Irene Gilbert (fashion designer)

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Ireland's first couturier

Irene Gilbert (19 July 1908 – 7 August 1985[1])[2] (pronounced "Irini").[3] Margarat Elizabeth Irene Gilbert was born in Main Street, Thurles, County Tipperary to Jennie (née Knox) and William Charles, a commercial traveller in the printing and stationery trade. Irene was an Irish fashion designer based in Dublin.[4][5][6][7][8] Ireland's first couturier, she was a member of the "Big Three" Irish fashion designers, along with Sybil Connolly and Raymond Kenna/Kay Peterson.[9][10] Designing for royalty and high society,[3] she was famous for her work and friendship with Grace Kelly.[2][6] She was the first woman to run a successful fashion business in Ireland, operating out of a shop on St Stephen's Green on the southside of the city.[6]

Early life[edit]

Gilbert was born in Thurles, County Tipperary in 1908.[9][2][11] She is living on the Mall in Waterford on the 1911 census. Her father is forty and her mother twenty-two. Her parents have been married for three years and she is their only child. Charles Edward Gilbert and Jane Knox were married in St. Pancras, London in December 1907.


Gilbert's career in the fashion industry began when she ran a dress shop on Wicklow Street in Dublin.[2] She then went to London to train under a court dressmaker, before returning to open a hat shop on Dublin's North Frederick Street in the late 40's[2]

Having moved to St Stephen's Green, Gilbert opened a shop there in 1947.[11][12][6] She began selling clothes under her own label from 1950, since her first show took place in Restaurant Jammet.[6] She was known for her work with silk, tweed,[13] linen and Carrickmacross lace.[14][15][3][12][11] Future celebrated designer, Pat Crowley, worked for Gilbert for seven years from 1960, as a designer as well as a sales and marketing specialist.[16][17][18] The quality of the work contributed to Dublin's reputation as a "must stop-over" for the international fashion media.[19]

She designed one of the ten variations of the Aer Lingus uniform.[20]

Gilbert closed the business in 1969 and emigrated to Malta.[12][6] She later moved to Cheltenham in England where she died in 1985.[2]


Gilbert's creations were prized by Anne, Countess of Rosse whose collection of Gilberts are now curated at Birr Castle.[6] In January 2018, Gilbert's life and work was the subject of an exhibition at the Little Museum of Dublin.[2]


  1. ^ The Irish Times, 07 Aug 1985: 1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "How a young woman from Thurles became Ireland's first 'fashion radical'". 27 January 2018. Archived from the original on 30 January 2018. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "St. Patrick's Beauties". The Bridgeport Post. Bridgeport, Connecticut. 11 March 1962. p. 29. Retrieved 30 January 2018 – via to read
  4. ^ Vanderbilt, Amy (20 Apr 1969). "Wonders of the Old World Children". Lansing State Journal. Lansing, Michigan. p. 133. Retrieved 31 January 2018 – via to read
  5. ^ Cavanagh, Dale (15 March 1969). "You're sew right - Straightening Fabrics". Ottawa Journal. Ottawa. p. 19. Retrieved 31 January 2018 – via to read
  6. ^ a b c d e f g O'Byrne, Robert (1 April 2000). "Out of style, out of mind". The Irish Times. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Afternoon Ensemble". News-Journal. Mansfield, Ohio. 4 Feb 1954. p. 10. Retrieved 31 January 2018 – via to read
  8. ^ "Irene Gilbert Coat Dress Has Soft Bodice Lines". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. 13 November 1954. p. 12. Retrieved 31 January 2018 – via to read
  9. ^ a b "Regard Dublin Stylists As Distinctly Different". The Central New Jersey Home News. New Brunswick, New Jersey. Associated Press. 21 April 1963. p. 15. Retrieved 30 January 2018 – via to read
  10. ^ O Sullivan, Kathleen (16 November 2016). "'Fashion With An Irish Brogue': The Life And Legacy Of Sybil Connolly". Archived from the original on 23 December 2017. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  11. ^ a b c "Irish Designers Are Looking at US Women". The Baytown Sun. Baytown, Texas. 6 May 1954. p. 10. Retrieved 30 January 2018 – via to read
  12. ^ a b c Adburgham, Alison (11 March 1969). "More method, less romance in Dublin". The Guardian. London. p. 7. Retrieved 31 January 2018 – via to read
  13. ^ "A Designing Pair". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney. 7 Aug 1955. p. 89. Retrieved 30 January 2018 – via to read
  14. ^ "FASHION STORY by Spodeo: Dublin Has Dandy Duds". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. 14 March 1960. p. 9. Retrieved 30 January 2018 – via to read
  15. ^ Spadea, Jean (26 August 1956). "The Irish Collections: Golden Genius on the Emerald Isle". The Star Press. Muncie, Indiana. p. 12. Retrieved 30 January 2018 – via to read
  16. ^ "Pat Crowley: A Tribute". 19 December 2013. Archived from the original on 30 January 2018. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  17. ^ Hourican, Emily (23 December 2013). "Always a cut above the rest". Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  18. ^ "Fashion designer and astute businesswoman". The Irish Times. 21 December 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  19. ^ "Dublin Fashions Irene Gilbert Combines Design, Timeless Styling". The Akron Beacon-Journal. Akron, Ohio. 16 August 1959. p. 82. Retrieved 30 January 2018 – via to read
  20. ^ "Aer Lingus crew to get sartorial upgrade". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2018-06-03.

Further reading[edit]

  • O'Byrne, Robert (2000). After a Fashion: A History of the Irish Fashion Industry. Dublin: Town House and Country House. ISBN 1860591159.