The Demise of Spirella

This page was originally entitled, the demise of the corset, but in retrospect, I believe that the corset and, indeed, the shaper (panty-girdle) is alive and well, it was the demise of Spirella, a company for which the revolution of the 'swinging 60s' sounded the death knell. As an aside, the open-bottom girdle was the only structured foundation that really died.

One word, in my understanding of Spirella's demise, that heralded the end was 'Matchmakers' (pictures left & right). In the very early 60s, Spirella decided to use their manufacturing expertise to create everyday, very conservative fashions for the mother and daughter, however, their timing at the beginning of the 'swinging 60s' was unfortunate. Even the girl on the right in her Matchmakers slacks and, no doubt, Spirelette panty-girdle was not going to attract a new generation of Spirella clients. You could get these items far more cheaply on the High Street and the fact that Yootha Joyce and Violet Carson (Ena Sharples from Coronation Street) wore them was no help either.

Unfortunately, attempting to turn your daughters into images of yourself and an older generation was doomed to failure. The picture (left) from 1963 shows two girls whose attire could have been worn by their grannies. The revolution of youth was but a year away and never again would teenagers wear anything remotely like twin-set and pearls.

 

The demise of Spirella ended nearly eight decades of a close-knit community:

Mrs. Jean Fitton (69) who had worked at Spirella for 33 years lost her job as the factory closed in 1989. The time-line has a ghastly inevitability about it. Some older women were literally in tears as the mainstay of their existence was wound up. Fortunately, Spencer would continue to make the same corsets until the present day, however, the styles and choice of fabric have been greatly reduced.

Spirella and Spencer,  once  mortal  rivals joined forces in Canada in the early 1980s and then in Britain Spirella was sold to Spencer that in its own turn was taken over by Remploy, Thamert, and another old established purveyor of surgical supports who thought that money could be squeezed out of the last corsets. Even Camp and Jenyns merged their products in Australia.

Spencer unbelievably lost their brassiere patterns and these three dimensional garments are hard enough to make properly anyway. Swatches of defective material (Spirella’s Black Orchid) caused embarrassment and lost sales as corsets split. The younger generation had no appreciation of foundation garments leading to a shortage of fitters prepared to be trained. Only the imminent closure of a factory prompted a surge in sales as their elderly clientele bought enough garments to ‘see them out’ .

The newspapers of the day thought it was vaguely amusing.

cont.,

Spirella was sold to Spencer at the end of 1989. Some older women were literally in tears as the mainstay of their existence was wound up. Fortunately, Spencer would continue to make the same corsets until the present day, however, the styles and choices of material are greatly reduced. Even Spencers are now made under the banner of Thamert, and before that, briefly by Remploy, another old established purveyor of surgical supports. The newspapers of the day thought it was vaguely amusing...