Old Style Dress – ‘Miss Black’

The Story of ‘Miss Black’

‘Miss Black’ must be my oldest dancing dress I own. The embroidery looks hand-crafted, with celtic designs in yellow, teal, white and different shades of pink. It shows celtic knots and birds on the dress, which I often call flamingos or even sometimes call it the ‘flamingo-dress’, even though of course they are not flamingos. The border of the sash has the same symbols as the Claddagh Ring, although there is no crown over the hearts (too intricate to craft perhaps?). It looks to me, too, that the sash is very different than the rest of the dress, even though it has the same pink satin-like fabric on most of it, but the design just seems so very different than the rest of the dress. Maybe the sash got damaged in the past some time and was replaced?

The main fabric used is black heavy velvet. The dress has four panels, splitting in the middle, revealing the same pink soft fabric in the pleats when lifted. Very few not too sparkly crystal-like stones are sewn onto the pattern in selected places, and the dress does also have a crochet neckpiece. The symbol of the Trinity is sewn on both lower sleeves.

When I first saw the dress, I felt very much attracted to it because of it’s old looking style. The first time I had ever seen Irish dance being performed, the dancers wore these type of dresses with white poodle socks and were stepping about on a wooden platform on a crossroad. It had always been a dream of mine to once dance in an old style dress just like I had seen it all those years ago.

I took this dress along with my modern one to the Hamburg Feis in Germany in 2015 (Gabriell School of Irish Dance) because I wasn’t sure if I would dance the championship in the old style dress or not. What if I didn’t feel good wearing it and performing in it? What if it was too heavy? What if anything went wrong? Dancing in a new dress always comes with this little bit of concern.

While I had a few initial problems with the sash that was nearly falling off, only being supported on the top by big safety pins in very much worn out fabric, and a lace cord on the bottom, I enjoyed performing in it so much that I decided to wear it for the championship, too. High cuts, jumps, but specially spins felt incredible, with all those panels spreading and falling back again. It was a surreal feeling and made me really proud and happy to be performing in a dress just like the ones I had seen as a teenager. It meant a lot to me.

The dress has been worn for a lot of shows throughout Switzerland. It originates from Ireland, and has apparently been worn at a world championship some time. I would love to find out more about it and would welcome any tip.

S.S.K. Marbach

Photo credit:

all photographs © S.S.K. Marbach, 2015


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