Spirella in Sweden

and Denmark

The Swedish Spirella factory opened on 17th November 1920 in Malmö. Swedish Spirella developed in the direction that suited the Swedish female and diverged in style and materials from the English, American and Canadian branches. Their high-waisted creations have a surprising elegance that their sister companies lacked. The Spirella marketing approach, however, was similar to that in Britain and America with emblems (below - but minus the famous ivy leaf) to applaud years of faithful service.

 

The company lasted for nearly seven decades when, in 1988, the Spirella trademark, machines and patterns were purchased by Berit Johansson, owner of BiJas Produktion AB of Eskilstuna with a view to manufacture and sell orthopaedic corsets and girdles. They still produce an orthopaedic corset called a Spirella, however, this is a historical reference and not a true descendant of the Spirella corset. Berit still employs seven staff and produces over 10,000 garments per year. She is an expert corsetiere and seamstress who still has that rare knowledge of how to fit customers personally.

 

     

 

From the 1923 edition of the Spirella Handbook published by Korsettfabriken Spirella Aktiebolag in Malmö.

 

 

In the 1930s when this set of pictures was taken, one can see the same principles being applied as in America and Britain.

 

"Redan I förväg kan ni se vad Spirella förmår göra för er  Already in advance, you can see what Spirella will do for you."  "Följ ett gott råd   Follow the good advice."  "Är ni ung  Are you young?" and, with a lot of circumstantial marketing advice, "Do you want to stay that way?" The advertisement in the middle comes from the Malmö offices of Spirella in the late 1920's. Note the flapper style and the lack of a proper brassiere since the latter garment was still in its infancy in those days.

 

The importance of the fitting session was a hall-mark of Spirella as these cartoons from the 1960's demonstrate.

 

         

Labels from a very rare measuring garment. At least the latter patented device was the same as in England and America.

As far as I can tell, slanke means slender or slim and fyllige litterally means rich but in this context, robust or stout!

 

 

 

In the 1960's, high-waisted girdles were de rigeur with Stockholm's smart set; a far cry from the liberal and liberated picture that is commonly associated with the Swedes. In fact, the Scandinavian countries produced some elegant yet extremely functional foundations during this period. Even the 'finished product' (above, right) looks like a lady from the English countryside rather than the liberated Swedes, or was this a myth? Not judging from the advertisements below that, judging by the chauvinistic overtones, date from the late 1950's to early 1960's.

 

 

All the adverts show either 205 or 206 girdles that also suggest a date at the end of the 1960's when these styles were superceded. Some translation is need I feel!

 

är Ni slut efter kl. 3     you are exhausted after 3 pm

Det kan bero på felaktig korsettering      this may be due to improper corsetting

Bra figur också - henne tar vi      good figure too - we're taking her!

(Wow; that is very 1950's - Ivy)

Spirella kan hjälpa Er      Spirella can help you

Spirella står Ert hjärta närmast     your heart is closest to Spirella

ung till figuren - ung till åren     young in figure, young in years

 

 

 

 

Let us end this section with an amusing piece:-

 

Bär Spirella hela dagen och tryck in den stora magen”, directly translated it would be something like “Wear Spirella all day long and press in your big belly”, but in Swedish it rhymes and in any other sense, it is probably quite true! My husband came up with

 

"Wear Spirella all the day

And watch your stomach fade away!"

 

 

 

 

Spirella Garments:

The Swedish factory made similar styles as Britain and America but uniquely tailored for the Scandinavian woman and her predilection for the high-waisted girdle.

   

The charming detail at the top of the front suspenders is pure whimsy on the part of the designers, but it shows an attention to detail often absent from the UK girdles. It is present on every Swedish Spirella in our collection. (It was a feature on English Spirellas that were presented to employees as wedding presents!) The girdle (above, left) that looks like a British 234, is a purely Swedish confection. It is a couple of inches longer than its UK cousins, and is made from a very transparent nylon. The cross-stitching down the front of the garment of course harks back to the era of the front-laced corset. Despite the nylon and the whimsical touches, this is a very serious garment! The girdle on the right is a Swedish Spirella 205 made from the same, very transparent, but exceptionally strong nylon material. Note, once again the high waist, the lovely rose-bud detailing and the chrome suspenders clips with the word 'Spirella' stamped therein. Very serious but very elegant.

 

 

    

Spirelettes were also on offer, and note, once again, the little rosebud details at the top of the suspenders

 

 In 1950, there were 2,200 corsetieres in Sweden and by 1957, an amazing total of 3,388 corsetieres serviced this long country with another 1,100 in Denmark. It was stated in the Spirella magazine of the time that the Swedish tended to "go for high corsets and well-defined waists".

 

Here are some typical 'measuring garments' that would have been used by one of those 2,200 corsetieres. "Spirella Fylliga Typen" means 'full model' or in the British Spirella jargon, simply large. Personally, I feel that "Fylliga Typen" says so much more, but perhaps that is because I don't speak Swedish!

                  

         

 

Examples of Scandinavian Spirella corsetry were rare before the advent of the internet, however, we are lucky to have several corsets and girdles in our possession. This superb garment (below) is constructed from a lovely silk/satin that was rarely available to the British and American markets. It is a Swedish model 300, similar to the British and American 305.

 

The weight and feel of this corset are very similar to the British versions. It is 19" long in the back and 15" in the front. It was purchased from an antique shop in Stockholm in 2003. 

The corset dates from, I would guess around the 60's / early 70's, however, the suspenders were cut off (those in the photograph are period pieces superimposed) which makes dating rather difficult. 

The corset was probably one of the last that Spirella in Sweden made. It has been worn regularly as the horizontal creases testify. The owner was tall, since the majority of the corset's length lies below the hips. We can estimate that the woman would have been about 5' 9" tall with 32" waist and 42" hips; not unusual for a Scandinavian today, however, this women would have cut quite a figure in her youth! The owner must have cut off the suspenders (there were four originally) in favour of tights. This is another help in dating the garment. The lacing is not original. I suspect, that the owner was an elderly lady who had looked after the corset for some time. Turning to tights, the suspenders were cut off, and with advancing years, as her weight diminished, lacing became unnecessary. The old frayed laces were replaced and then never used again. The corset became a wrap-around hook-side garment that the lady probably did not need, but was an essential part of her wardrobe.  

 

A very rare example of a Swedish Spirella back-laced 205 girdle worn by a model in 2011. The brassiere is a remarkable match but is actually an English Spirella. The tea-rose (in Swedish - laxrosa, meaning salmon pink) is a perfect match and the garment shows exactly what the Swedish madam of the late 1950's wished to achieve, and that is a well-defined waist. This English Rose epitomises the Swedish ideal!

 

Interestingly, as on the girdles above, the packaging is emblazoned 'Spirella' but the word 'Spirelette' features as well. The suspenders on the corset date the garment to the 1970's since they are quite modern by corsetry standards.

 

 

 

 

We received photographs of two beautiful Malmö Spirella corsets from a collector in Sweden. The fabric is similar to that of the corset above but the first corset, which is back-laced, has lacing below the busk at the lower front. This was an extra that could be ordered to aid with what Spirella (in England) quaintly referred to as "toileting". The gorgeous rosebud detailing, that seems to be a hallmark of Swedish Spirella is present as on all the other Swedish garments we have seen.

 

This last corset should technically be called a 'laced girdle' since the elastic sections run from top to bottom. The back-lacing would only be for periodic adjustment. Note the high waist that apparently was de rigeur for the Swedish lady of fashion. The instructions that came with this corset are displayed on a separate page.

 

Spirella in Malmö-made brassieres as well but they are far rarer to find these days. Here are two examples of a standard Spirella style on the left and a lovely 'cathedral' strapless brassiere on the right. The hallmark Malmö rose is present of course.

 

 

Spirella in the 21st Century

Amazingly, the name Spirella appears to live on as a medical corset produced by the company Bijas at Eskilstuna in Sweden! Whether they are a remnant of the old firm or have simply used an evocative name I do not know, their corsets remain true to the originals. Interestingly, the model on the right sports a corset identical to the example shown here. The packing has the old Spirella logo and font, however, the label in the corset is a modern style. Spirella has indeed made it into the 21st Century.

  

A modern Swedish woman in a modern Swedish corset bearing a modern Spirella logo.

 

We have some excellent examples from Spirella in Sweden and we were keen to find out if the factory and shop still remained in Malmö. Obviously (and sadly) they would not be making and selling corsets any more. My husband dived into the world wide web with a will and, although failing to find the factory, did find the original facade of the Spirella shop as the pictures reveal. There on the Gustav Adolfs Torg,  a street famous for its corsetry emporia (note Fox korsetter) lies the Spirella shop, the outlet for the factory. Ironically, the shop is now the home of 'Les Trois Roses' a choclaterie. Sadly, just when your Swedish woman could well do with a firmly constructed lower foundation, this is no longer available to her.  Click on the right-hand picture to see the shop today.

 

Demonstrably the same building (above) in 2012 as the photograph from the Spirella magazine in 1957.

 

Spirella in Denmark

 

For the first time recently (2013), we found a Danish Spirella waist nipper for sale at auction. We failed to secure this rare garment, however, the vendor had some very clear photographs.