Going Traditional

A few weeks ago, a brilliant and gutsy idea occurred to me as I was browsing Dance-Again.  I want to attend a competition in a vintage and traditional solo dress with natural hair and minimal make up.  Why?  For the simple reason of wanting to know what it was like dancing in the older, traditional styles.  When I say older, I am referring to mostly the pre-Riverdance era of costuming.  There's just no replicating the exquisite and intricate knotwork of these dresses of old.  There is also a certain poetry in the way they flow while dancing, especially while spinning that dresses of today just don't quite capture.

As I progressed as a dancer, I got sucked into the pageantry of feiseanna.  I am not complaining about this. I love getting gussied up in my fancy dress and my fancy hair with my fancy make up to compete against others.  I believe that the costuming part of Irish dance is all about showing your best self to the adjudicators, and the way us Irish dancers do that is to take the "authentic Gaelic dress is desired" and kick it up a few hundred notches.

Observing the trends of the last few majors, senior ladies really have the gamut of costuming appearances.  Some dancers keep the ever-voluminous curly wigs, while others are opting for natural and classic updos.  Recently, dressmakers has started using more and more traditional Celtic symbols in their dress designs, which balances out the just-as-current bold and often asymmetrical geometric designs.  Even the colors used in dresses range from one, to the rainbow.  So why not break out a vintage dress?

Why not: As fabulous as this looks in my head, I do not see myself as a trendsetter in the dance world.  My TC would think I am crazy.  I do not know when I can feis again, and I only attend a few feiseanna a year right before majors.  Also, finding a vintage dress in good condition that's my size and my price will be a feat in itself.

All wussiness aside, I have put together a few looks that would be smashing (or so I think in my mind).

Traditional ID looks

Traditional ID looks by sekubik featuring shoes

What do you think?  Would you ever don a more traditional look?


  1. Please, please do this. Picture me getting down on my knees and begging. I'm that serious.

    I go to a school where the wigs are required, the huge dresses are required, all that jazz that I honestly despise. I would be the happiest person on earth if I could do what you're planning, but I can't - until the day comes when my TCRG relaxes her rules. And the only way that's going to happen is if she sees with her own eyes that it's possible to do incredibly well without the wigs and junk. And every time someone like you makes a statement by going wigless, wearing a traditional dress, not fake tanning, et cetera, I believe the over-the-top-ness loses a little ground.

    Please. Go traditional, even for just one feis. People like me will thank you.

  2. Etain28.3.12

    I'd love to. I bought an old, beautifully embroidered dress as a spare for a festival my school took part in when I was 13, and it's so lovely I can't bear to part with it (not that any current dancers would buy it...). I've been out of dancing for a few years due to injury but I'm starting to dance again a little, and one day I'd love to compete in open platform feises with curled hair and a non-stiffened embroidered dress. Of course, as I'm an adult looking just to perform rather than make it to Nationals it'd be easier for me to do it. When I used to dance I wore no/minimum make-up because I hate it, and only fake tanned for ceilidh competitions.

  3. I love the traditional dresses and I love the modern ones, though I've never competed at all. That being said, if I do compete, I almost want to dance in a skirt with a shirt, vest, and tie. Just because.

  4. Absolutely! Both of my thumbs up!

  5. Anonymous28.4.12

    I've always thought about harkening back to the older styles. I love your idea. It's terrific!

  6. Mairin14.6.12

    This is a fantastic idea, I actually have one that I bought a few years ago because I didn't want to get my new dress (well at the time new) messed up at the Celtic Fling feis....and I wore it for a couple of DC performances....would be more than willing to let you borrow it! (I have friends that go to maple, could connect through them if ur still interested, though I believe I contacted you about the blue solo dress before it sold) I can't bear to part with the dress, it is pink and black velvet, with rainbow traditional embroidery. While the colors are far from traditional (and the sleeves have been redone in pink glitterdot) the embroidery is still beautiful and old....easily 8-9-10 year old dress! (idk, I bought it used) Would love to see it dance again!

  7. Jenny19.6.12

    My solo dress is about 8 years old and I still wear it. I do more performances than competitions, but it still gets a lot of attention when I'm dancing because it is so traditional. I think the dancer in traditional costume would show up more on stage. I've found some "vintage" ID dresses online for about $150 or best offer - a good deal for a dancer who can wear it and for someone just looking to find a new home for a loved costume.


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