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1946 Irene Gilbert

1946 Irene Gilbert

Irene Gilbert

Irene Gilbert was born in Thurles in 1910 and became “Ireland’s first couturier”. She was the first female Irish fashion designer to establish her own label. Irene was an Irish fashion designer based for awhile in 2 Mount Street Upper where she sublet her showroom from Contessa Taafe.

She was a member of the “Big Three” Irish fashion designers, along with Sybil Connolly and Raymond Kenna/Kay Peterson. Designing for royalty and high society, she was famous for her work and friendship with Grace Kelly. She was the first woman to run a successful fashion business in Ireland and later operated out of a shop on St Stephen’s Green.

1946 Irene Gilbert
1946 Irene Gilbert

Irene Gilbert – Ireland’s Leading Haute Couture

Irene Gilbert was born in Thurles in 1910 and became “Ireland’s first couturier”. She was the first female Irish fashion designer to establish her own label.

Gilbert’s career in the fashion industry began when she ran a dress shop on Wicklow Street in Dublin. She then went to London to train under a court dressmaker, before returning to open a showroom in No2 Mount Street upper and a hat shop on Dublin’s North Frederick Street in the late 1940s.

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

She counted a variety of minor royals among her customers – and at the height of her success employed a staff of 30 people at her bustling premises on Stephen’s Green

She designed one of the ten variations of the Aer Lingus uniform.


1946 Irene Gilbert

1958 saw Irene Gilbert’s design an elegant uniform for the Irish airline, Aer Lingus, of a green and orange fleck tweed suit with a lemon coloured blouse and gloves to match.

1946 Irene Gilbert

Promotion image of Irene Gilbert inspecting one of the Aer Lingus uniforms she designed for the Irish airline, 1958.

1946 Irene Gilbert

Fashion Parade at the Shelbourne Hotel, Stephens Green and Salon.

1946 Irene Gilbert

Promotion image for Irene Gilbert, taking part in the Irish Fashion week in Harrod’s, 1965.

Irene Gilbert and the Fashion Radicals

The 1950s IN Ireland are often remembered as a period of doom and gloom. Unemployment was high and, throughout the decade, around half a million people left the country – mainly to seek employment elsewhere.

However, a group of women who set out to defy that trend – the ‘Fashion Radicals’ who aimed to put Irish designers on the map for the first time. Irene Gilbert, one of the ‘Fashion Radicals’ was the country’s first designer to achieve international renown – creating outfits for, amongst others, Princess Grace of Monaco. Also at the foremost of the fashion radicals were Sybil Connolly and 

Sybil Connolly, a Dublin-based fashion designer who was known for creating haute couture from Irish textiles, and later for her work with brands such as Tiffany & Co. Her famous clients included Jacqueline Kennedy and Julie Andrews.

Neillí Mulcahy trained at the atelier of Parisian designer Jacques Heim for six months. She opened her own salon on South Frederick Street, specialising in evening dresses and bridal wear.