Miss Marys’ wardrobe – more than just underwear

24 Sep 2020 10:33 AM
Annica Svensson

Nowadays, Miss Mary of Sweden is best known as a bra specialist, but in the past, it wasn’t underwear with which we were most closely associated. Join us on a nostalgia trip back to a time when Miss Mary was more than just underwear and indulge in these wonderful vintage photos.

The groundwork for Miss Mary of Sweden was laid in 1957 when Marwel and Ingemar Rydström founded the company, then called Marys Mode. He was a sewing machine technician, and she was a seamstress who had designed and sewn clothes for friends and acquaintances. Together they started producing women’s clothing from Marwel’s designs. At that time the company was called Marys Mode, named after Marwel, whose nickname was Mary. We manufactured the garments in our own factory in the historic textile city of Borås in Sweden.

Cover of the autumn and winter catalogue 1965-66

We have browsed through old catalogues from our archive to get a feel for what Miss Mary’s version of fashion, beauty products and furnishing looked like in during the 60s and onwards.

Afternoon dresses from Miss Mary 1965

A selection of ‘afternoon dresses’ from the mid-60s. The short red and green dresses were made from acetate silk while the blue dress was made from patterned jacquard.

We also offered occasion wear for evening use and more formal engagements such as the trio of cocktail dresses in the picture below. To the left is a black Crimplene dress with woven permanent pleating with a pair of evening gloves as the finishing touch. The black and gold dress had a patterned brocade upper with a unicoloured velvet lower part. The emerald green dress to the right was made from silk brocade.

Evening dresses from Miss Mary 1965

The winter collection often included party dresses of this kind, with invitations, soirées and New Year celebrations in mind. Here an elegant evening dress is shown in bolero style in black with lamé gold.

Miss Mary 1965

If you wanted to be elegant but not overdressed then the suit was a perfect alternative: a jacket combined with matching trousers or skirt. Shown on the left of the picture below is a three-piece ensemble with a suit jacket and skirt in lurex-thread jersey with a sparkly silver effect. The black suit was made from a Crimplene jersey material and was an ‘indoor suit that ought to be in every woman’s wardrobe’.

Suit jackets with skirts from Miss Mary 1966

A cream jacket with hound’s-tooth check pattern details and a skirt in the same hound’s-tooth pattern were combined with a hat and gloves for a complete outfit, perfect for chilly autumn days.

The hottest mail-order fashion for winter 1965-66

Suits were a permanent fixture during the years that Miss Mary offered clothing. Below is a typical Miss Mary suit from the mid-60s made from crease-free polyester in a pink tweed pattern alongside a Kennedy dress made from the same material.

Elegant pink from Miss Mary’s catalogue 1966

Just like the 60s, the 70s has a very distinctive style and shilouette. Clothes in gloomy tones of brown, green and orange were preferred. Patterns should ideally be big and attention grabbing. Trousers should of course be flared.

Late 70s fashion from Miss Mary

However, not everything was dressed up and ladylike then; Miss Mary offered clothes for all hours of the day, from dressing gowns to work and leisure wear. Miss Mary gave you ‘the freedom to be who you want’, as we often described it at the time. This is how comfortable and relaxing the 1996 summer catalogue looked.

Miss Mary 1996 with Yvonne Ryding on the cover

On the cover is the Swedish celebrity Yvonne Ryding who won Miss Universe 1984. We collaborated with Yvonne for a few seasons during the second half of the 90s.

Yvonne Ryding for Miss Mary during the second half of the 90s

We always released two catalogues every year: one for spring and summer and one for autumn and winter. During the 80s and 90s the summer catalogues almost always had several pages with a timeless maritime theme in white, red and of course navy blue. A classic in the mail-order industry.

90s mail-order fashion from Miss Mary with a maritime theme

Just a few years after Miss Mary of Sweden was founded, we started exporting clothing to other countries in Europe. Today, we have a presence in nearly 20 countries. The catalogues were printed in several languages. Below is a spread taken from the German language edition.

A spread from Miss Mary of Sweden’s German mail-order catalogue from 1996

But Miss Mary was more than just clothes and underwear during these decades, we also offered beauty products under our trademark, everything from hairspray and make-up to skincare products. We started selling these at the beginning of the 60s. This is how it might have looked in 1966.

A lot of hairspray was needed for the 60s hairstyle.

‘Seductively fragrant, self-regulating hairspray’ that lasted even if you combed your hair and contained no shellac or flammable, poisonous substances. Amongst other products, the skincare range consisted of three skin tonics for oily, normal or dry skin, day cream for dry or normal skin, night cream and a cleanser. The advert showed two women who were mother and daughter but looked nearly the same age.

60s make-up and skincare from Miss Mary of Sweden

Not satisfied with all that, we also sold home textiles such as bedspreads, bedlinen, curtains, towels and rugs. We had both a beauty club and plant club and sold a variety of bits and pieces for the home, such as footbaths. If you shopped at Miss Mary of Sweden, you shouldn’t need to shop anywhere else. This is how a typical bedroom might have looked during the 60s.

Example furnishings that could be bought through mail order in 1963

Our underwear saw the light of day in 1962 and was a big success from the start. During the 2000s the other product groups were slowly withdrawn from the range, leaving only swimwear and underwear. If you’re interested to see what our underwear looked like through the years, you can take a look at our previous articles on underwear from the 60s, 70s and 80s. A delight for all lovers of things vintage and retro. In the next article in the Miss Mary’s Wardrobe series we will explore underwear from the 90s.

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