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Irish Wolfhounds and Costumes

Irish Wolfhounds are camera hogs all by themselves.  A way to let  them have even more lime light  to show up at an event with both of you in costume.  If you are not shy, the two of you will have a blast.  

Having taken wolfhounds to events in costumes, and even organized the dog section at fairs... and having learned some of this the hard way, I figured I'd share the knowledge.  What I will present are tips for getting started costuming and how to create the look without spending a fortune in money... or time.  Then I will address other considering when attending an event with you and your dog as well as suggest some sites for finding places to attend.


Picking a costume - what era?

bulletMedieval / Dark Ages / T-tunic
bulletRenaissance / Elizabethan
bullet19th Century / Victorian / Civil War

Consideration for all costumes

bulletPicking the character
bulletTreatment of Materials
bulletResearch on the web

Books to use

bulletCostuming to a T
bulletDress in Ireland

Links to get books, costumes

bullet(more later)

Picking a costume - what era?

OK, so you and your Irish Wolfhound have been invited to an event and you're been asked to come in costume.  (Some may call it 'garb'.)  What to do????

First, what time period is this event?  Renaissance, Medieval, "oh, you know, just what they wore" -- that 3rd is seriously an answer I've gotten when a group of us did a charity gig with the hounds.  Generally, the requirements can be broken down into 3 VERY BROAD categories.  (For costume purest who stumbled onto this page, this is first time costuming with a specific purpose, not historic accuracy. These suggestions are to help the owner and the dog. However, I will provide links to those wishing to get into the more serious side.)


bulletMedieval / Dark Ages
bulletThink Robin Hood, minus the tights, King Arthur minus the armor, the Wind and the Lion 
bulletThe garb starts with the basic "T-Tunic" garment, something most can create in an evening of sewing.  No pattern needed
bulletEvents will be some Irish Fairs of "Ireland though the Ages" or SCA gathers or wars (Society of Creative Anachronism). 
bulletIf you have a choice, this is the least expensive and easier era to start in.
bulletRenaissance / Elizabethan
bulletThis is by far the most common choice.
bulletMen's peasant garb will not be too complex but women's will take a bit more work, and a lot more fabric.
bulletIt is important to find out "how correct" the costume must be a what are the event's definitions.  This can be a thorny situation if you are 'working' an event vs. just attending.
bulletBe careful, their definition of "Irish" costume may be different than there standard definition, so ask.
bullet19th Century / Victorian / Civil War
bulletThink "Gone with the Wind" minus the hoop skirt
bulletThis ers is less common to be done 'Irish', but easy to fake for guys.  Ladies, if you have Ren costumes, there are some easy cheats to get you though also.  

Consideration for all costumes

Picking the basic character's station

bulletBefore you get started you need to decide what class you want to portray -- you don't have to be exact, just think about it.  
bulletAre you a peasant or trying to be upper?
bulletAre you a farmer, warrior, a prince?
bulletThere wasn't really a middle class until Renaissance times.
bulletI suggest cost wise, it is better to start as a peasant and practice.  
bulletIf you and your wolfie like costuming, later you build a more accurate and detailed outfit.
bulletSome love to play the "dirty Celt" for warriors
bulletPersonally, I have more fun planning to wear "the best" the person might have afforded and worn to "fairs".  
bulletThere are going to be lots of pictures, so might as well create a "pretty as a picture" situation.
bulletIf you are costuming with a group, find out where they want you to start and listen to their advice.

Treatment of Materials


bulletI cannot stress this enough.  At a costume event, you need to be looking out after your dog, not warring about passing out from the heat.  Don't wear anything that can't breath.
bulletFabric choices
bulletLinen or Cotton for the shirt
bulletWool, linen or cotton for the out garments.
bulletPre-washed before you cut!!!!!!!!!
bulletNot counting the fact that most fairs and other gatherings will be dusty, your wolfie will get excited and drool... and step on you outfit... and not being familiar with the loose clothing you will drag it though things....
bulletWash it in hot to warm water, dry it
bulletWhen in doubt, cut a square and wash it first as a test.
bulletEverything does not have to be drab, no color. Even the Roman's noted the Irish's bright clothing.  However, color's may be limited by what group you're with.
bulletStay away from day glows, period.  No screaming any color, pure purples and reds (unless doing Victorian).  Black was expensive to do right.  Colors will be blended or muted to our modern eye.
bulletMany fairs will restrict fabrics to being solids only, striping and simple plaids did exist.... but before you choose the non-standard fabrics (if you're just going to play), consider how much you want to stand out.
bulletI have a 9 yard skirt of varying width striped gauze... it has never been worn to faire without comments or incident.... but is wonderful and period.

Research on the web

There are a number of source out on the web that document Irish and Celtic costume.  I really do suggest you read some of them... 

bulletHours can be lost this way but it gives you a detailed overview for making a more accurate costume than I am going to list here.
bulletHey, it's part of what makes the web fun.
bulletThere will be some absolutes listed on some pages like "never use cotton", "research completely and pick an exact time and place", "no shortcuts".
bulletI believe it is OK to cut corners to get started, especially if you are not sure you and your dog want to do this regularly.  If you've got the time and resources, please do the research... but don't let the complexities stop you.
bulletMany of these web sites have been constructed for specific groups.  Their language will be a bit different talking about reenactment, garb, clans, etc.  There may be restrictions listed or one site may disagree with others...
bulletThe restrictions are important if you are going to work with a group... but do make sure your dog is up to it before committing both of you to a long faire.
bulletSometimes the term Celtic is substituted to mean Irish and Scottish and....  
bulletHow much distinction you need to make depends on how detailed your costume is going to be...  That is a decision you make as part of your research.


bulletSites for overviews on Irish clothing

Clothing of the Ancient Celts: A Guide to Celtic Costume

Good introduction, will give you the basic garments, terms, colors and some history.  Also has a nice set of links to more research and resources.


Reconstructing History

Some detailed articles recreating authentic Irish clothing.


Irish Clothes

A page of links to various Irish garments and research articles about the Irish Leine and Irish Kilt

    More coming...... later. 

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This page last updated 07/27/09