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Sportaville fashion show 1960 –
A ‘novelty nut’ dream find

Liz Tregenza

 

Fashion show of 1961 Beachwear, 1960. © British Pathé, 4:16.

[Please click the Image for a link to the video]

Whilst completing the research for my MA dissertation, the British Pathé website became an invaluable research tool for finding original footage relating to the fashion brands I was researching.[1] It was during this process that I stumbled upon a number of film clips of fashion parades without sound and also lacking in information. It is one of these clips that provided the inspiration for this post.

Aside from studying for my MA I am also an obsessive collector of vintage clothing – in particular novelty print items. One of my favourite brands for novelty print items has been- for a number of years- Sportaville. There is little information about the brand, but they were certainly in operation between the 1950s and 1970s, and always produced vibrantly printed novelty items. It appears that one of their mainstay products was ‘kit skirts’ which allowed customers to purchase the fabric for the skirt and make it up themselves.

Sportaville label in a jacket c.1961. Image © Liz Tregenza, 2014.

Sportaville label in a jacket c.1961. Image © Liz Tregenza, 2014.

The example below is, I believe, from the late 1950s. This skirt has the design name printed around the inner hem of the skirt – a feature often found in Sportaville garments. Such skirts were generally made from very high quality cotton. In the late 1950s, as advertisements in Vogue suggested, they were certainly using French cotton from the manufacturer Boussac amongst their products.

Sportaville confetti skirt, late 1950s. Image © Liz Tregenza, 2014.

Sportaville confetti skirt, late 1950s. Image © Liz Tregenza, 2014.

I was very excited therefore to find a four minute film clip on the British Pathé website that shows the press preview for the Sportaville Spring/Summer 1961 collection. The clip itself does not state that the show was for Sportaville garments, but careful deduction means that I was able to find a number of the original garments that were featured in the show, henceforth confirming it was for Sportaville.

The clip offers an insight into fashion displays of the early 1960s, showing both the press preview and towards the end the show itself. Such fashion shows were generally either held in the showrooms of the firm, in grand London hotels, or in the headquarters of fabric manufacturers. The Fashion House Group for example, who instigated ‘London Fashion Week’ in 1959 held their shows most seasons at Celanese House, the headquarters of British Celanese in Hannover square.

1 minute and 11 seconds into the film clip a model appears wearing a swimsuit printed with a design featuring garments on clothes lines. It was this garment that led me to realise the fashion parade was for Sportaville, as I have a skirt featuring the same print in my personal collection.

Sportaville clothes line skirt c.1961. Image © Liz Tregenza, 2014.

Sportaville clothes line skirt c.1961. Image © Liz Tregenza, 2014.

The next girl to appear on the runway wears an outfit printed with a design of coffee sacks. Sadly I do not have the full ensemble, but the skirt below features the same print as a Sportaville skirt from my collection.

Sportaville coffee sack print skirt c.1961. Image © Liz Tregenza, 2014.

Sportaville coffee sack print skirt c.1961. Image © Liz Tregenza, 2014.

The coffee print ensemble seen in the film clip is a 4-piece outfit consist of bralet, shorts, shirt and skirt. These multi-piece ensembles appear to be a key product for Sportaville. The example below consists of 3 pieces, again a bralet, skirt and shorts- but no skirt. It is likely this ensemble is missing its original skirt. Owing to the similarities in design and the same weight of cotton seen in the coffee print skirt. It is highly likely that this ensemble was also part of the 1961 collection.

Sportaville 3-piece ensemble printed with the poetry of Michael Drayton c.1961. Image © Liz Tregenza, 2014.

Sportaville 3-piece ensemble printed with the poetry of Michael Drayton c.1961. Image © Liz Tregenza, 2014.

The film clip also provides further illuminating information about 1960s fashion shows: the models are seen backstage doing their own make-up. This was very common in the 1960s, and it was far less likely for models to have their make-up applied by a professional. Models hair on the other hand was often styled by professional hairdressers.

The various garments seen during this piece of footage illustrate that sportswear was Sportaville’s primary output. Furthermore, it illustrates the versatility of early 1960s sports and beachwear, and that such ensembles could worn for either day or evening.

 

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[1] My dissertation centred upon British ready-to-wear fashion 1946-1966.

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Liz Tregenza – 

Liz is most likely to be found with her nose in a musty 1940s copy of British Vogue.  An avid fashion history specialist she is currently conducting research into the “Model House Group”. This interest in fashions of the past was nurtured whilst studying for a BA in fashion design at Leeds University.  Liz also collects vintage clothing and has appeared in a number of publications including Sunday Times Style and Homes & Antiques. She is currently writing her first book (due for release September 2014) whilst working as a museum assistant.

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© Liz Tregenza, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

2 thoughts on “Sportaville fashion show 1960 –
A ‘novelty nut’ dream find”

  1. After reading this and looking at the pictures of the skirts with buttons down the front, can it be assumed that all vintage button up skirts are part of a four piece assembly and belong to a set?

  2. Hello! My name is Emma. I was given a skirt some time ago and Upcycled it for an event last week. I was intrigued by the branding on the inside of the hem. It is the confetti design featured above but in blue and purple. Thank you for your research, I just love the fact that the skirt has such history! I’m posting later today, the finished design. emmasummerscales.com

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