Shani Skirts

As a long time collector of novelty prints I am always fascinated to find examples of pieces I own in old trade magazines. This post doesn’t actually feature any I own, but does clear up the label found in one of my skirts. Last year I did a swap with one of my dear friends Holly for this wonderful ‘magazine’ print skirt.

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The skirt however contained a label I had never come across before, “Shani”- the design of the label having a very graphic quality to it, almost 80s in its appearance.


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At the time, I admitted that I had never seen another skirt with the Shani label. I thought nothing more of it until I was running through 1950s copies of Women’s Wear News as part of my PhD research and came across a number of ads for the brand.


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Ad no.1) February 8th 1958


From our collection of Sailcloth Skirts in various processing and Colours. Among the novelties which can now be seen at out showroom. Samples always available, can be sent on request.


Rossmore Fashions Ltd. 59/79 Gt. Portland Street W1


Ad no. 2) March 8th 1958


The second ad opens with the tag-line ‘Introducing a selection from our second range of Summer skirts’


These skirts, which are among those which will be shown at the Women’s Wear News Parade of Separates at the Park Lane Hotel, on March 13th, are only a few from our latest range, which comes in a galaxy of colours and designs at prices from 19/9.


Ad no. 3) (I cropped this too far, so I am not 100% sure of the date but I think it was April 1958)


From our Second range of Summer skirts. We illustrate here tow numbers in printed non-iron cottons. Two of the many novelties which can be seen at our Showrooms. Samples are always available and can be sent on request



So what does this show? Well, I would suggest that the “Shani” skirt range was first produced in 1957 (the height of novelty skirt mania in Britain) and that the firm specialized in novelty print skirts.


Do you own any Shani skirts? Do they have excellent novelty prints too?



Investigating Sportaville…again

I collect a lot of different vintage brands, but Sportaville still stands as one of my favourite. I have about 15 pieces by the brand and I am always on the look out for more, but have also been fascinated by the company too (owned by parent firm Saville Sportswear). Whilst I was doing my MA I wrote a post about the brand (you can find it here) and an ancient A-in-V post (you can find it here). Anyway, whilst doing my PhD research I have managed to come across a fair amount more about the brand- and also have been able to date a couple of skirts in my collection.

All of the information came from a REALLY (like painfully) dull British trade journal called Women’s Wear News- it seems for a short period in the late fifties they had a pretty strong connection with Saville Sportswear as there are quite a few articles that feature the brand.

First off I came across a wonderful ad from April 1958, featuring one of my skirts


The text reads as follows; ‘this is the seasonable American designed minimum iron sailcloth skirt that’s the talk of the town. The colour combination is a poem in harmony-white background with pale lilac  grapes and labels. The skirt is very full and lined throughout with a villein petticoat, Stiffened hem. Exclusively Sportaville- excitingly new and different!

And here is the skirt in question!


Then, i came across the show report in the same journal (from a few weeks later).


Here is the relevant part ‘At the beginning of the Summer collections i mentioned the beautiful skirt illustrated above. This proved a winner, and Saville Sportswear, the makers, are having the material reprinted to include it is their mid-season collection. As well as being dyed in lovely lilac shades the new coffee and cream combination is being added.

The skirt has an attached stiffened Vilene underskirt and a band of stiffening is inserted in the hemline. Wholesale price is 45s 9d.

Dyed to match is a lilac blouse in non-iron drip dry poplin with a boned tailored collar. The sleeves are set-in and three-quarter length and the wholesale price is 21s.

Vintage cars with fringed hoods make an attractive motif on another mid-season skirt. Cut on a full circle, and in waist sizes 24-28 inches, large vintage cars separated by lamp-posts circle the villein backed cotton skirt. The lower edge is trimmed by deep fringing.’

The skirt mentioned in the final paragraph is another that I have in my collection seen here! Unfortunately this is quite badly discoloured (a dry clean did not help it at all) so if anyone has any top tips on sprucing it up, i would love to hear!


The magazine also features a few other excellent examples of novelty skirts- I don’t own any of these ones, but I wanted to share regardless as they are SO good!

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The last two come from post Saville Sportswear’s move to Bruton Street in late 1958- I was also lucky enough to find a picture of the interior of their plush new showroom (which features in the 1960 video in my Unmaking things post linked to above)


So- what have I learnt from this? well- primarily that Sportaville WERE using American designers for their prints- this makes sense as to why I have seen the car print skirt with an American label in it!

And also… if anyone has any Sportaville skirts they are thinking of letting go of- let me know, I’m always after more 😉





Finding Miss Mouse

There’s only one person other than Frederick Starke whom I would have contemplated writing my PhD thesis on; Rae Spencer-Cullen a.k.a Miss Mouse. There is surprisingly little information out there about one of the 1970s most iconic designers, however every now and again I’ll come across a few articles about her, as was the case today. I’m just sharing one for now, but should you have any more information or memories about the brand I am all ears! (Perhaps I already have an idea for some post-doctoral research…)



Daily Mail, October 10th 1972

The Fab Four

Dressed, stunningly to their own design

Barbara Griggs

It’s easy to suppose that girls who design clothes have no problems when it comes to their own personal appearance. They know about design and fashion and colour and all that, don’t they?


In practice, of course, it’s not all that easy for them. Girls who design clothes ave the same problems of time and organisation as any of us- often much worse.

They have the same kind of hang-ups about their hair, their figure, their looks, as you or me. And even if their clothes are ‘free’ they still have to buy accessories.


So how well do they make out? I invited four of our most exciting young designers to be photographed for Femail waking their own favourite clothes from their own range, looking the way they feel suits them best.


The result? Spectacular, as you can see. Four women looking a knockout in their own individual ways.



Rae of Miss Mouse (left) does’t give a damn about conventional fashion.

She arrived wearing her own midi dress in a soft lime, white and black abstract print, trimmed with dotted black cotton; lots of pearls; a gold and black rose; sheer black tights; and larky, platform-soled shoes from the Chelsea cobbler.

She was the only one NOT in trousers; ‘The thing about dresses is the very nice things that go with them’ she says; like scent and artificial flowers and rather naughty shoes.

‘I can leap straight out if a bath into a dress and feel smart at once. But I’m a bit bored with those long dresses, it’s nice to have a bit of ankle.


Pauline of Pauline Wynne-Jones (standing at the back) makes very simple, very beautiful dresses and cardigan jackets and long pleated skirts; loves crepe; keeps her colours calm and sober.

She turned up in wide trousers made of ginger gaberdine, and its own matching belted coat with big gathered sleeves; ‘there didn’t seem to be a coat around that went with my dresses and trousers, so I designed this one.’ With her ginger- a simple dark brown sweater.

‘I love dresses’ she said rather guiltily, ‘but seldom wear them’.

‘But I could live in trousers, in this one outfit. I’d like it in black velvet for evening. I’d love to have it in Donegal tweed too.’


Katherine Hamnett of Tuttabankem (in the chair) turned up wearing her own swinging full-cut shirt-jacket, in copper coloured suede, with wide matching trousers, an ivory crepe shirt, two copper-coloured thin belts.

Accessories were a tiny brown and white tweed cap stuck with a 30s glass hatpin; beautifully decorated black suede gloves to her elbows an enormous grey chrysanthemum, and deep red river gauche pumps.

She is convinced that one great enemy of good dressing is diffidence;

‘Look at Italian women, they’re PROUD of their bodies. English women are ashamed of their bodies, only happy when they are in some inconspicuous uniform.


Juliet of Juliet Dunn (right) arrived wearing her camel trousers with a perfect cream silk shirt and a belted check jacket and a matching hat in camel, beige and grey- ‘my three favourite colours’.

Plus a huge silver fox stole,  the same dotty Chelsea Cobbler shoes are Rae, and a silver J on a chain from Gucci.

She was a bit apologetic about her trousers. ‘Tomorrow I am going to throw away all my trousers and start living in skirts. Pleated, just above the knee, with a silk shirt and beautiful jacket.

‘When it gets really cold I shall wear long pleated skirts and a cardigan under my jacket and my silver fox and lots of hats. The jacket will be very tailored.