Looking over photos of the catwalk of the century that was the Royal Wedding, the flair of Irish design almost steals the show, from Treacy’s daring millinery to Costello’s feminine tailoring. As guest blogger Caroline Ferry discovers, the Royal Family and Irish style have been close-knit for quite a while…
When the most sought-after wedding invitation of the decade slipped through the chosen few’s letterboxes, there was only one milliner guests could turn to for the de rigour hat. No less than 36 specially commissioned designs by Philip Treacy had flashbulbs popping in Westminster Abbey, that fateful morning of April 29th. The British aristocracy and celebrities sporting his creations included the Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Michael of Kent, Princess Beatrice (yes, that hat) and Princess Eugenie of York, the daughter of Princess Anne, Zara Phillips, and celebrity style icon Victoria Beckham. Undoutedly the Royal’s favourite mad hatter, Galway-born Philip Treacy also famously designed the hat that the Duchess of Devonshire Camilla Parker Bowles wore for her wedding to Prince Charles in 2005.
Treacy’s connections with the British Royal family are not unique – the Royals have championed Ireland’s designs and fabrics for centuries. Queen Victoria was the proud wearer of one of Ireland’s Claddagh rings back in the 19th Century. Thomas Dillons of Galway made her gold Claddagh ring, and their cosy jewelers-cum-museum in Galway is described as “the smallest museum in Europe with the biggest gift shop.” Ireland’s oldest jewellers having been in business since 1750, also provided handmade Claddagh rings for King Edward and King George V.
The Irish style connections continue… When the late Princess of Wales, Diana Spencer married Prince Charles in July 1981, she chose David and Elizabeth Emanuel to design the iconic gown, with a 25ft train, reams of silk, sequins and most notably, antique Carrickmacross lace. Since its humble beginnings in County Monaghan in the early 1820s, Carrickmacross lace has garnered a clientele including international designers and Queen Victoria. The most recent Royal Wedding dress worn by Kate Middleton, by Sara Burton for Alexander McQueen, was hand-stitched using the same Carrickmacross lace-making technique for the delicate lace applique flowers on the train and bodice.
Even today, the world continues to have interest in the late Princess Diana’s remarkable style. So drumroll please, for the Newbridge Silverware Museum of Style Icons, who alongside iconic fashion pieces worn by Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe, will exhibit some of Diana’s. From June 12 some of the most memorable pieces from Diana’s wardrobe, including the chiffon blouse worn for her engagement portrait, the final wedding dress toile, the Royal Wedding Veils, and the ‘Revenge’ dress, will be on show at the museum, that’s always free to visit.
Princess Diana’s sister in law, Prince Andrew’s ex-wife Sarah Ferguson was among the high profile clients of fashion and crystal designer Louise Kennedy. John Rocha, meanwhile, is probably Ireland’s most famous fashion designer. As well as great commercial success, he also received a ‘Commander of the British Empire’ (CBE) award from The Queen for his contribution to fashion.
Another top Irish designer on the British Royal family’s speed-dial is Dublin-born Paul Costelloe. As well as dressing Princess Diana for years, one of his designs was flaunted at the recent Royal Wedding by Princess Anne’s daughter Zara in a specially commissioned grey wool and silk coat for morning, and a navy satin silk dress for the evening.
Royal Weddings, princess dresses – it’s all in a day’s work for the talented leaders of Irish fashion.
Don’t let the royal connections have you thinking Irish design is just fit for aristocracy though. You can pick up your own silver Claddagh ring for less than €40, a gift piece of Carrickmacross lace for half that, and you can step into the vivid imagination of Phillip Treacy with a stay in his Alice-in-Wonderland style G Hotel in Galway.
But true Irish style? You don’t need a royal to tell you that’s priceless.
Discover more about Irish fashion by letting Cork locals tell you why it’s such a stylish city.
Urge to indulge a princess fantasy? Check out our many, many castles.