By Jill Cousins
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.
Wear, tear and love by previous owners means that, according to an assessment by a textile conservator, thirteen dresses and jackets need urgent attention to prevent further deterioration.
Sybil Connolly (1921-1998), an innovator, influencer, entrepreneur, fashion designer renowned for creating haute couture from Irish textiles. Her use of finely pleated handkerchief linen, delicate crochet lace and durable Irish tweed led to designs inspired by Irish people, traditions and culture.
Dubbed as “Dublin’s Dior”, Sybil was the first female Irish fashion designer to have international success. Her creations surprised and delighted, and were sold in Bloomingdales and Lord and Taylor, NYC. They also featured in Vogue and Harpers Bazaar. Clients included Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and actresses Adele Astaire and Julie Andrews. Check out our social media celebration of her birth centennary 2021, which was shared and commented by thousands of followers.
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. The total cost of conservation for the 13 items is: €25,000. All the funds will go towards the restoration. The breakdown per item ranges from €650 for the Dark Red Evening Coat to €3,950 for Pink Ice.
The Hunt Museum team for this fundraiser includes the curator of the Sybil Connolly Collection, our social media team, external Sybil Connolly experts Robert O'Byrne and Kathleen O'Sullivan, alongside textile conservator, Rachel Phelan. We also have a project manager with successful previous experience in crowd fundraising for the Hunt Museum with Fund a Cobble.
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.
The project is quite low risk requiring only the expertise of a textile conservator. The length of time required for conservation is an unknown and dependent on material availability but funders should be assured of the committment to completion by the team. Our Fund-a-Cobble campaign resulted in a brand new Museum in a Garden at the Hunt Museum.
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. The Hunt Museum is small and cannot afford to have a textile conservator on the team so needs to hire in the expertise but our Gertrude Hunt Conservation Fund will match the amount crowdfunded, doubling your donation.
We can't thank you enough for your time and support. Your contribution will conserve this very important collection from a female designer and entrepreneur for Irish fashion in the 1950's. A piece of Irish social and design history will be preserved for many others to enjoy for another 100 years. Please tell others about the campaign!