Dublin Day 2, Part 2

While I’m no expert on couture fashion, the pieces displayed at the National Museum of Ireland- Decorative Arts’s Special exhibition of Ib Jorgensen’s fashion were clearly a cut above the ordinary. Born in Denmark, Jorgensen immigrated with his family to Ireland in 1950. He attended Dublin’s Grafton Academy of Dress Designing and first garnered attention when he won the Academy Cup is his graduating year fashion show in the tailored suits and coats division.

Hand embroidered and beaded silk jacket with evening skirt of green silk faille, 1989

Bead embroidery detail

Bead embroidery detail

Jorgensen’s work caught the eye of fashion hours, Nicolas O’Dwyer, who hired him as a designer and pattern cutter at only 20 years old.  He was strongly influenced by the high standards of quality demanded by the workforce dervived from an old Jewish tailoring business.

Ib Jorgensen on the exhibition poster at the National Museum of Ireland- Decorative Arts, Dublin

High quality tailoring, superior pattern cutting, a relentless attention to detail and flawless finishing became the hallmarks of Jorgensen’s work.

The exhibition looks back at Ib’s long career, displaying a selection of some forty garments including day, cocktail and evening wear from across three and a half decades, supplemented with original fashion photography and illustrations. His first wife Patricia, a textile designer, created designs for extravagant hand beading, appliqué and embroidery, and these techniques were frequently used to great effect on Ib’s evening wear.

Hand beaded sequin shift dress in a harlequin design of soft pastel colors, 1967

Evening dress of orange silk voile with halter necked bodice entirely beaded and embroidered, 1985

Halter bodice detail

Beadwork embroidery detail.

For more information on this exhibition, go to the museum’s website at:

https://www.museum.ie/Decorative-Arts-History/Exhibitions/Current-Exhibitions/Ib-Jorgensen-–-A-Fashion-Retrospective

Day 2 -Dublin, National Museum of Ireland

We headed over to the one National Museum of Ireland- Decorative Arts & History location after lunch. I’m impressed that the museums are Free!  I think this egalitarian concept prevails throughout much of current Irish society.

The preservation of clothing, however, is largely restricted to the upper classes, due to the poorer people wearing their clothes until they were worn out. In the 18th C. Only the wealthy could afford to wear luxurious dress, but by the late 19th C., prosperous people in towns and villages across all of Ireland could dress fashionably.

Silk waistcoat embroidered with silver thread in Ireland about 1760.

Having precious metal embroidery on your clothing did come with some risk. ‘Friends’ or staff might cut off threads to steal the expensive metal!

Detail of silver embroidery – silver thread darkens over time. In the 17th C., they would sprinkle hot breadcrumbs over the silver and rub with linen to remove the tarnish.

Lace has been an important industry in Ireland. Many families survived hard times by making lace. There are numerous distinct styles (several of which I hope to see on this trip!

Lace from Woman’s Drawers made in 1880’s Ireland. Women started wearing undergarments that could be ‘drawn on’ in the 1800’s. These had separate legs that were stepped into and tied at the waist with a linen band.

Beautifully embroidered Irish linen apron, 1740’s.

Apron embroidery detail

Man’s embroidered waistcoat, Irish 1790’s.

Lace collar worked by a girl in an embroidery class, County Down, Ireland, 1860’s.  In the 1840’s, thousands of girls as young as 5 years old worked for pitifully low wages to provide Glasgow merchants stock for London markets.  But the meager wages helped some families survive the famines.

Day gown made in Ballymore Co, Sligo, Ireland about 1867.

This gorgeous blue color of the silk was created using ‘new’ synthetic abalone dyes.  The gown remains pristine… Maria Sweeney had the gown made for her brother’s wedding and then also wore it to Mass the Sunday following the wedding. The priest disapproved of the “figure-displaying style” (say, what???) and Maria never wore the gown again!

Early Contemporary Machine Lace, about 1867 with wool braid trim.

Next time I’ll share the Irish fashion icon Ib Jorgensen’s couture designs, on special exhibition at the Museum  of Decorative Arts.

Slán go fóill!

Day 2- Dublin, Ireland

Design inspired by the Book of Kells by Christina Fairley Erickson

We started our day by walking over to Trinity College, to visit the Book of Kells Museum. A beautifully preserved illuminated manuscript created around 800 C.E., the book includes the four books of the gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Depiction of Matthew, Book of Kells, folio 27v

The museum hosts incredible displays of many of the intricate illuminated pages, the processes and materials that were used in making the book, as well as information on the few other manuscripts still surviving from about the same period in history. The treasury in the museum displays both the Book of Kells and the Book of Armagh, also from the 800’s.

Symbol of ‘the lion of Mark’, Book of Kells, folio 27v

Due to the delicate nature of the volumes, the Book of Kells is split in two parts, with one section open to an illuminated page and the second open to two of the pages of ancient Medieval Latin script. They change which pages are displayed every three months (and it takes several hours to do it, with all the precautions they have to take!) The Book of Armagh is much smaller in size than the Book of Kells. It contains the New Testament of the Bible in minuscule calligraphic text, without illumination.

Part of a display at the Book of Kells Museum showing details of circles and swirls along with pieces of jewelry from the same time period with similar Celtic imagery

One thing I found fascinating was the information on the different inks they used… they even had a purple ink- a very rare color in medieval times.

The ‘Chi Rho’ page using the Greek monogram of the name of Christ. Book of Kells, folio 34r

The twisting sinuous Centic knots and designs are masterfully executed- most likely by young monks, 15-19 years old or so, as they would have had the best eyesight. There are also some other details that also lead to this conclusion, such as tiny farcical characters such as two cats overlooking mice fighting over what appears to be a communion wafer!

Here are a few more images to enjoy from this inspiring design source!

A double-armed cross with eight circles, representing the eight days of Christ’s Passion. Book of Kells, folio 33r

Some of the purple ink is still visible!

If you’d like to see the Book of Kells but aren’t going to make it to Dublin anytime soon, Trinity College has done a fantastic job of scanning the complete book and posting it online. Go to: http://digitalcollections.tcd.ie/home/index.php?DRIS_ID=MS58_003v

We arrived in Dublin this afternoon and successfully navigated to our hotel in the downtown Temple Bar district

Beautiful primary colors at dusk – Temple Bar, Dublin, Republic of Ireland.

with only a few snafus. The architecture mixes some incredible contemporary buildings alongside beautiful historic brick ones, all brightened with overflowing flower baskets. The sweeping span of the Samuel Beckett Bridge over the River Liffee contrasts with beautiful scrolling designs on the streetlights. Lots of design inspiration!

We walked to a lively pub for a late Irish lunch and traditional live music. Another wonderful meal after a jet-lag break with an amazing duo performing both contemporary ballads and jaunty Irish jigs. Tomorrow we start at the Book of Kells Museum!

I grew up steeped in the pride of our Irish heritage, although that’s only one part of the complex mix of ancestry that makes me American.  My paternal great-grandfather emigrated from Lisburn, Northern Ireland (near Belfast) at the turn of the century.  I also have a maternal great-grandmother from outside the Dublin area.  I’m finally going to visit the Emerald Isle this summer, to both follow some of my ancestral threads and to explore the rich culture of textiles.

Our first stop will be Dublin, particularly to see the famous Book of Kells at Trinity College.  If you haven’t seen pictures of this amazing illustrated manuscript, the whole book is now available to view online in excellent resolution at http://digitalcollections.tcd.ie/home/index.php?DRIS_ID=MS58_003v

Here is a sample from on of the pages the is completely pictorial.  The elaborate Celtic knots must have been painstakingly drawn… so complex and beautiful!

Book of Kells from Folio 292r

I’ll be adding photos and posts about the sights, experiences, and of course textiles I come across during my trip, so check back!