The Start of an Obsession

Even though I’ve been buying and sort of collecting vintage clothing since the 1970s, it was not until about ten years ago that I really became interested in learning more about the American textile and garment making industries.   The first topic that really captured my imagination was the Swirl wrap dress.  The Swirl dress was not high fashion, but rather, it was a garment that was commonly worn by women at home or for casual occasions.

What piqued my interest was a post on a vintage chat board showing the hang tag on a never worn Swirl.  I was surprised to learn that the factory had been located in the up-state of South Carolina, not far from my home.

Over the years I’d run into my fair share of Swirls, but I had no idea they were a local product.  An online search turned up almost nothing, so I decided to travel to the source in search of information.  The factory had been closed for years, so the first place I went was to the public library in Easley.  There I found the local newspaper on micro-film, and with the help of a worker who remembered a basic timeline of the firm’s operation, was successful in locating articles about how the company moved to Easley in the 1950s.  Unfortunately, I also found articles that detailed the decline and eventual closing of the plant in 1999.

While a Swirl dress is not high fashion, it is fun fashion.  The dresses were made from cheerfully colored cottons and were often appliqued with fun designs.  A good example of a 1960s Swirl is this dress which my friend Monica Murgia has for sale on her site.   It reminded me of that very first hang tag that I saw so many years ago, and how it led me down this path of collecting and blogging.

An important feature of the Swirl dress is the button on the back neck that holds the dress together.  I love how the I is dotted with a button on the Swirl label.

All photos courtesy of and copyright of Monica Murgia.

6 Comments

Filed under Textiles, Vintage Clothing

6 responses to “The Start of an Obsession

  1. Joyce Bradley

    I thought you might be interested in this article from my local newspaper. A Women cleaning out her mother’s belonging found much of her fashion art she had done back when for local department stores. Don’t know how long this article will be accessible, so if you’re interested check it soon. Be sure to click through the pictures to see what was found. http://www.indystar.com/article/20121014/THINGSTODO03/210140347/Artist-s-department-store-legacy-now-becoming-part-Indiana-history?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|IndyStar.com|s

    Like

  2. Andrea Thibert

    My first big sale on eBay was a swirl dress. Love the post!

    Like

  3. Great post Lizzie! I love Swirl dresses and all the info you find and share about them.

    The red and white gingham one from Monica is adorable and I love the label. One would indeed look lovely in it!

    Like

  4. ourdailydress

    I love Swirls! I’ve yet to find a real one here in Australia (perhaps they didn’t make it over?)but have come across several ‘Swirl inspired’ dresses.

    Like

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