This piece, by Sybil Connolly, in the National Museum carries the idea of smocking to sculptural heights; an evening gown, made of hand-pleated handkerchief-weight linen. Nine yards of unpleated linen was required to make one yard of the pleated fabric. Linen, a notoriously creasing fabric, is fairly crease resistant when smocked. The gown would likely have been quite light and very comfortable since the fiber breaths and is quite absorbent, making for a gown that is both beautiful, form fitting and comfortable. This piece was made in 1970 for Lady Beit of Russborough House in County Wicklow; whose stately home is now open to the public and well worth a visit.
Meandering through the National Museum of Ireland’s decorative arts collection you’ll find more of the beautiful collection of couture pieces by Irish couturier Sybil Connolly. A retrospective of her work at The Hunt Museum Limerick has a great collection of images and information on the designer. She led the way for a generation of Irish fashion designers. Her designs became collectors items in the United States, where she dressed Rockefellers, Mellons, Duponts and Jacqueline Kennedy, who wore a Sybil Connolly design for her official White House portrait.