Irish Symbol - Irish Dancing Dresses

Irish Dancing Dresses

The popularity of Irish Dancing is increasing. Irish dancing teachers all over the world teach second, third and fourth generation Irish girls and boys traditional jigs and reels. The outstanding success of productions such as Riverdance has encouraged even more children to learn to dance just like their ancestors.

Discover the history of Irish dancing dresses. What is traditionally worn by girls? What outfits do boys wear? Why do Irish Dancers wear Wigs? What is the significance of the Tara Brooch? Find the answers to these questions and more about Irish dancing dresses.

Irish dancers compete in dancing competitions regularly, all hoping to qualify for the world championships which brings together competitors form all over the world to be recognised as the best! The design of the dresses worn by the performing solo dancers are based on the style of dress worn by Irish peasants over two hundred years ago but the dresses of today are certainly not peasant dresses! They can cost more than a typical wedding dress!

History of Irish Dancing Dresses?
Irish dancing dresses have changed over the years, dancers in the 18th and 19th century wore their 'Sunday best'. Dancers would simply wear the outfit that they normally wore to church. In the 1970's and 1980's solo dancers began to wear heavy a-line dresses embroidered with a variety of Celtic patterns. The dancing dresses of today are designed to the dancers individual taste and each one is unique. Different colors, patterns and materials ensure that each individual solo dancer stands out from the crowd. Apart from dresses, wigs are also worn by dancers and fake tan, make up and tiaras are also common place. This is vastly different from the early 1900's when the Gaelic league (Conradh na Gaeilge) was formed to promote Irish culture and heritage, then the design of the dresses were  based on the style of dress worn by Irish peasants. The Irish dancing industry has however moved with the times and large competitions (Feis) are held in huge arenas and theatres complete with proper stages and lighting. The dancers of today who compete at country and world level need to stand out from the crowd with their flamboyant dresses fake tan, make up and tiaras!

Irish Dancing Dresses - Tara Brooch
Female Dancers also wear a cape secured to the shoulder with a replica Tara brooch.. Tara brooches are now a generic name for Celtic revival brooches, the original Tara brooch was discovered in Ireland in 1850. It dates from around 700 AD is is one of the best examples of Irish Insular art ever found. The brooch is on display at the National Museum of Ireland.

Irish Dancing - Irish Dancing Dresses

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Irish Dancing Dresses - Girls
Traditionally Irish Dancing Dresses are heavy and A-Line in style. Kilts are never worn by girls, they are reserved for the boys! The dresses are often brightly colored and embroidered with Celtic patterns. Seqins are a popular addition and dancers also wear a cape tied at their shoulder with a brooch.

Irish Dancing Costumes - Boys
There are two types of costume traditionally worn by boys who compete in Irish dancing competitions. Kilts or long black trousers. Kilts are the traditional Celtic male garment but nowadays the dancers prefer to wear long black trousers when competing.

Irish Dancing Dresses - Patterns
Costumes like the one shown below are worn by solo Irish step dancers when performing in a dancing competition. The image below is just an example of the type of costume worn. Irish Dancing Dresses costumes come in a huge range of colors and fabrics from silk to velvet. Specialist designers produce costumes to order, these costumes are not cheap!

A large market exists for second hand dancing dresses as most costumes are worn for a handful of times before their owner grows out of them. The patterns of each costume are unique. Some dancing schools will have a standard costume worn by performers but once solo dancers reach competition level each costume will be specifically designed according to the individual dancers requirements. Some dancers will use a combination of Celtic Patterns on their outfit, other take inspiration from the patterns of the Tara Brooch traditionally used to secure the cape which is worn at the back of the dress. Other dancers choose their favorite flowers or simply make up their own patterns for use on their dancing dresses.

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