There has been some debate in history over what the Irish traditionally wore. Misinterpretation of old Irish texts led historians to believe that kilts were part of the traditional Irish dress, when actually that was never the case. In October of 1900, Padraic Pearse, a fervent Irish nationalist, denounced traditional Irish costumes and proposed that the Scottish kilt be adopted as the Irish national costume.
It was not until 1958 that a rebuttal was issued by historian Henry Foster McClintock, urging the Irish to adopt a national costume that more closely resembled the country's historical garb.
The Leine, Jacket, Mantle and Trews
The leine is essentially a tunic that varied in length and style throughout history. It is depicted in the 16th century falling anywhere from mid-thigh to ankle-length. It appears as though men of societal or religious importance wore the leine longer, and warriors tied theirs up around their thighs.
The jacket, also called an inar, was usually made of wool and sometimes had a skirt. The skirt was heavily pleated.
A mantel, or brat, was worn over the leine and was a similar to a cloak. It was usually made of a large rectangle of wool and was oftentimes lined with fringe. The length of the mantel denoted social status and affluence.
Trews were simply a form of trousers. They were tight on the leg and cut on a bias. Sometimes they are depicted with buttons from the ankle to calf.
The Kilcommon Costume
Kilcommon clothing was used in the late 16th century or early 17th century. It consists of a jacket, leine and trews. The style of these differed greatly from what had been worn in centuries past. The jacket had a skirt that came just to the bottom of the waist, with slits in the sleeves that allowed the voluminous sleeves that were in fashion to hang out the bottom. The leine extended below the jacket to mid-thigh. These were accompanied by trews that were usually made from two different patterns of material; often the legs would be a checked pattern and the top would be solid.
Little is known about what women wore in ancient Ireland. A 16th century sample discovered in a bog in Ireland provides all the information that is available. It appears as though women in 16th century Ireland wore what is known as a shinrone gown, which consists of an unboned bodice attached to a long skirt, both pieces made out of wool. The skirt of the dress is made from three separate pieces of fabric cut on the bias and gathered at the top.