Fenner Fashions make women's clothing run by Henry Fenner, 'Peter Jones'. Reg Varney is the downtrodden foreman on the shop floor. The machinists are all women lead by their union rep, '... See full summary »
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1963   1962   1961  

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Cast

Series cast summary:
...
 Harold Fenner (36 episodes, 1961-1963)
Miriam Karlin ...
 Paddy Fleming (36 episodes, 1961-1963)
Reg Varney ...
 Reg Turner (36 episodes, 1961-1963)
...
 Shirley (24 episodes, 1962-1963)
...
 Lily Swann (23 episodes, 1961-1962)
...
 Carole Taylor / ... (23 episodes, 1961-1962)
...
 Gloria / ... (23 episodes, 1961-1963)
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Storyline

Fenner Fashions make women's clothing run by Henry Fenner, 'Peter Jones'. Reg Varney is the downtrodden foreman on the shop floor. The machinists are all women lead by their union rep, 'Miriam Karlin'. The stories are all about the schemes the machinists get up to making life hard for the boss, Henry Fenner. The foremans life is also made hard by the women who have him around their little finger. Each week there is a special order to complete and the machinists make heavy work of things. Very funny comedy made in the early sixties.

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6 October 1961 (UK)  »

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(36 episodes)
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Trivia

In September 2017 Sheila Hancock revealed on BBC Radio 4's "Women Talking About Cars" that she and co-star Miriam Karlin sometimes resorted to performing episodes on a combination of champagne and purple hearts (due to exhausting theatre commitments at the same time as recording). See more »

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Followed by The Rag Trade (1977) See more »

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User Reviews

 
''Everybody out!''
21 July 2015 | by (Wallyford, East Lothian, Scotland) – See all my reviews

Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney's 'The Rag Trade' broke new ground when it first appeared in the '60's in that it was the first sitcom to be made up of an almost entirely female cast. It focused on the lives of a group of working class women who worked for a clothing factory named Fenner Fashions, run by the permanently harassed Harold Fenner. Like Wolfe and Chesney's later 'On The Buses', 'The Rag Trade' was 'the workers against the bosses'. Trade unions came in for a battering too. Basically, it was 'I'm All Right, Jack' with women.

Fenner's staff include dippy Carole Taylor ( Sheila Hancock ), nervous Lily 'Little Lil' Swan ( Esma Cannon ) and militant shop steward Paddy Fleming ( the late Miriam Karlin ) who uses any excuse possible to blow her whistle and screech ''Everybody out!'' to bring the staff out on strike. Reg Varney played Fenner's foreman Reg Turner who tried his best to keep the girls under control but instead found himself under their spell each and every time.

Various women came and went over the course of the show's run, among them were Barbara Windsor, Toni Palmer, Wanda Ventham, Ann Beach and Gwendolyn Watts. Irene Handl later appeared as Reg's mum who ended up working as Fenner's bookkeeper.

Three series were made in total, after which the BBC decided to close the door on Fenner's Fashions. Groundbreaking and well performed though it was, sadly 'The Rag Trade' does not stand up so well when viewed these days, with strikes and trade unions now no longer prevalent in sitcoms. The show was later revived in the late '70's, this time shown by LWT, with only Peter Jones and Miriam Karlin returning from the original series but it was unsuccessful and after two series was axed. Looked at now, 'The Rag Trade' can be viewed as an interesting insight into what clothing workshops used to be like.

The existing episodes from the first two series have been released on DVD but sadly the third series is missing from the BBC archives. Not a classic, but amusing enough.


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