Irish Fashion - Terms of Interest to the Fashion Industry

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In honor of St. Patrick and Ireland's vast history, Apparel Search highlights various forms of traditional Irish attire. From tartans to Irish caps and Claddagh rings, Apparel Search covers it all.

According to Linda Clifford, there are very few Irish family tartans, unlike Scotland where there are hundreds. Most people of Irish heritage wear the tartan of the county or province where their families lived. Merriam-Webster defines tartan as a plaid textile design of Scottish origin consisting of stripes of varying width and color usually patterned to designate a distinctive clan. It is also defined as a twilled woolen fabric with tartan design; a fabric with tartan design; or a garment of tartan design.

According to Berkeley Hat, Ireland is renowned for its woolen hats and caps. For years you wouldn't think of an Irishman without his country hat or well-worn tweed cap. The rugged tweed patterns seem to fit in with the Irish countryside. Fabrics range from the most subtle olive tweeds to herringbones.

The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring given as a token of love or worn as a wedding ring. The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, located just outside the city of Galway. The ring was first produced in the 17th century during the reign of Queen Mary II, though elements of the design are much older.

The Claddagh's distinctive design features two hands clasping a heart, and usually surmounted by a crown. The elements of this symbol are often said to correspond to the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown). The expression which was associated with these symbols in the giving of the ring was: "With my two hands I give you my heart, and crown it with my loyalty." Yet, the expression, "Let love and friendship reign forever" can be found as another meaning for the symbols.

The way that a Claddagh ring is worn on the hand is usually intended to convey the wearer's romantic availability, or lack thereof. The ring is worn on the right hand with the heart facing outward to show that the wearer is not romantically linked but is looking for love. When turned inwards, it is shown that the wearer is in a relationship, or their heart has been captured. Noting that the heart is pointing down the hand and into the veins, which lead to the wearer's heart. The ring worn on the left hand with the heart facing outward shows the wearer is engaged; turned inward indicates the wearer is married.

Written for Apparel Search by Regina Cooper March 2010

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