A History of Limerick Lace, featured on Nationwide in 2019. Video Credit: RTE TV. Thanks to: Limerick Museum.
Sybil's Signature Styles
Lace and linen were trademarks of Sybil Connolly designs. Lace was hand-made by women across Ireland, and was even dyed in bright colours for her dresses. Sybil said that “Irish linen is the most versatile fabric of all. You can sleep in it . . and wear it to a ball. And you can swim in it too”. She even made a strapless bathing costume of white table cloth linen with red, green and black fish patterns. Sybil was known for combining the finest lawn linen with handcrochet lace to make evening gowns such as the ‘Heiress’ dress. She created luxurious voluminous handkerchief linen blouses and skirts, and remarkably used nine yards of loose linen to make just one yard of tight pleats.
It wasn’t until 1952 that Sybil was “discovered” by the international fashion world. Lady Dunsany of Dunsany Castle in Co. Meath was an admirer of Sybil’s designs and held a fashion show in her home. In attendance was the editor of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, Carmel Snow, who would be hugely influential on Sybil’s rise to the top. Snow and Helena Rubenstein, head of a multi-million dollar American cosmetics industry, became champions of Sybil Connolly in America. They introduced her to the Philadelphia Fashion Group, a group of professional artists in beauty, fashion and interior design, whose founding members include First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and cosmetic artist Elizabeth Arden. Sybil went on whirl-wind tours of America, Canada and Australia in the early 1950s, where her outfits of Irish lace, linen and tweed became must-have items. Her clothes appeared in a number of fashion magazines including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Life Magazine, and they were sold in America’s oldest department store Lord and Taylor on Fifth Avenue, NYC.