Ireland’s first international fashion design star

Hunt Museum presents innovative career of renowned Irish fashion designer

The Hunt Museum has curated a new exhibition from its collection of Sybil Connolly clothing, sketchbooks, swatches, glass and ceramics to explore her trailblazing design career in a new presentation entitled ‘Sybil’.

Connolly is regarded as Ireland’s first international fashion design icon. She used tweed, crochet and lace in vibrant colours and interesting silhouettes in her work with pleated linen her trademark. In 1953, her full-length red cape and white crochet dress was on the cover of Life Magazine, accompanied by the caption ‘Irish Invade Fashion World’.

Chair of the Hunt Museum Friends, Kathleen O’Sullivan who wrote her MA thesis on Sybil Connolly’s impact on the Irish fashion industry, and works as ladies fashion supervisor at Shaw’s Department Store, commented, “Sybil Connolly was a fashion designer who wanted to break the mould, persuading the Sisters of the order of St Louis to let her dye their lace pink instead of the regulation black or white. She is an amazing example of a woman working in 1950’s Ireland, pushing the boundaries of creativity and of the expectations of a woman’s role in the workplace and society.”

“Dublin’s Dior”
Sybil Connolly was a Dublin based fashion designer, renowned for creating haute couture from Irish textiles. She used materials such as finely pleated handkerchief linen, delicate Carrickmacross lace and durable Irish tweed to create designs inspired by Irish people, traditions and culture.

Dubbed by the media as “Dublin’s Dior”, Sybil Connolly was a pioneering designer and one of the first Irish fashion designers to have international success. She surprised and delighted the international fashion world with her creations, and worked with stores such as Tiffany & Co, Bloomingdales and Lord and Taylor, in New York. The Irish designer’s entrepreneurial spirit was ground-breaking for the period and her fame outside of Ireland is shown in the magazines of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in the exhibition.

Famous clients included Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Adele Astaire, Mrs Gregory Peck, and Elizabeth Taylor. Later in her career, she reinvented herself, turning her attention to interior and garden design, creating wallpapers, fabrics, glass and ceramics for companies such as Tipperary Crystal.

Accompanying online exhibition
In the spirit of fashion making art, design and science accessible for everyone – making it available online means new audiences can experience and learn in their own online spaces, so, in parallel with the opening of ‘Sybil’ as a physical exhibition on April 19, the Hunt Museum website on May 24 will launch an online exhibition of her work and story. They are encouraging people to participate via #SybilInLimerick and actively add to their Tumblr and Pinterest boards about her and her work.

The website at huntmuseum.com will also be the place to receive news on Sybil related education workshops, lectures, and the first Wikipedia Editathon in Limerick.

‘Sybil’ the exhibition is open to the public from April 19 to May 31 2018, Monday thru Saturday 10am-5pm, and Sunday 2pm -5pm.

By Olivia O’Sullivan

This article appeared in the Limerick Post, 21st April 2018