Irish clothing facts

If you've ever been to a St. Patrick's Day parade, you've seen traditional Irish pipe and drum bands with their kilts, short black jackets and knee stockings. If you travel to Ireland today, however, you would see that the Irish dress much the same as Europeans or North Americans. Though they borrowed from their Scottish neighbours, Irish clothing has its own story and tradition.


The earliest evidence of Irish clothing comes from figures in ancient carvings wearing the "Lein-croich," a long, solid-colour linen tunic. The Irish kilt is a fairly modern version of the Scottish kilt, made from solid-colour or plaid tartan wools representing the Irish counties. Worn by the Irish serving in the British Army, the kilt became a sign of Irish Nationalism in the 19th century and a symbol of Irish Celtic heritage.

Styles of Kilts

Kilt styles have evolved over the centuries. Ancient kilts were nothing more than a length of woven fabric, 25 inches wide and 8 feet long. The fabric was either bunched up or pleated and held up with a belt or sash. Six feet of fabric at one end was left un-pleated and thrown over the shoulder. This loose end could be used as a cape, a hood to protect from rain or as a blanket. Modern kilts are knee-length and made with stitched-down pleats and a flat, un-pleated section in the front, stitched to the waistband. The kilt is fastened with leather buckles and can be worn with a belt.

Kilt Accessories

Popular accessories include the sporran, a leather pouch that can be adorned with tassels, feathers or other embellishments. The sporran has its own belt and is worn at the front of the kilt. Jacobite shirts --- solid-colour collared shirts that lace up with leather cords --- are a popular choice to wear with the kilt. The look is complete with wool knee socks or hose and a pair of leather gillie brogue shoes. Long leather cords lace up the shoes and then are wound around the ankle before being tied. The Prince Charles Jacket, a short black wool military-style jacket with brass buttons and matching vest, can be added for formal occasions.

Irish Women's Clothing

There is not much written about traditional Irish clothing for women. It was thought that they wore a long tunic dress, with a shawl which was held together in the front with a bodkin or brooch. They also wore bodkins in their hair.

Irish Weddings

You don't have to be in Ireland to have a traditional Irish wedding. Kilts are proper attire for the groom, best man and father of the bride. It is not uncommon for all the men in the wedding party to wear kilts, tuxedo shirts, elaborate sporrans and Prince Charles Jackets. Even the children can be dressed in kilts.

Fun Facts

Traditionally, Irish brides carried a real horseshoe turned up, so that the luck wouldn't run out. Modern brides opt for a porcelain variety. May is considered an unlucky month to wed. Throwing a shoe over the bride's head after the ceremony is sure to bring the couple good luck.

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About the Author

Mary Nestor-Harper has more than 12 years as a human-resources director and more than 19 years experience as an HR/management consultant. She has been published in "Training Magazine," "The Savannah Morning News" and on the Web. A television and radio business, career and motivation expert, she shares career and job search tips as Ageless Media Network's career expert on WTKS-AM 1290, Savannah, Ga.