Posts Tagged ‘1940s Ireland’


The Phoenix Park’s association with motorsport started as early as 1903. The Gordon Bennett Cup Race which took place in Ireland in that year is cited as the background for James Joyce’s short story After the Race. Joyce used motor racing to lampoon the aspirations of Dublin’s social climbing nouveau riche. It was one of fifteen stories that appeared in Dubliners and this month marks the 100th anniversary of its publication. A reimagining and rewriting of these stories, Dubliners 100, will be launched today.

This lady was photographed in the Phoenix Park sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Due to petrol rationing racing was suspended during the Second World War and did not re-commence until the late 1940s. On the subject of rationing, I was delighted to have my article ‘Coupons, Clothing and Class: The Rationing of Dress in Ireland, 1942-1948’ published in the latest issue of Costume.

The fashions worn by this women indicate that the photo was taken towards the end of the 1940s or in the early 1950s. Her loose fitting, midi length shift dress and matching jacket were typical of the post-war period. Her stylish outfit reflects the comparative wealth of those involved in motor sport and mirrors the glamour and allure alluded to by Joyce in After the Race.


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Just a quick post to say that I’ll be giving a talk tomorrow, Friday 19th of August, at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, on the subject of fashion and dress in Ireland during World War Two. Amongst other things, I’ll be talking about rationing, demob suits and how according to Switzers Department store “slacks were playing an increasingly important role in the modern young lady’s wardrobe.”

The tour starts at 12.30 and further details can be found here

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This striking portrait was pasted down in an album containing mostly Dublin images. Unfortunately, I have no way of seeing if there is any information on the back of it. The woman’s hair, makeup and clothing are typical of the 1940s. Dark lipstick, with the top lip slightly exaggerated, was also popular during this decade.

When researching the fashions of this era, I find the following titles invaluable: Jonathan Walford’s Forties Fashion:From Siren Suit to The New Look (2010) and Colin McDowell’s Forties Fashion and the New Look (1996).

The unusual numerical pattern on the above dress reminds me of a 1941 fabric called ‘Coupons’ which was based on the number of ration coupons required for certain types of clothing during the World War Two. This pattern was reproduced by Persephone Books for the endpapers of their beautiful edition of wartime stories by Mollie Panter-Downes entitled Good Evening, Mrs Craven.

In Ireland, clothes rationing was announced by the Minister for Supplies on the 8th June 1942. See Clare County Library’s site for examples of Irish ration books in their collections.

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As a follow on from my last post I have put up another Irish cowboy. This snapshot shows my uncle in 1945 wearing a deluxe cowboy suit which was sent from a relative in Forth Worth, Texas! Hilary O’Kelly wrote about the clothing sent back by emigrants in the following article: ‘Parcels from America: American Clothes in Ireland c. 1930-1980’ in Old Clothes, New Looks; Second Hand Fashion, Berg (2005).

The photograph was taken in the yard of the family home at Haggard Street, Trim, County Meath. I remember visiting this place which had a variety of sheds, chicken coops and outhouses. At the height of the Celtic Tiger, these and the 18th century house were demolished to make way for new apartments which at the time of writing remain unoccupied. Another view of the yard is also shown in the banner for this blog. In this earlier photograph you can see St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland in the background. The Royal Irish Academy’s Historic Atlas provides a great visual overview of the town’s development. 

An exhibition which explored the snapshot within the American context – The Art of the American snapshot, 1880-1978 – was held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington in 2007. In his post on the accompanying book, Bernard Yenelouis, explores many of the issues surrounding the collection and exhibition of snapshots.

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This series of snapshots shows a group of young women travelling around Wicklow in the 1940s. They were members of An Óige – the Irish Youth Hostel Association which was founded in 1931 to encourage young people to appreciate the Irish countryside through hostelling. It was part of a larger movement in Europe which promoted wholesome outdoor activities!

The first photo shows a group who are all wearing floral dresses. Jo Turney and Rosemary Harden compiled an excellent book on floral frocks throughout the 20th century to mark an exhibition held in the Bath Fashion Museum in 2007. The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Costume Collection also includes a cotton floral dress from this period and a rayon dress with a similar cut to the blouses and skirts shown in the third image above.

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