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All About Traditional Irish Clothing

Neha Joshi Mar 3, 2020
The clothing of a country speaks great volumes about its people, society, and also its weather. However, when we speak about traditional Irish clothing, not much can be said. Nevertheless, there are certain clothing styles and patterns in day-to-day attire that have left their mark.

Did You Know?

The kilt is not Irish, but Scottish. Though it was worn in Ireland, it was introduced much later than what is believed.
While the traditional costume of a country is usually given a lot of prominence today, the case with Ireland is a little different. It wouldn't be wrong to say that not much is known about the exact traditional clothing in Ireland.
We can trace a little here and there, but what we eventually find isn't conclusive. However, there are a few links to the attire worn by the Irish, and some facts supporting the same. For example, it is known that the variations in clothing determined one's social ranking, specially in terms of color and material.
Wool was used extensively to make clothes, and so was animal skin. The Celts have hardly left any record on the type of clothing prevalent during the Greek and Roman eras.
What the world knows today, as traditional Irish clothing is an assimilation of the clothes worn by the Irish from the 13th to late 18th century. Let's look at a few of these clothing elements that were worn by the Irish.


The léine (or leine) was a tunic, usually worn under the brat. It was broader at the bottom and narrow towards the waist. Around the upper arm, the léine was tighter and broadened after the elbows. The léine usually extended till below the knees; women wore longer léines than men.
It is said that the length of one's léine, represented his/her rank in society; shorter the length, lesser the social ranking. Sometimes, the léine was worn just like a shirt (as pictured below). Sometimes, the men wore just the léine, whereas, the women covered it with an opened-sleeved dress.
The léine was mostly made of linen, but sometimes also from wool. It was tied at the waist by all men, and either at the chest or the waist by the women, by a belt (crios) made of woven wool, leather, or horsehair. The léine was pulled over the belt to hide it.


If made from several colors, the person wearing a brat was considered wealthy. Brehon Law (early Irish law) claimed that slaves were allowed to wear a brat consisting just one color, the King could wear several colors, and other men could use four colors to make their brats.
However, the usage of colors has turned hazy over the years, and the exact distribution of colors to make the brat is not perfectly known. It was worn over the shoulders, and pinned below the neck with a brooch. The brat was commonly made of wool, but ones made with leather have also been found.


The ionar was an Irish jacket, barely reaching the waist, with open sleeves.
While some open sleeves had buttons throughout them to tie the léine, others had thongs attached at the end, which were used to tie these open sleeves at the wrist. The ionar was also made from wool or leather but was also embroidered. It was worn by mostly the men, unlike the brat, which was worn by both men and women.


The trews/truis were trousers used by the Irish as clothing instead of the longer léines. These fit tightly from the foot till the thigh, and then were loose near the upper legs and the ankles. Sometimes, a different material was used to stitch the upper, loose part of the trousers.
In warmer months, the trews were worn with shorter leines, while in winters, they were worn together with the longer léines for warmth. Though this pattern appears very strange, the trews were a very important part of traditional Irish clothing.
These four elements are considered Irish as per noted historian Henry Foster McClintock, in his book Handbook on the Traditional Old Irish Dress. In this book, he explains how these four are authentically Irish, whereas, other clothing styles may or may not be. Also the Aran jumpers, the wool tweed cap, and the Brogue shoe are all Irish, but not traditional.
As we have seen, traditional Irish clothing can be understood from these elements. However, unlike other nations, clothing in Ireland doesn't have a complete history. All we can do is wait for historians to search for more records that enable us to learn more about this great country.