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.