Mac MaolŠin

Medieval Irish Dress:

The Irish

The traditional dress of the Irish changed very little from Pre-Christian times up until the end of the 16th C. However, the dress of the town dwelling/non-traditional Irish followed the patterns as existed in the European mainstream. This document will discuss the more traditional dress of the Irish during the 16th C.  of the Inar, Trius, Brat, and Léine.

Men's Dress

The poorer Irish wore a standard outfit that would more than likely have been found not only in the British Isles but also on the continent. This outfit consisted

Inar The Inar was a jacket. It was normally constructed of wool and like the later doublets had a skirt. The skirt of the Inar was heavily pleated.

Trius The trius or trews were a type of pants. They were normally fairly tight to the leg. Some existing bog examples have buttons up the back of the leg from the bottom to mid-calf. These were made of wool cut on the bias.

Brat The brat was a mantle or cloak made of a long rectangle of wool. It was edged with some sort of fringe. The longer the brat the more affluent the individual.

Léine The léine or shirt can be considered the mainstay of Irish and early Scottish clothing. It was worn from mid thigh to below the knee depending on if it was worn alone or with trews. Fashioned of linen, the léine was dyed a saffron color for those of better standing.

The more affluent Irish wore large léines. The English in the 16th C. went so far as to limit the number of yards of cloth that could be in one. The picture above shows the standard dress.

Women's Clothing

We know less about the clothing that women wore than the men. This may be attributed to many of the details of men's clothing being reported about the military Irish. What we do know is from some accounts and also some drawings by period artists.

We do know more about townswomen than we do of the poorer rural dwelling women. In general a woman would wear an ankle length léine. Over this she would wear a dress. Over this she would wear a brat (shawl/cloak). The brat would be similar to that worn by a man.

One piece of dress that many women wear in the SCA that is considered to be period is the Celtic Overdress. These garments as far as I can tell were invented by Hollywood. To be authentic, you should wear a léine over which you will wear a sleeved dress. The picture to the right shows two example of women's dress.

You will also notice that the women are wearing hats. A number of different styles of hats were worn from simple caps to elaborate hats like the one pictured on the left.

The dresses according to Dunlevy were in three basic styles.  The first was a volumnous gown worn by women of means.  These dresses (gowns) were formal and a status symbol.  The dress itself was made of heavy worsted wool with thick tubular folds.  Dunlevy indicates they were influenced by the earlier houppelande.  The neckline had a V shape and the sleeves were very full with turned back cuffs.  The second type of dress have a low V shaped neck that was open down the front of the bodice.  The opening ended in a U shape at the stomach.  De Heere's illustration of this dress shows the distinct Irish half-sleeve that is a strip of cloth that covers on ly the top of the arm.  The thrid type of dress has a high neck with a fitted bodice and full skirt.  The arms are buttoned from the cuff to the upper arm.  This last type of dress may be seen on the effigy carving of Johanna Purcell on her tomb.