European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Designers

Sybil Connolly – A Stitch in Time

European fashionFashion Conservation

Crowd funding to support the restoration and conservation of Irish Designer Sybil Connolly haute couture – a guest blogpost by Jill Cousin, Director of The Hunt Museum

Sybil Connoly: Irish Couturiere

Sybil Connolly (1921-1998) was an innovator, influencer, entrepreneur and a fashion designer who created haute couture from Irish textiles. She developed and used materials such as finely pleated handkerchief linen, delicate crochet lace and durable Irish tweed to create designs that were inspired by Irish people, traditions and culture.

The Hunt Museum holds a large Sybil Connolly Collection, donated by her nephew John Connolly. It includes her haute couture, sketches, scrapbooks, fabric, wallpaper, ceramic and glass. 2021 saw the centenary of her birth and a year long largely instagram series by the Hunt Museum telling of her achievements. We also added many of her sketches and designs to WikiCommons under a CC0 licence for wide reuse.

Dubbed by the media as “Dublin’s Dior”, Sybil was truly a pioneering designer and was one of the first Irish fashion designers to have international success. She surprised the fashion world with her creations in the 1950s, and worked with department stores Bloomingdales and Lord and Taylor, NYC. Famous clients included America’s First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and actresses Adele Astaire (musical Funny Face) and Julie Andrews (film Sound of Music). Many of Sybil’s designs featured in fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in the 1950s. Her “vintage” designs are worn today by the likes of Gillian Anderson for the 2012 Baftas.  

Sybil worked from Ireland, employing many people in a country still finding its feet after independence from the United Kingdom. Later in her career, she turned her attention to interior and garden design, creating wallpapers, fabrics, glass and ceramics for companies such as Tipperary Crystal and Tiffany & Co, NYC.


Conserving Sybil's Heritage

A conservator’s report of the forty garments held in the Hunt Museum Sybil Connolly Collection resulted in the need to work on 13 items. The restoration ranges from coping with moth damage, lifting of age staining, to lace repair and wearer’s damage.    

Once restored these iconic items can go back on display and be loaned to other museums and galleries for new exhibitions, along with the sketches, pattern books and other objects in our Sybil Connolly Collection. We are all very keen on the role of fashion in social history, the importance of women in the sector and believe that Sybil deserves wider recognition as a particular icon of Irish fashion entrepreneurism.

Legacy and Participation: the Fundraising Campaign

The museum has organised a fundraising campaign to gather the necessary funds to preserve and save the extraordinary clothes in the collection of The Hunt. Funds raised will pay for a professional conservator to restore and conserve these iconic fashion pieces so the clothes can travel for a proposed exhibition in the US.

We hope many people will want to be part of the restoration of these beautiful Irish designed, Irish textile and Irish made dresses so that future generations may enjoy them.

To help go to: