Spirella in Sweden


" The Swedish tend to go for high corsets

and well-defined waists!"


Spirella magazine of 1957

Scandinavia & Finland

Fox's and Kronan's versions of the attenuated waist


Swedish Adverts

Glossary & History

Other Brands


Finnish Corsetry


I have never visited Denmark; however, my husband relates being impressed at Copenhagen airport in 1973 by a stunning display in the concourse of heavy satin girdles and corsets, all in brilliant white. They appeared to be made-to-measure at some premises in Copenhagen (the Buddingsevij, near Lyngby). Certainly, one of the very few Scandinavian corsets that I’ve ever seen (it's Norwegian) makes full use of corset grade satin as its material of construction. The use of the satin turns what would otherwise appear to be a very functional surgical corset into an object of some elegance. The wearer of this piece would certainly attain the shape required by the corset; there would be no other option.  

Over the years, we have learned more. Spirella had a corset factories in Malmö and Copenhagen, but little history is available, even in the Spirella archives at Letchworth. It was only the kindness of a Swedish contact who gave us a whole host of advert from the 1950's that opened our eyes to the excellence of Swedish corsetry.

Again, we were delighted to receive permission from a charming Danish lady, Marianne, to publish her recollections of the foundations of her youth. This is especially interesting and revealing since she spent time serving in a corset shop. Her story is related in Marianne's Tale.



Very stylish and with sumptuous materials, the Swedish could produce a fashion corselette (left) or a party dress basque (right). The Norwegians meanwhile have constructed a very serious surgical corset from the 1950s but in a heavyweight, gorgeous, corset-quality satin to hold those rigid spinal and side steels close against the wearer's torso..






Spirella in Sweden (has moved to its own page)




Miss Mary of Sweden  



Marys Modehus of Borås


One of the most famous brands to come out of Sweden was the 'Miss Mary of Sweden' line, which is still marketed today. Their products featured strongly in many specialist underwear mail order catalogues, notably Ambrose Wilson. The girdle below was one of their classics from the 1970's and early 1980's. It is beautifully made with satin panels in all the right places and even open cross-stitching (centre-front) to remind us of the corset laces of our mothers. The girdle is surprisingly light; far lighter than the French equivalents of the period. It actually feels quite flimsy, however, I know from a lady who swore by hers that it was quite effective if one bought a size less than normal. I suspect, however, that this girdle would never achieve the same results as the French models or even the classic M&S girdles.


The very elegant 'Miss Mary' girdle as sold by Ambrose Wilson in the UK in the 1970s.



Miss Mary of Sweden was founded in 1957 in the Swedish textile capital of Borås by Ingemar Rydström, an innovative entrepreneur in the fashion business but it was his wife, Marwel 'Mary' Rydström, who brought the name of 'Miss Mary' to the corsetry trade.

For the first few years, the company was called Marys Modehus and sold women’s ready-made clothing by mail order. Women’s undergarments weren’t launched until 1962, and they were an immediate success.

 Marwel had designed and created many garments for friends and acquaintances. With the newly started company, she was able to offer her creations also to a larger group of customers and audience. By removing middlemen and shops, the prices could be kept low thanks to direct sales via its catalogues.

[September 2021: A correspondent informed us that Miss Mary was sued in the US due to claims that their girdles could take two inches off the waist. The story goes that Mary's husband tried on the girdle to prove that it really could do that. It must have been a very under-sized girdle to achieve such a reduction on the hard body of a man. It would have been easier to prove on Mary herself- Ivy]




Marwel 'Mary' Rydström

Interestingly, in the 1970's, 'Miss Mary' were still using that age-old, and very effective technique of the 'before and after' photograph (below). It is as common for advertisers to use the 'before and after' picture, as to use models far younger than their target age.  Personally I prefer the more mature women. Less than flattering, the photographs have that ring of truth!



A Marys catalogue from 1962 shows that Swedish women were very much into high-waisted girdles and had more access to panty-girdles than her British peers.



But why waste the photos of the models on just the Scandinavians, the Germans have small and 'solid' women too!


Not to mention the British as well and, rest assured, whether you wear a corselette, girdle or panty-girdle you too can achieve (whichever way you face) a blatantly modified figure. 'Falsch' indeed; never wear a short bra with a tight girdle Fraulein. Didn't Mutti teach you that?

It is a shame that the Swedes could not resist that cheesy 'before and after' photograph because the 'rätt' and 'fel' lady above looks far more realistic and convincing. 



Miss Mary also made clothes and swimwear and, unlike Spirella's wretched 'Matchmakers' outfits, these Swedish confections really look rather stylish. Perhaps that's why Miss Mary is still trading whereas Spirella went to the wall over 30 years ago.


Other Brands  


A modern example of Swedish corsetry from Fröja (left) compares well to an older Foxline (right). A theme that is so often apparent in European corsetry is the use of satin. Regard the Graciella box and the lovely satin corset peeping out.

Even the normally straightforward Swedes couldn't help but bow to the 1970's trend to add unnecessary extras to a functional garment. Above from 1974, a huge tummy-band, with no less than four rows of hooks-and-eyes, has been added to an otherwise pretty corselette. Although this might just (on its tightest setting) have a small chance of reducing the burgeoning hips of the real Abba woman, it meant that a basic corselette now contained around 25 hooks (crotch, hips and front).

Again from Fröja, we see the elements of a back-laced satin corselette.



Swedish corsets. Even the prosaic liberty bodice is rendered desirable by careful choice of materials. Three gorgeous satin foxline corselettes and girdles on the right.


The Swedish, apart from their home-grown products, imported and made under licence models from France, the USA and Britain. Even Twilfit supplied corsets for every possible Swedish shape and in case that wasn't enough, their (in-)famous rubber corsetry was at hand. What these rubber garments must have felt like on a cold winter's morning can not have been much fun. Certainly the model fails to raise a smile!





Swedish Advertisements


To quote Spirella "The Swedish go for high corsets and well-defined waists". Indeed, they do!



The advertisement on the left is one of the most elegant expressions of femininity that I've ever seen, however, you can wager a year's wages that the advertisement, the girdle and the company were created by a man!


The girl with glasses was in great demand!


The James Bond era had a lot to answer for in advertising!


The mail-order catalogue from Wiskadals Fabrik in 1958 (right) also shows this high-waisted look although, to be fair, there were many pages of shorter girdles and corsets as well.

Of course, those experts of the high-waisted girdle, Warners, prospered in Sweden through extensive advertising (below).







Svaréns S. Svaréns Trikåfabriks AB in Falköping, made Perforita.

Konfektions AB Fröja (AB Skandinaviska Korsettfabriken, Oskarshamn) started in 1923 as “Skandinaviska Korsettfabriken”, and was a company that produced corsets, girdles and brassieres. Some of the older products are still made and they have the broadest selection within this category. After 67 years on the east coast (Oskarshamn), Fröja moved to Strömstad on the west coast of Sweden in the summer 1990. It has always been a family company - now in the fourth generation. In Norway, a sister company has been run by same family for several generations. 

Swedish Spirella Malmö

The Spirella trademark, machines and patterns from the Malmö factory were purchased 18 years ago (1988) by Berit Johansson, owner of BiJas Produktion AB of Eskilstuna.


Germa Stockholm, (Royal supplier)

Opposite is shown a Germa girdle from the 1960's. Note the high waist that was required by the formal Swedish woman.


Kronan, Konfektionsaktiebolaget Karlson&Starck Göteborg. Rococo, Håll-In, Marquant, Midilastic.   Bras Filmia


Kanters, Poirette (only import from USA)


AB Corsettindusti, Borås  Abecita, Fox, Cid, Abc, Little-X,   Bras Little-wonder

The Abecita story dates back more than 70 years in the world of undergarments. Founded in Sweden in 1932 by Joel Åkerlund, he started a major corset factory in Borås; AB Corsettindusti manufacturing traditional ladies lingerie such as corsets, girdles, and brassieres. These products were and still are the company's primary focus. Previously the company had brands such as Cid, Abc and in the 1950's they also sold the famous girdle Little X. In the 1960's, the company acquired the brand Fox. In the beginning of the 1970's, Abecita manufactured the very famous one-size bra named the Little wonder. Since the 1980's, Abecita is now part of the Swegmark group.




Swegmark, Splendide, Lyxita, Criss-Cross    Swegmark's history is reproduced below from http://www.swegmark.com/eng/index_ie.html


Harry Swegmark founds the company H. Swegmark Fabriks AB. The first product made is an
ärmlappar?. (A small fabric piece under a blouse, to hide perspiration from the armpit.)

Swegmark manufactures ribbon, plastic items and sanitary pants. At the end of the 1940's production of corsets began.

Production of the brand name corset Splendide begins. Inger Juel, the first Miss Sweden was used as the model in the advertising.

Production of belts and braces begins.

Sales success with Criss Cross, a girdle with two permanently welded tapes, that lay crosswise over the stomach.

Harry Swegmark's sons, Bengt and Gösta, begin working at the company. Bengt was trained at a design school in England and created his first Swegmark collection this year.

The textile industry receives access to new materials such as elastic, Lycra and Fibre K. The development of new materials leads to Swegmark designing the first panty girdle. Swegmark makes its first export deal.

The first bras with elastic shoulder straps are launched.

Cooperation is entered into with Mullsjö Konfektion by way of the brand names Lyxita and Splendide.

New factories in Töreboda. The launch of the brand names Linje Bekväm for pensioners and Vinetta Lady for women over 60.

The building of a new factory in England.

Swegmark's first moulded bras are launched.

Production of bathing suits is started.

Swegmark acquires the competitor brand name

Swegmark acquires
AB Corsettindustri Abecita. The production of gym clothes begins.

Swegmark concentrate their business activities on ladies underwear, primarily bras in larger sizes.

Swegmark acquires Sia New Rosme in Riga, Latvia.

Needlework groups are introduced, thereby reducing production time from 10 to five weeks.



Arnbergs Corset Factory, Höganäs


Arnbergs Korsettfabrik AB in Höganäs 1893, they made girdles and corselettes for Sweden but exported to Norway and UK. 1969 the nearly bankrupt business was sold to German Triumph. Graciette, Gracita, Graciella, Gracien Lady, Gracien Junior and Miss Grace were some of the trademarks.


Arnbergs Corsettfabrik AB was founded by Olof Arnberg in Höganäs, the farmer’s son who didn´t like the agricultural work. Instead, he opened in 1893 as 21-year old, tailor - dressmaker and draper´s shop in his own building at Köpmansgatan, Höganäs. It became the beginning of the corset factory that stood for 80 years.

In 1909, he built a new  big factory at Storgatan. It became the biggest workplace for the Höganäs women. They made corsets with the names Grace, Graciform and Graciella that shaped woman bodies strongly, and the production became an important source of income too many women in this coal-mining and industrial community. Many girls started at 14 years old, as errand girls or cut-threads. The men worked in the delivery or department managers’ offices and by 1939, the number employed there rose to 635 persons, mainly women with 400 dressmakers.

When Arnberg started the company in 1891, he had help of a Danish tailor-cutter with the surname Lerche. Along with her they started to produce corsets. They had problems in the beginning, since glue used in the production pasted itself though onto the tailor´s dummys. In Copenhagen, he learnt of a method a copper dummy was used and shaping done with steam.

Arnbergs did not sell only products in Sweden, they had also an extensive export to Norway and England. Everything from the first tight-fitting corsets, flat corselettes in 1920, and later, models in more elastic materials with pointed breasts. Most of the raw material, 10,000 metres elastic fabric per week, was produced by the factory. Production grew to 50,000 garments each week. In the last years the production, in addition to corsets, corselettes, brassieres and girdles, was also extended to nightdresses.

When Olof Arnberg died in 1953, the youngest son, Lennart Arnberg, assumed the responsibility as MD for the company.

The halcyon period was in the 1950’s when the production increased during the son Lennart's management, from five to 25 millions Kroner, due to improved mechanical parking and marketing. At one point the turnover exceeded 70 millions Kroner.

When Arnberg’s Korsettfabrik started advertising for the first time in 1952, they begun with the big selling girdle Graciette. The anticipated selling 12,000 girdles but it became 60,000!

Then came the down- turn, despite traveling to America to gain new inspiration and purchase new materials. Arnbergs and every other corset makers’ biggest antagonist was the advent of the panty-hose (tights). In 1965, pantyhose came to Sweden and they rapidly became immensely popular. Now, nobody needs suspenders, corset or girdle to hold up the stockings. The skirts became also shorter and shorter. Thus did the corset sector face big losses each year and by 1967, only 186 employees were left on the factory.

In 1969, Arnberg sold the company to German Triumph and narrowly escaped bankruptcy. Lennart Arnberg would continue to work in Triumph’s factory in Turku for another 16 years.

Left in Höganäs were only stocks and offices. The factory building in the block along Storgatan was demolished 1982. As with so many towns, the characterful corset factory was replaced by faceless, anodyne real-estate offices and fast-food outlets. (Ironically, it would be these food parlours that provided modern woman with a desperate need for adequate corsetry, but with neither the knowledge nor the outlets to supply them any more – Ivy’s comment.)