Irish National Costume
Irish history gives a great glimpse of our ancestor’s costumes. The sources such as “Book of Kells” gives a vast description of the dresses at that time. The costume of Ireland included belted plaid, tunic, trews, cochal, brahts etc. The folklore of Ireland was very much inspired by Gaelic and Norse costumes. The costumed consisted of a fringed cloak or mantle which they wear along with a check trews and a short tunic which was worn both by men and women. The folk lore of Ireland has still preserved this traditional dressing although the people now do not wear it on regular days. The folk music and folk dance has still given this traditional dress its due importance. In the 16th century A.D this costume was banned by the British as Irish people were unwilling to be a part of England. The saffron yellow color has special importance in the Irish costume; hence wearing any saffron colored cloth along with cloak and trews was banned at this time.
In the early 19th century the ordinary peasants used to wear ribbons which were made into flowers or crosses. The skirt that they wear used to reach till ankles were homespun. A simple black bodice used to adorn the dress. The piper’s at that time used to wear kilt. The male dancers in the later period started wearing this kilt whereas female dancers used to wear hooded cloak on a white dress and a sash.
The men wore two types of dress depending on their social status. The rich and elite people wore a long sleeved tunic which was pulled over their head. If this tunic was not pleated under the belt it was very full, while the second one was a sleeveless cochal. It was worn over the tunic and fitted on the shoulder. The farmers or the younger lot who did more of physical activity used to wear trews. These trews were tight fitting up to the knees and on top of that they used to wear jacket. The trews worn by these people was further designed either to be just above the knees, just below the knees or sometimes went under the instep. The type, pattern and color of the cloak worn used to separate farmer from a nobleman. They used to decorate the mantle with decorative pins.
Women also used to wear cloak and mantle. Their dresses used to be long up to the ankles. With the arrivals of Norman and English the style of the tunic has changed a bit but the cloak remains the same. The cloaks were usually dyed in different bright colors and were mostly in contrast to the fringes at the edge. Most women in Ireland a century ago restrained themselves from wearing shoes so that they had so much of grace during dancing. However, later soft shoes were introduced to assist the dancers during dancing. The cloths were mainly made up of wool and cotton. In 12th century Irish used to wear woolen cloths mostly black in color as the sheep found there are mostly black in color.
- Belted plaid
- Tunic which used to be knee length
- Cloak with fringes
- Mantle with decorative pins
- Trews – tight fitting up to knees