Sybil the Designer

March 2021 – Sybil the Designer

Sybil Connolly began her career at Richard Alan’s, in the grand surroundings of Georgian Dublin. This left a mark on the young Sybil. Her designs lift architectural motifs from the walls and embroider them onto her sweeping skirts and bodices.

Sybil the Designer, Sybil the Designer

A caption from 1951 Vogue reads “A pleated linen dinner blouse of fine Irish white linen and pewter grey Irish linen skirt. The hand-embroidered panels on the skirt are after details of Georgian plasterwork from Leinster House. The design is called Pamela after the wife of Lord Edward Fitzgerald”.

Sybil Connolly at Merrion Square

Fashion shows

On St Patrick’s Day 1953, Sybil launched in the US, at Gimbels in Philadelphia. Sybil’s finely pleated linen gowns received the most attention, later becoming a trademark of her style.


Sybil Connolly was influenced by the Aran islands, fishermen & Claddagh women.

“I often used to go down to Connemara because the colours in the mountains gave me ideas for having the yarns dyed for the handwoven tweeds” Many of the colours of the Irish landscape made their way into Sybils designs, such as ‘Irish Moss’

‘Bainin’ jackets from traditional clothing of Aran fishermen and hats from the thatched cottages.  The “Cosy Evening” skirt was made entirely of crios, traditional belts woven on the toes of Aran women and worn as belts by the men.

Sybil embodied the classic 1950s feminine style.  Her post-war silhouettes intended to lift the spirits with a celebration of curves and the hourglass figure.

Fitted bodices, A-line skirts and cinched waists were all part and parcel of “The New Look” as pioneered by European designers like Dior.

Sybil added her own creative flair to distinguish this Irish Woman from the crowd.

Sybil Connolly Internationally

Throughout her career Sybil showed her entrepreneurial spirit by forging many important connections that helped her rise to notoriety within the fashion world.

Her relationship with Carmel Snow, editor of Harpers Bazaar and fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert was integral to her success in the American market.

Sybil’s connections helped her career take off. Her designs appeared in famous magazines such as Life and Vogue, as well as featuring on the cover of Harpers Bazaar.

Sybil’s influence extended to Hollywood. Throughout her career, she dressed many stars. This included Julie Andews, Elizabeth Taylor and even Gillian Anderson, who wore a vintage hand-pleated linen Sybil dress to the 2012 Baftas.

Hollywood icon Barbara Rush was a fan of Sybil’s designs and modelled her dresses.
Rush also had a Limerick connection – In 1954, she and actor Rock Hudson visited Ireland to film ‘Captain Lightfoot.’

This film also has a Limerick connection. Before they headed to Dublin to shoot, the stars visited Limerick to promote the film and even watched the Limerick Pipe Band march.

Sybil Connolly Scrapbooks

The Hunt Museum holds a large collection of Sybil Connolly scrapbooks. Inside these we find a number of different images such as sketches of her designs, newspaper clippings and photos of models in her designs showing the range of her creativity and influence.

One fascinating item in her scrapbook is the items from the Gala Dinner which was held in her honour. Included in this are photos of her designs being modelled at the gala dinner, as well as this beautiful beautiful printed card.

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