Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Irish Dance Dresses


It is almost St. Patrick’s Day and what better way to celebrate than with an entire post dedicated to Irish dancing. Well, not so much the dancing, but the dresses. Have you ever seen Irish dance dresses? Our assistant, Colleen here surprised us with the little secret that she Irish danced most of her life and had gone through many-a-dresses back in the day. When she told us she would be attending Oireachtas (World qualifying regional championships) and asked if we wanted to see pictures we immediately responded with a very enthusiastic, yes!

Photo Credit: Torrey Lee Photography

Get ready for dresses galore after the jump…



Traditional school dresses, like this Aniar Academy school dress, are a lot like uniforms. Most of the kids in the school have one and they all look identical. They are usually very traditional in style (no flashy colors and sparkles) and can be hand embroidered.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff. All these dresses below are solo dresses. You get a solo dress when you start moving up to higher levels in competition. The exciting thing about a solo dress is that you can custom design it exactly how you want it and have it made to all your exact measurements. Having a custom dress comes with a hefty price. These dresses can usually fall around $1000, you better really be sure you want to dedicate yourself to this.

Throughout the last several years Irish dance solo dresses have gone through quite a transformation. The styles started breaking away from the traditional knotwork and moving to bright flashy colors and geometric shapes. Here is a dress that was made just as the changes started to come in. It is still full of knotwork but starts incorporating busier fabrics like sequins and lace with a hint of rhinestones.



Dresses then started to have less intricate knotwork and significantly more sparkles. They moved away from using velvet, which was from the older styles, and moved to using full sequins and lighter fabrics like silk.


Now at competitions you can see a lot of geometric shapes and repeating patterns. The older style skirts were made with three panels, where they have now started to use tulle and ruffles to make tutu-like skirts. Sparkle is in full force and even the socks get a little bling. Velvet is making a comeback, woohoo. Funny how things go full circle.


Fabric flowers? Do you think they could use some of these or these too?

The super ruffly skirt.

And just for fun there’s usually a fun print on the inside.

Or underneath.

And finally…that’s me! Where did my chin go?

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17 Comments

Bridget

Love the dresses! I did irishdancing for 10 years and went through a number of dresses. It was when they were more traditional, and when mum’s often hand embroidered them! My mum did a couple of hand embroidered dresses, and quite a few machine embroidered ones. Thanks mum!

Reply
Jessica

Look at the air you are getting! I think this is such a cool little subculture that many people don’t know about. I only know about it because my cousin’s kids do it, and I think It’s fantastic!

Reply
Eli

From age 4 to age 18 I was in Irish Dancing on the East Coast attending Oireachtas in the fall and Nationals in the Summer. My mother made all my costumes in the old school style by hand-school and solo. We always used the Book of Kells as our source for design and then she painstakingly transfered onto the fabric the design and hand embroidered the design.

She eventually taught my sister and I how to embroider and we were responsible for some of the work on our solo costumes.

Reply
Katie

This is exactly what we had to do!! :) My mom got sick of embroidering school and solo dresses for my sister and I and taught us to do it ourselves… but mom always did the front panels.

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Tina C.

My husband’s family all Irish danced, and I love seeing the photos of them. Their family also still helps put together the St. Patrick’s Day float for their old dance school (now under a different name/teacher). We’ll probably have our children (one boy and one boy on the way) dance, too.

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Lluna

Woooooow! I love them all! Are super nice dresses and superb works in all of each one! I’m Spanish, and I never know about this dancing irish tradition, but really love it now! I want to see more! Thanks to share! Sweet kisses!

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Moira

Love this! I came across this post on Pinterest. I’ll be linking to your this post on my next “pinterest round-up.” As a 26 year old Irish dancer (now teacher) I love this post :) I’m also super psyched to have found a fun new blog to read!

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