The Story of ‘Miss Pink’
On June 25th 2017 in the early evening, tired dancers were getting changed after the Munich Feis (Sweeney-McAvinchey Irish Dance School) weekend in Oberschleissheim, Germany, when a young woman, Susanne Heumann, stood close to the entrance door and offered a free dress bag. Robert Gabriell and his wife Patricia Arlt from the Gabriell School of Traditional Irish Dancing heard that and inquired, whereupon Susanne then added that the dress bag will have to come with a dress…
I had just gotten changed and packed, saying my goodbye’s and ready to leave, when I passed Susanne, Robert and Patricia by the door and saw the pink dress. A big fan of old style dresses myself, I immediately exclaimed my ooh’s and aah’s and gushed about how pretty it was. They then took the dress by the hanger and held it against my body, looking me up and down, and told me: try it…! I woudn’t say no to that and immediately slipped into the dress, finding that it would just about fit. When I got back to them, Robert and Patricia then looked at me and only said: ‘it’s yours!’. I couldn’t believe my ears and wanted to protest but they stayed firm, saying that even though they were always looking for old style dresses for their dancing school, this particular one wouldn’t fit into their school colour pattern, and Susanne slipped away laughing, saying she was only just happy she got rid of it (her mother apparently even told her not to dare to come back home with the dress as it was hanging around there for a very long time). Hence, from one moment to another, I suddenly was a very proud owner of a gorgeous velvet dress with a celtic design from the Book of Kells in white and teal, probably machine embroidered.
The dress has a white crochet collar and white crochet pieces on the front of the sleeves. It has 4 panels in the front, two on each side of the middle. The sash in the back is attached with press buttons / touch fastener. The condition of the dress is nearly mint. The dress would fit me as a S/M adult person of about 165cm height, although I feel it’s quite tight around the neck and waist, which makes it a bit challenging to dance in. I’ve worn it once so far for Busto Feis in February 2019 (Gens d’Ys) in Italy for three dances, my first feis after Munich Feis 2017 and quite injured after the first dance. But I still bit through the pain and the rest of the dances as I really wanted to experience performing in this new beautiful dress I had never danced in. Jumps and spins felt lovely wearing it, with the panels opening and closing down again. The fabric is heavy to wear but not uncomfortable, and I was lucky the feis took place in winter time so the Italian heat wouldn’t impact the wear of the dress.
In late 2019, I managed to get in touch with Susanne to ask for more information about the dress. She said: ‘I‘m glad you like it. Unfortunately I have no information about the dress. It was never mine… Somehow it just ended up in my house because no one wanted it’. Asking for more details, she continued: ‘I used to dance for the Emerald Dancers. Anne Murphy is the dance teacher. […] She used to teach in Munich. I must have had the dress about 17 years ago… But can’t remember why I ended up having it…’. After further research, I found out that the Emerald Dancers were a dance group that were not part of any dance organisation back then.
In April 2020 I managed to contact Anne personally and she told me that she used to buy dance dresses from her own pocket for her dancing school in Munich. She had met a teacher at the World Championships in Killarney, Co. Kerry, in the 90’s that would later help her out with getting 2nd hand dancing dresses for her students in Germany. One day then, a suitcase full of costumes was sent over to her with dresses from her own dancing school she went to as child (Cowhie – , now Cowhie-Ryan School of Irish Dancing in Cobh, Co. Cork) and from a dance school in Kerry (presumably Killarney). She believes the pink dress might have been from that Kerry school. She explains the moment the suitcase arrived: ‘…the kids were overwhelmed, because they were so different from what we had’, stating that back then, they would have danced in simple skirts and blouses or have mothers and children make and embroider a bit of their costumes at the dancing school together.
The first girl from her dancing school to wear the pink dress was S.E. She was 12 at the time. The Emerald Dancers would go to competitions together and wear the costumes from Ireland. After moving away from Germany, Anne Murphy had left over 20 dresses with the dancers, she explained further.
I would love to find out further details about this dress and would be happy about any information given.
S.S.K. Marbach, 2020
- Solo photographs: Gabriell School of Irish Dance, Munich Feis 2017
- Group photographs: private collection of Anne Murphy’s Irish dancing school, Emerald Dancers, Munich. Photograph of the photographs from the 1990’s with courtesy of Anne Murphy. Original photographer of display shots unknown.