Usually when you see a Swirl dress advertised, it is described as being from the 1950s. However, the Swirl wrap dress was made starting in 1944, and its manufacture continued at least through the 1960s and possibly even into the 1970s. So how does one date a style that was made practically unchanged for thirty years?
First of all, look at the label. There are two labels that were used in the 1940s; “Ty-wrap by Swirl” and “Swirl by neat ‘n tidy.” But by far, most Swirl dresses are simply labeled, “Swirl.” It is thought that some of the early 1950s dresses have this label, but with the addition of the word “sanforized.”
To further complicate matters, the Ty-Wrap label is sometimes found on 1960s wrap dresses. Perhaps a cache of the old labels was found and put to use at that time.
Probably one of the best ways to judge the age of a Swirl is by its length. The later Swirls are considerably shorter in keeping with the shorter dress styles of the mid 1960s. If you have a short Swirl that you think might be from the 1950s, check the hem to be sure it has not been shortened. Also, later Swirls are often not as full through the waist as those of the mid 1950s.
Another thing to consider are pockets. Vintage-voyager’s 1940s Swirl has pockets that are sewn into the side seams. The early 1950s Swirls had huge patch pockets. Later Swirls often had smaller pockets, one smaller patch pocket, or even no pockets at all.
Another clue might be the type of print and the colors used. Pink and yellow seem to be popular colors for Swirls, regardless of age, but pay attention to the details. The ultra feminine fabrics of the 1950s gave way to darker colors and more somber prints in the early 1960s.
Last of all, there are some dresses from the mid 1960s that are not wrap dresses at all. They sometimes zip up the front, and have a separate tie belt, and they do have the familiar Swirl label. The length, style and colors point toward the mid 1960s for these dresses, and it’s my guess that the Park East and Swirl Girl labels soon followed these styles.