Endlessly versatile and infinitely wearable, discover the allure of the simple summer dress …
In normal times (read: pre-pandemic) we had many factors to consider when getting dressed each day: occasion, company, transport, comfort, weather. Now, when our lives are beginning to re-open but still largely confined to our homes and small social circles, the things that we once had to consider each day when getting dressed are no longer as relevant.
Many of us are continuing to work from home resulting in less need for formal clothing. Large gatherings like festivals, weddings, concerts and other events are not taking place thus rendering a large part of our wardrobes unnecessary right now. And our once longed for summer holidays to sunny destinations have been put on hold.
Where does all of this leave us when it comes to our clothing choices? Firstly, we have likely started dressing more for ourselves, wearing what makes us feel comfortable and confident rather than being influenced by outside forces. The current emphasis on comfort reflects a shift in priorities. Freed from the conventions of daily life, is it any surprise that we are dressing for ourselves as a form of self-care? After all it’s something that we can control when so much remains unknown. It is likely that we will also start (or continue) buying with longevity in mind while looking for garments that offer versatility with the potential to be worn in a number of different ways for a number of occasions, and throughout multiple seasons. For many, the enforced slowdown that we all faced over the past number of months has sparked an interest in a more conscious approach to shopping. We are making emotional investments right now, which is why connecting with and supporting small businesses feels more important than ever. And many consumers are looking to slow down their fashion habits, refocusing on craftsmanship, artisan production and one-of-a-kind creations – the slower elements of the industry that have been largely pushed aside over the past few decades as our shopping habits went into overdrive.
So where do we look and what do we look for? Right now it’s about comfort and wearability and investing in pieces that will stand the test of time – enter the Irish-made linen dress. The fabric is tied into our cultural history so it is no wonder young designers are reaching for it now. The beauty of these Irish linen dresses is in their simplicity. The no-fuss look is perfect for almost all occasions, from a comfortable work from home outfit to an easy weekend option. It can also be seasonless too, paired with a cashmere roll neck underneath, thick tights and winter boots, the linen dress can serve you well right through the seasons. With multiple small designers branching into this comfortable, breathable and infinitely wearable garment, consumers are spoiled for choice, but a summer dress has to work hard, particularly in Ireland where our weather is less than reliable.
Which is why Amy Condell, owner of Imara Earth, has created the ‘bless’ – a versatile garment that can be worn either as a blouse or a dress depending on your mood, need or occasion. The detachable garment launched this week is made from Irish linen and handcrafted in Co Donegal. Versatility is engrained in Condell’s young brand, with her first creation the ‘hag’ (hat and bag) launched earlier this year. Her creations have proven popular mostly within the Irish market, but Condell has also received sales from the UK, Australia and the US. Speaking about coming up with the concept of the ‘bless’ Condell says, “I always tend to think multifunctional, as my designs have sustainability at their core. There is a certain degree of intricacy and excitement in creating multifunctional pieces, it is challenging to engineer, but the result gives me such a thrill.” Each ‘bless’ is made to order and involves a two to three week manufacturing period. For those who have become accustomed to the instant gratification of high street purchases this may not appeal, but knowing that you are purchasing a garment made completely for you (and supporting a small Irish business) will hopefully provide the willpower needed to wait.
Designer Cleo Prickett adapted her collection due to the impact of the pandemic: “I’m trying to think of what I need and want to wear while we are living in this unusual world. With the current global crisis, like so many fashion businesses my resources have been shrunk down to very little, so I have had to pivot my collection in how I’m designing, producing and releasing it.” Prickett has focused on linen for this collection both due to its sustainable and practical nature and the availability of the fabric within Ireland. She is also incorporating offcuts and remnants from previous seasons. Her sunny saffron dress can be transformed using poppers at the shoulder to achieve either a wide sleeve or a more folded, sculpted effect.
At 31 Chapel Lane all designs are created with longevity in mind. The made-to-last garments combine classic tailoring techniques with the best natural Irish fabrics, depending on the season. Their current collection is named ‘Aiteall’, an Irish word meaning “the period of pleasant sunshine and favourable weather between showers of rain.” If that doesn’t conjure up images of an Irish summer, what does? The elegant linen smock dresses are endlessly wearable – from morning to night, desk to weekend, at home and abroad (when we get that far again…). Sourcing linen from Emblem Weavers Mill in Wexford, designer Bébhínn McGrath creates made-to-order garments with a production turnaround of about 15 days from order to dispatch in a range of summery shades. To tackle the problem of unpredictable weather, Four Threads designer Alanagh Clegg offers beautiful linen coats and kimonos which she makes in her studio in Co Wicklow. The loose flowing shapes offer the perfect throw on and go option for breezier days.
The above designers all have one common trait woven into their designs: simplicity is key. When you have a hand-crafted product made from the best of local materials a simple design speaks for itself. There is no need for fussy fixtures or unnecessary extras. If you invest in one of these carefully crafted designs you’ll never want to wear anything else. The Irish linen dress really is the star of the show this season. And the best part? They’re truly timeless. Buy one now and you’ll love it forever.
Olive Moya linen bless, €289, IMARA Earth (sign up for pre-sale access)
Charcoal linen dress, €339, Atrium Dublin
Saffron linen dress, €295, Cleo Prickett
Rosé Alice linen smock dress, €405, 31 Chapel Lane
Lime green linen knee length dress, €140, Bébhínn
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