Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Bewitching Sportaville & Marignan skirt

I have discovered my super-power at last. I can make my bottom half disappear in a field. 
This picture has been dubbed the Floral Predator, and it's a fair description. 

The skirt is a restored Sportaville 1950s find, and the amazing fabric is a scenic print by the French firm Marignan.

The backdrop is our local bluebell woods. Apparently Tim Burton has a house around the corner.

Dearest little dears. 

That vanishing trick is down to this amazing print. I was searching Ebay for projects when it caught my eye, the sumptuous print is on a soft cotton barkcloth. I counted 7 colours, and I bet it cost a fortune when it was new.

Sportaville were a British maker of quality separates from the 1940s through to the late 70s Sadly all that remained of this one was the three panels of fabric, and a scrap of waistband with the original label attached.

The three former Sportaville skirt panels hanging in the back garden, each is 34" wide by 26" long.

The Sportaville label on the restored skirt .

Re-making can be harder than making from scratch. I stabilised the top edge with bias binding, which stopped it fraying and going off grain but made it bulkier to pleat. After trying 4 different pleats all of which looked awful, I looked on Etsy and found a similar barkcloth skirt with stitched down pleats, which I copied. I have left the it un-hemmed as it was only 26" long, and it still had the original over-cast stitching to stop it fraying.

But how do I know this fabric is by Marignan? Well I have bought this print before, several years ago, again on Ebay.

Scenic print fabric by Marignan

Waterfall close up 

Grand Teint Meuble Marignan - 'Grand teint' apparently refers to the quality of the ink

This print is so dreamy. The indigo and lavender on pale yellow have a kind of other-worldly look. It's a metre plus of furnishing fabric, enough for a cushion or something but I think I will frame it and put in my stairwell. I now assume this is 1950s too.

Sportaville and companies like them owe their reputation to using this kind of high grade fabric, but Marignan and companies who supply them are often a bit hidden. I am so used to seeing novelty print skirts all over the inter-web, but looking at these two prints makes me really appreciate the sheer quality of the stuff that was being used, essentially to make a fashion product. It was as they say, a very different age.


  1. Oh, what brilliant handiwork! The fabric is stunning, I never knew such fantastic and ethereal prints existed on barkcloth! Great detective work too!

  2. Is that you, baby, or just a brilliant disguise? (That's your Brucie Bonus - whether you wanted it or not!) You are indeed beautifully camouflaged against the bluebell wood backdrop, how fantastic is that photo. And your rescue job on that wonderful skirt is brilliant. I had a Sportaville skirt which I found at a flea market, but the print wasn't as beautiful as yours, and I ended up selling it on.
    I love researching vintage labels, fabrics and designers too, it brings out my inner nerd and I get great satisfaction from tracking down interesting information! xxx

  3. Sportaville is the bestest! I love all their 50s stuff but now a days it's hard to find any. Thank you as ever for your kind comments.