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This photograph shows Claire Kennedy in a Celtic Revival costume made
and worn in the 1920s. The full costume is composed of full length
dress, sash-belt, veil, head-band and 'brat' or mantle. Clare Kennedy
was married to the Attorney General, Hugh Kennedy, a senior official in
the newly formed Irish Free State, when she attended the (pan) Celtic
Congress in Bangor, Wales, in 1927. Irish costumes like this were worn
as a statement of patriotism and Irish identity and had become one of
the visual symbols of the struggle for independence prior to the
foundation of the State.
The interlaced design and animal motifs are
typical of the Celtic Revival and were inspired by those in the Book of
Kells and other ancient Irish manuscripts. The costume was designed and
made by the Dun Emer Guild in Dublin, one of the more distinguished of
the artistic craft industries operating in Ireland during the early
The Celtic Revival started in the mid-nineteenth
century and was a literary and artistic movement that contributed to a
clear sense of an Irish identity. This was influenced by the growing
activities of archaeologists and antiquarians that supported a discrete
national history and culture for Ireland.
This photograph was taken circa 1927.
Dress has long been a badge of identity. This Celtic Revival costume
was worn by a significant society figure in the emerging Free State of
the 1920s and reflected a clear sense of cultural identity for her.
“Irish costume”, which had been championed by the Gaelic League and
Cumman na mBhan, was based on a romanticised idea of ancient Irish
dress, inspired by ancient manuscripts and folk tales, and it was
intended to represent a notional “Irish Golden Age”.