Curator Sian McInerney's on the conservation of Sybil's Legacy
Walking into the Hunt Museum, visitors can enjoy original Sybil Connolly couture designs on display. Allowing visitors to see the fall, design and detail of Irish fabrics such as pleated linen and Carrickmacross lace are important in telling the story of Sybil’s use of Irish fabric, and her rise to fame on the world fashion stage. But placing Sybil’s iconic garments on display requires important assessments to be made in order to balance the desire to exhibit the collection against ensuring that the condition of the garments is suitable for display.
As a best practice in conservation, we have asked a textile conservator to assess the condition of some of Sybil’s greatest designs. Unfortunately, this resulted in some of the most iconic garments in the Hunt collection being identified as in need of conservation work. With the proceeds of this fundraising campaign will fund conservation work on the following items in our collection.
A much-loved and admired dress in our collection is the strapless-evening gown in pleated linen called Heiress Dress. Heiress has four tiers of beautiful hand-pleated handkerchief white linen, between bands of Irish crochet and blue silk ribbon. Having been worn in its original life, the dress needs conservation treatment including a surface clean to remove ingrained soiling; to be humidified to remove any distortion of the fibres, and its frayed hem and the zip to be consolidated and re-secured. This work will be complemented by a conservation grade mount and custom-made supports so visitors will then be able to see this fashion ‘masterpiece’ on display.
Dress, Heiress/Sybil Connolly/Textile/20th century /Sybil Connolly Collection/CC0
The cream evening gown below features another of Sybil’s signature fabrics; Irish crochet, beautifully executed in the crochet appliquéd flowers throughout the bottom of the skirt. Known colloquially as the Mary Poppins dress, it was worn to the world premiere of Mary Poppins in 1964. This delicate dress exudes the elegance of the early 60s that Sybil was so adept at designing, but any possibility of public exhibition requires extensive conservation This includes cleaning, repairs to structural damage and the reattachment of some of the exquisite flowers that adorn the skirt.
Cream Evening Gown/Sybil Connolly/Textile/20th century /Sybil Connolly Collection/CC0
Just as iconic is the Red Wool Skirt, inspired by the Irish tradition of the 1950’s west of Ireland, described as ‘washer-woman’ style. The skirt is made in bright red báinín wool, quilted in a scalloped pattern. Sybil’s Red Wool Cape of the same style was featured on the cover of Life magazine on August 10th 1953 under the headline “Irish invade fashion world”. Sadly, there is visible moth damage to the skirt. It is hoped that monies raised by A Stitch in Time will fund infilling with conservation dyed fabric the visible areas of loss by the Conservator.
Dress, Red Wool Skirt/Sybil Connolly/Textile,Wool/20th century /Sybil Connolly Collection/CC0
This crowdfunding campaign aims to cover much more than the work described above and your donation will make possible the much-needed conservation work on these Sybil couture gems. Thank you!