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Éadaí Traidisiúnta/Traditional Clothes

Traditional clothing in Ireland were created out of necessity and generally very well made to withstand the harsh weather conditions of Ireland, most notably the strong wind and rain.

There are many examples of traditional clothing unique to Ireland’s history and culture that are still remembered and worn today. Take a look at the video above which tells the story of the famous Aran Sweater, courtesy of the Aran Sweater Market. The following are some examples of Ireland’s traditional clothing that you may be familiar with.

The Shawl

The shawl has been worn throughout the centuries in Ireland. Made using wool, the shawl was a plain-coloured wrap worn by Irish women to protect them from the winds and constant rain experienced in Ireland. Seál is the Irish for shawl and is pronounced just like the English word.

shawl Copyright: The National Library of Ireland/Flickr.com

In 1920, Irish banknotes were issued with a picture of an Irish woman, Cathleen Ní Houlihan, wearing the iconic shawl draped over her head and shoulders. In 1973, Medb, the legendary Queen of Connacht in Irish mythology was chosen to adorn an Irish banknote, again wearing a woollen shawl.1

money note Copyright: Svadilfari/Flickr.com

The Aran Sweater

Na hOileáin Árann/The Aran Islands are situated on the west coast of Ireland in front of the Galway Bay. As can be seen from the video on the history of the Aran sweater, a very strong relationship exists between the Aran Sweater stiching and Celtic art with many Aran patterns found on Celtic stones and crosses. As time went on, each family on the Aran Islands developed their own stitching and patterns. Fishermen would wear the Aran sweater, not only to keep them warm from the cold weather, but also as a religious garment to safeguard them from the perilous sea. Unfortunately, any drowned fishermen were identified by the pattern of their Aran sweaters. The Aran sweater is still worn today and many fashion designers have been influenced in their clothing designs by the various styles of Aran stitching.2 You can learn more about the Aran sweater by clicking on the link to the Aran Sweater Market.

Aran sweater Copyright: Antoinette W/Shutterstock.com

The Headscarf

The headscarf was a traditional garment worn by Irish women in the early to mid 1900s in Ireland. It was firmly knotted around the chin, again protecting women’s heads from the cold and wet weather conditions of Ireland. As women’s fashion evolved, the headscarf disappeared around the 1970’s. Instead, women now wear the scarf around their neck as a fashion accessory.3

Headscarf Copyright: zstupar/Pixabay.com

The Tara Brooch

The Tara Brooch was discovered in 1850 and is one of Ireland’s most famous pieces of jewellery. It is an example of Celtic metalwork practice and represents the rich history of Celtic art. This decorative brooch is named after the Hill of Tara and in ancient Celtic culture, brooches were used to hold one’s shawl or cloak closed over the shoulders. The brooch was also an indication of one’s wealth and status.4

Tara brooch Copyright: Wikimedia Commons

Are you familiar with other traditional clothing unique to Ireland? Tell us about them in the comments section.


  1. Irish American Mom, The Shawl: An Irish Fashion Statement of Old, https://www.irishamericanmom.com/2015/03/10/the-shawl-an-irish-fashion-statement-of-old-plus-a-beautiful-pashmina-giveaway-to-celebrate-st-patricks-day/, 2015 [Cited, 6th March 2018]

  2. Aran Sweater Market, The Story of the Aran Sweater, https://www.aransweatermarket.com/history-of-aran-sweaters [Cited, 6th March 2018]

  3. O’Reilly-Hyland, Emer, 100 years of Irish fashion in 10 key pieces

  4. Kiely, Alexandra, The Tara Brooch: Gold and Jewels from the ancient Irish past, https://www.headstuff.org/history/tara-brooch-gold-jewels-ancient-irish-past/ [Cited, 6th March 2018]

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This video is from the free online course:

Irish 102: An Introduction to Irish Language and Culture

Dublin City University