Thursday, August 26, 2010

Vintage Swirl Wraparound Apron Dresses - A Part Of South Carolina History




The first Swirl dresses were developed in 1944.  In 1953, the company moved the manufacturing of the Swirl line from Philadelphia to my home state of South Carolina. Textiles were a booming industry in the state at that time.


The Swirl Company relocated to the town of Easley in the upstate to manufacture the extremely popular apron dresses that were a staple of women's daily lives.
                                        


50s Swirl Wrap-Around Apron Dress






A Disappearing Industry.


My husband worked as the Engineering Manager for a major textile company in upstate South Carolina.  For you football fans out there.....this is Clemson Country.

He started working there in the mid 1980s and I found it fascinating when he took me on tours of the plant to watch the shuttle looms clacking away as they spun the cotton.  As I walked up and down the aisles of machines, I felt awed by the history that was so deeply ingrained in the building.  The spinning machines dated to the 1930s and were considered state of the art at that time and were still in use up until the late 90s.  The buildings that housed the manufacturing processes were a fascinating part of history themselves; huge multiple story buildings made of softly weathered red brick with solid maple floors and massive heart pine beams.

As time went on, the textile industry which employed thousands of people and in some cases were the backbone of the community was slowly downsized as jobs moved overseas.  We watched with aching hearts as the  industry that had played such a major part in our history slowly died.


One by one, the rooms where the looms chattered daily were slowly shuttered and the machines sat silent.  Those aged, yet still beautiful brick behemoths that towered over our towns sat empty and seemed to watch us with reproachful eyes.
One by one they were torn down and used for salvage.
A major industry was now lost.


These wood bobbins were brought home by my husband and are in our personal collection.


The bobbins sat  on a spinning frame to collect the loosely woven cotton.  They were in turn placed on another machine where the fiber was spun into tighter thread and packaged off to another plant to be woven into fabric.






















Click to enlarge