Reflections by Sammy Way - Remembering RuVelle, Sumter's popular women's clothing store

Posted 2/10/19

Reflections looks back at RuVelle, which became a popular women's clothing store in Sumter. This fashionable dress shop was founded in 1936 and rapidly became one of the most exclusive gathering places for Sumter's discerning shoppers. The name of …

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Reflections by Sammy Way - Remembering RuVelle, Sumter's popular women's clothing store

Posted

Reflections looks back at RuVelle, which became a popular women's clothing store in Sumter. This fashionable dress shop was founded in 1936 and rapidly became one of the most exclusive gathering places for Sumter's discerning shoppers. The name of the shop literally means "little street of fashion;" "rue" is French for street; "elle" means little or small. The store remained on Main for a number of years before moving to Bultman Drive. Reflections will reprint with minimal editing an article concerning RuVelle published in The Sumter Daily Item in 1943.

Mrs. Ruth Sanders came to South Carolina when her father, a Baptist minister, moved to Columbia. Following high school, she entered the University of South Carolina where she met and married the late Robert B. Jennings at the end of her second year of school. "She came to Sumter as the bride of the late R. B. Jennings, who was city clerk and treasurer in Sumter for many years. She is the sister of Paul Redfern, the famous aviator, who with his plane, The City of Brunswick, was lost on a flight to South America. He was the first aviator to cross the Caribbean Sea. She entered the retail business in order to provide for her two young sons. She became intrigued by the fashion industry and soon opened the upscale RuVelle. She later married William Sanders, a young lawyer, who returned to practice law in his hometown of Macon, Georgia, requiring her to commute between this city and Sumter.

"One of South Carolina's most exclusive dress shops celebrated its seventh anniversary in 1943 at Sumter. In its brief existence, this fashionable firm has outfitted brides in gowns from size 9 to 44 and shipped merchandise from Maine to Florida and as far west as Montana."

"From a modest beginning with a small stock of dresses and accessories, the RuVelle has grown rapidly enough in the last few years to be able to offer a complete line of ready-to-wear clothing for women and junior misses. Within a few years after it was established, the shop was enlarged and redecorated in answer to popular demand of the growing clientele."

"Among the nationally known lines it carries, advertised in Mademoiselle, Harper's Bazaar and Vogue, are Carlye Junior dresses, L'Aiglon dresses; Mary Muffet dresses, Redfern and Supreme Maid coats; Vanity Fair and Patricia lingerie, and Yolande handmade underwear. To ensure variety of design and selection, every six weeks or so, Sanders purchases merchandise from New York to the West Coast, including Dallas and St. Louis, and from Boston to Miami."

"One of the most attractive features of the store is its novelty department, where gifts for every member of the family are offered. Here the loveliest in cosmetics, perfumes, and costume jewelry is on display. Under the expert management of Mrs. Ruth Redfern Sanders said the RuVelle has a reputation for excellence and originality in window-dressing, having taken prizes every time a window contest was sponsored in Sumter. Photographs have been made of its unusual windows and served as a focus for publications. One of the honors to be awarded the shop was that of first prize in the Red Cross window contest held in Sumter."

"Mrs. Sanders, though she has lived in Sumter for 26 years, is a native of Rochester, New York. It is her talent for designing and her perfect taste in fashions which brought the RuVelle such noted success. Recognition of her business ability and leadership came when she became the first woman to serve on the board of directors of the Sumter Merchant's Association. Active in civic affairs, Mrs. Sanders was a member of the YWCA Business Group, treasurer of the YWCA Board, a member and former vice president of the Pilot Club and chairwoman of the Business Group of the Presbyterian Church."

Another of Mrs. Sanders' exclusive dress shops is "The Spinning Wheel," "home shop" at Beaufort. The Spinning Wheel has been opened about a year and already has attracted a large circle of customers."

"For years, RuVelle graced Main Street in Sumter; the first store was just 8 feet wide and 60 feet deep. However, the store would celebrate its 54th anniversary in 1990 in a new location on Bultman Drive. The RuVelle was purchased by Jackie Allgood, who hoped to continue an additional 54 years of fashion memories in Sumter.

Obviously, big-box stores, huge one-stop malls and online sources have changed the way the Sumter community shops; nevertheless, residents with a taste for fine apparel who have resided locally for a decade or more certainly recall RuVelle's with nostalgia.