Irish costume help needed
November 11, 2009 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Is there an Irish equivalent of the Cockney Pearly Kings and Queens?

I'm looking to create a costume, and I am looking for a costume that has the same qualities as London's Pearly Kings and Queens -- outrageousness, maybe working class, showy, etc. Is there some sort of Irish cultural or regional (or even emplyment-base) costume that has these qualities? Imagine if Liberace were to dress Irish and you'll have an idea of what I am looking for, although, failing that, anything distinctive and unusual will work that's a bit outside the kilts and Aram sweaters that have become a sort of a cliche.
posted by Astro Zombie to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total)
Er, Aran sweaters, rather.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:39 PM on November 11, 2009

No, there isn't. You could in theory dress as a Traveller (or a traveller bride) but that would be pretty racist. Believe me, if there was something that vaguely approached traditional Irish dress in the form of a leprechaun, Riverdance would have bastardised it by now. There really isn't an Irish equivilant to Pearly costume, or even to Scots formal dress. I can't even think of anything uniquely employment based.

Unless you can get hold of the truly fabulous, contemporary and highly coveted Irish National Stud t-shirt.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:56 PM on November 11, 2009

Ah, well; I might have to pearly king a suit top and then Irish it up, as I do come from both heritages, so maybe a mixed message would be appropriate.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:01 PM on November 11, 2009

What's the costume for? I agree with DB that there really is no equivalent but maybe you could consider something around King Puck or the wrenboys or a godawful flatley-esque "modern" dancing costume or something depending on the occasion. Not very Liberace though. Irish people are pretty boring dressers, we mostly look like Ross O'Carroll Kelly or his female equivalent.
posted by jamesonandwater at 1:04 PM on November 11, 2009

A costume for my band, The Peter O'Tooles, whose music consists of rather risque songs inspired by Irish folk music.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:05 PM on November 11, 2009

The problem is that if you want to stay away from cultural cliche, there isn't a way to "Irish it up." Nobody here wears - or has ever really worn - any kind of distinctive dress. Irishing it up generally means loads of green, silly elf shoes and something that approaches a Lucky Charms costume. (Except with shamrocks.) It's all a bit... ugh, really.

You could probably create a historic costume something like this, which could be made outrageous through fabric choices (I can totally see green satin and sequence hanging sleeves...) Someone on Etsy could make that up for you pretty easily with machine washable fabrics even.

The best dressed and somehow very Irish band I know of is The Marvels, if that's any help. Even trad bands have no traditional costuming.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:22 PM on November 11, 2009

Well, this thread has been worthwhile if only for The Marvels.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:42 PM on November 11, 2009

I have a suggestion for you----pick up some of the Celtic animals from texts like the book of Kells or the Lindesfarne Gospels. These animals devouring each other are extraordinary. You could pick up some of the patterns and make them large enough for clothing decoration. You could also update the characters to make them fit your band's themes.

As an example, I am a Los Angeles artist with strong Irish ancestry, and I have taken to working in a tondo (round) format. I have taken the Celtic knot pattern and made a map of the Los Angeles freeway system that will be hilarious to people who know the freeway system here.
posted by effluvia at 1:58 PM on November 11, 2009

Addenda: The "Chi Ro" page from the Lindesfarne would be pretty recognizable to an educated crowd, for example.
posted by effluvia at 2:00 PM on November 11, 2009

You could always go for the saffron kilt and military regalia ...

I *think* that's pretty authentic, perhaps someone else can confirm.
posted by fingerbang at 2:26 PM on November 11, 2009

How about a sort of cod 'dancing master' with a Barry Lyndon look going on (periwig, frock coat, britches and sticking and big-silver-buckled shoes)? The look's almost certainly going to be bullshit historically, but enough people might have seen the Kubrick film or similar for the idea to work. You might not have the legs for it tho :D
posted by Abiezer at 6:57 PM on November 11, 2009

err, stockings not 'sticking'
posted by Abiezer at 6:57 PM on November 11, 2009

Filthy tweed coat, rubber boots, and a cap pulled down to your ears?

The question interests me, but I can't suppose what archetype you're looking for: rural musician? (He's got a day job on a farm, probably.) Busker? They dress like, well, people. Notre Dame mascot? Never mind. Van Morrison? The first thing he puts on in the morning is a scowl.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:15 AM on November 12, 2009

You can always say you're London Irish if you the 'Irish-ed up' Pearly King route...

The Pearly Kings were(are?) a charity-related thing I believe, charity in Ireland has historically been dominated by the Church, not the working classes - who certainly wouldn't have had the resources to dress 'flashy' until relatively recently.

And have you ruled out Lawrence of Arabia then? *wink*
posted by knapah at 1:55 PM on November 12, 2009

The Pearly Kings were(are?) a charity-related thing I believe, charity in Ireland has historically been dominated by the Church, not the working classes - who certainly wouldn't have had the resources to dress 'flashy' until relatively recently.

The Pearly Kings and Queens are, and always have been, Cockneys, which is as working class as you can get. Ergo they were no more or less able to dress in this peculiarly "flashy" style than working class Irish people. So I'm not sure that theory really has legs.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:41 PM on November 12, 2009

I would suggest that the opportunity for such a 'showy' (the term from the question I meant to use instead of flashy) outfit to develop occurred much later in Ireland than it did in the East End of London.

The 'pearlies' emerged from a particular set of cultural and economic variables which simply didn't exist in Ireland, and as such it was unlikely that a similar (although not identical obviously) outfit/style would appear.

Anyway, all I was really saying was that nothing like it exists.

The more I think about it, the more I think that Astro Zombie would be best dressing as a bishop if he wanted to reflect 'showy' and Irish, heh. Or as Saint Patrick. There could be an interesting interplay between the lewd nature of the lyrics and the 'history' of the Church, if one so dared.
posted by knapah at 3:53 PM on November 12, 2009

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