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.

 

  

A Norwegian corset from the 1950's

 

 

 

 

Spirella in Sweden (has moved to its own page)

 

 

 

 

Other Brands

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 on the right 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.

Interestingly, in the 1970's, 'Miss Mary' were still using that age-old, and very effective technique of the 'before and after' photograph (below left). Even the girl from the 1980's is well supported (below), and flanked by the high-waisted girdles of the period. I believe it would be wrong, however, to assume that all Scandinavian lasses were so well supported. 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 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).

 

 

 

 

Glossary

 

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

1937

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.)

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

1953
Production of the brand name corset Splendide begins. Inger Juel, the first Miss Sweden was used as the model in the advertising.

1955
Production of belts and braces begins.

1957
Sales success with Criss Cross, a girdle with two permanently welded tapes, that lay crosswise over the stomach.

1958
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.

1962
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.

1963
The first bras with elastic shoulder straps are launched.

1964
Cooperation is entered into with Mullsjö Konfektion by way of the brand names Lyxita and Splendide.

1967-68
New factories in Töreboda. The launch of the brand names Linje Bekväm for pensioners and Vinetta Lady for women over 60.

1971
The building of a new factory in England.

1972
Swegmark's first moulded bras are launched.

1975
Production of bathing suits is started.


1976
Swegmark acquires the competitor brand name
Fox.

1981
Swegmark acquires
AB Corsettindustri Abecita. The production of gym clothes begins.

1990-95
Swegmark concentrate their business activities on ladies underwear, primarily bras in larger sizes.

1993
Swegmark acquires Sia New Rosme in Riga, Latvia.

1995
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.)