Encyclopedia Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes)

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She's Their Lucky Star

Australian Women's Weekly

20 May 1959


Sabrina has raised two Australians from the ranks – Ray Bolwell, here manager; now it's Ray Mann, a dress-designer.

Ray Mann and Ray Bolwell

DESIGNER of some of Sabrina's spectacular dresses, Ray Mann hopes to go overseas at the end of this year.

MANAGER of Sabrina's business affairs is Ray Bolwell, of Melbourne. They met at his swimming pool.

Sabrina and Ray Mann met - accidentally – among - the cheeses in a delicatessen at King's Cross.

AND now Ray is designing clothes for the most fabulous piece of cheese-cake in show business – Sabrina herself.

After that first meeting Sabrina and Ray met often They went shopping together.

And Sabby was impressed with Ray's dress-designing ability.

So she is taking him back to London with her: to London via New Zealand, the East, and the United States.

I trod Sabrina's path to Ray's ground-floor at in a terrace house at Paddington.

Neighbors popped their heads out of windows, but they were disappointed. NOT Sabrina this time. She was in Adelaide, performing.

Ray was disappointed, too. He was expecting a dummy of Sabrina from Melbourne. He needed it so that he could get on with the five gowns he is making for Sabrina.

But he is a mild little man and did not show disappointment too keenly. Rather Spanish-looking, he seems younger than 29.

He showed me around his flat. I sat on a rickety chair and looked around. It was only one room, bare except for a few essentials.

Added trimmings were: A cat called Phoebe and a box of earth, a sewing-machine, a half-finished sketch of a fish-tail gown on a shapely, Sabrina-ish figure, and a brilliant, bejewelled, black-and-red sheath dress lying on the table next to a milk bottle.

Ray pored over the dress and said he just didn't know when he'd have time to finish it. No, said Ray, this gown was for Terri King, Sydney nightclub singer. But when he came to think of it it, Terri had a lot to do with his Sabrina contract

It was all because of a shimmering diamente gown Ray had moulded for Terri's appearance with negro singer Johnny Mathis last year.

That gown had outshone Sabrina's when he went to Lee's restaurant, where Terri was singing. "Who made it?" snapped Sabrina.

So the ground was prepared for the accidental meeting in the delicatessen.

"I know that face," thought Ray, and he turned to his friend, who happened to be Terri King, and asked to be introduced to "the face."

"It's real"

As for "the figure," Ray is still stunned.

It's superb. Perfect for my sort of clothes. Shows them off brilliantly."

It's real," he added quaintly.

He pulled out a blue satin Sabrina-shaped sheath dress. Nothing was built in. This shape was just a lining.

The covering material would be a solid shimmer of two tones of diamente.

He delved in a cupboard and brought out boxes of material. They were terribly heavy.

"Sabrina's a tall girl and she can carry the weight of these. She's clever, too. She's the only girl I've ever met who can judge how a dress is going to feel and what it's going to do for her before it's even made."

There was real reverence in his voice.

He wouldn't say how much Sabrina was going to pay him for each dress, but each will be insured for about £600.

He justified the expense. "This diamente, for example, costs £3 a yard. Well, it's just fabulous for the material alone.

"Someone once told me that a woman in New York paid 800 guineas for a dress that was only strips of diamente."

And the labor? Ray scratched his head. "I never even think of that. Each diamente must be hand-stitched, because, you see, that moulds it into a gentle shape."

Because of Sabby's dresses (two diamente ones, two lace fish-tails heavily encrusted with jewels, and one of draped chiffon), Ray needed an assistant.

He asked a friend, Ray Cavalli, who just stitches for a hobby. "I trust him."

Rags to riches

"It's all going to be a fabulous start to my career," he said. "Sabby's going to introduce me to all the theatrical people in London and New York. Oh, it's fabulous."

And he might well say so. For Ray's story of dressmaking is almost "rags to riches."

"Mum could always sew," he began.

Ray was a commercial artist. He came to Sydney and drew bathing suits for advertisements.

He didn't really know what he wanted to be. He wasn't even very ambitious then.

"I was taking a girl to a dance," he said reminiscently. "Somehow or other her dress- maker let her down. She had all the material.

"It wasn't very nice, but I thought it would be a pity for her not to wear it, so I offered to make it for her.

"It fitted, funnily enough."

Then all the girl's friends came to visit Ray. "I was terrifically popular." He grinned, and said that even then he used to make clothes for everyone just as a hobby.

One of the girls was in the theatrical business and Ray found himself making dresses for other actresses.

It wasn't any longer just a hobby, but business, and not so big, because Ray simply didn't care about money.

He cared for the effect of the gown, and that was all.

Visiting show people heard about him and often wanted to meet him. "I didn't really care, so made no effort to get in touch with them.

"I heard Julia Darvas. She was a millionairess singer or something, and wanted to meet me.

"But I did make a mental note to try to get in touch with Sabrina. I don't think I would have if we hadn't met accidentally, though.

"I always let opportunities slip," he said dreamily.

Ray had always meant to go overseas and study theatrical designing, but doubts if he would have ever got there. He mentioned his vague ambition to Sabrina one day while she was having a fitting.

"She just laughed in my face. Imagine the shock when her manager, Ray Bolwell, said that she had decided to 'adopt' me!" Ray said.

He glanced up at the only photograph in the room. "To Ray. All My Love, Sabby," was scrawled across the corner.

Suddenly he was quite serious.

"You know I've just had a hideous thought. I might now be designing cocktail dresses for middle-aged women if I'd taken any notice of everyone's advice when I started to sew."

Sabrina dress fitting in Melbourne

SABRINA says "My figure is my job." Naturally interested in clothes, she has bought a number of dresses for her stage show in Australia. Here she's being fitted with a clinging creation in Melbourne workrooms.

Page Created: 1 Nov 2011

Last Changed: Friday 2022-09-09 14:51

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