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Ireland’s Fashion Radicals

Start Date 20 January 2018
End Date 25 March 2018
Venue The Little Museum of Dublin
Location Dublin,Ireland
Curator Robert O’Byrne
3 mannequins on display in bold colours of blue, red and green.
Pink 1950's dress on mannequin with lady perched on a bed.

The 1950s is often described as a dark decade in Irish history. But amidst the gloom, a small group of fashion designers – mostly women – found international fame. In 2018, a brilliant new exhibition at the Little Museum saluted the talent and courage of these fashion pioneers.

Irish fashion owes a huge amount to a handful of individuals based in Dublin but with their eyes on the world. Ireland’s Fashion Radicals displayed a fearlessness that allowed them to take on the world in Paris, London and New York – and win.

At a time when Ireland was synonymous with poverty and misfortune, they defied the spirit of the age and boldly offered an alternative vision of the country. Thanks to their endeavours, Irish fashion achieved worldwide fame and a reputation for excellence that has never been lost.

With backing from American Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, designers such as Sybil Connolly put Ireland on the fashion map for the first time, making the country a must-visit destination for stylish women everywhere. For example, when Jacqueline Kennedy was painted for her White House portrait it was in a Connolly pleated-linen dress.

These pioneers were celebrated here in Dublin in a remarkable new exhibition, Ireland’s Fashion Radicals. Visitors had a unique opportunity to see many original garments exhibited for the first time.

As the exhibition curator Robert O’Byrne put it, “From a ballgown worn in Buckingham Palace to pink lurex bell-bottoms worn to the disco, this show celebrates Irish design at its most innovative.”

This important new show was presented by Debenhams in association with Persil, Magee, DoDublin, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Ireland Funds and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

John Bebbington, Regional Director for Debenhams Ireland, said, “This exhibition not only highlights the impact Irish designers have had on the world of fashion, but also their importance in paving the way for future designers. At Debenhams, we have made it our mission to bring designers to the high-street so it was the perfect collaboration for us. We are looking forward to the coming weeks and being part of this unique exhibition celebrating Irish fashion and its heritage.”

Images courtesy of The Little Museum of Dublin, Ireland.