost in the backrooms of cavernous secondhand bookshops will love the Castlemaine bookshop trail.
The once-derelict woollen mill beside the Botanic Gardens is now an arts hub with artisan food producers, a brewery, cellar door, cheese school, artists, restorers and makers and the Castlemaine Vintage Bazaar, where hundreds of stalls sell repurposed and second-hand stuff, much of it straight out of the 60s.
The sign over the door promises that “you’ll find what you’re not looking for”, and you will. You may even get lucky and find your own special piece of genuine Mary Quant to take home.
How to plan a swinging 60s time in Bendigo
When to go: The only place in Australia you’ll be able to see it, Mary Quant: Fashion Revolutionary is on at the Bendigo Art Gallery (42 View St, Bendigo) every day from March 20 until July 11, 2021.
Getting there: Bendigo is a two-hour drive from Melbourne, via the Calder Freeway, or take the train from Southern Cross Station, it takes roughly the same amount of time and you can walk from the train station to the art gallery. You can also fly direct to Bendigo from Sydney with Qantas.
They start at $199 per night.
Want to know more? visit www.bendigotourism.com