Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Conversational Threads

Irish Dance Dresses

McNally | Posted in General Discussion on

If anyone has made or knows anything about Irish Dance dresses for competition purposes ie: materials, patterns, design, etc., please reply so we can start a discussion. Thanks


  1. lorrie | | #1

    Dear Brian,

    I am new to this forum, but saw your post.  I completed a solo dress for my irish dancing daughter about 5 months ago.  It's a lot of work.  There's a discussion group on voy forums, (irish flame, I believe) that has wonderful advice.  The best pattern seems to be from Irish Threads, it's the one I used.  The hardest thing to acquire is the stiffener, Vilene.  You can buy any and all gaudy material, from just about everywhere, from Walmart to Joann, to costume shops (we have a great one in Cincinnati).  The competitions in Ireland dictate what's in and what's out as to the "fashion" of dresses, which changes a little every year (the last I heard some animal skins and feathers were spotted!)  Irish Dancing is it's own little world, I found it fascinating and amazing. 


    1. McNally | | #2

      Thanks for the reply. We have both Wal-mart and Joann in the same mall in Plattsburgh. Just how difficult would you consider the sewing, ie: sheer fabrics, gathering, etc.? Can room and or material for future alterations be built into the dress? What kind of embroidery if any did you go for, ie: custom or applied? It drives me nuts to see these dresses altered such that the designs have been chopped off. It seems some of this could be avoided if care was taken when the dress was first put together. Just how insane is it for me to consider making one of these dresses with little (or no) experience? Perhaps a practice dress of similar construction is in order. Thanks again.

      1. lorrie | | #4

        The sewing is challenging. You will be sewing many thick layers together. Since I don't have an embroidery machine, I applied appliques and satin stitched (and satin stitched and satin stitched...) Do a lot of testing on the fabrics you intend to use, and you will use a ton of stabilizers and interfacings! You can build in quite a lot of room for growth in the sides and the skirt (the room in the skirt is on the top portion under the bodice so that when it is let down, the decorative skirt bottom isn't disturbed). Allow a good 100+ hours for the dress. I would suggest the Irish Thread pattern (out of Canada). We designed our own, but you can also purchase designs. I know the dresses are expensive, but after making one, they're worth it! There are also website where you can buy the pieces of the dress already embroidered and then assemble the dress yourself. I think I spent about $150 on materials (that doesn't include the Tylenol). It was definately a challenge, but I'm glad I did it (I was contemplating making these and selling them, but decided I would need a substantial investment in machines to do a great job, so opted out). Hope this helps!

        1. McNally | | #7

          Thanks again for the reply. We travel to Montreal about twice a week for Irish dance. My wife and I don't sew but are keenly interested in the manufacture of our daughters' next dress. I guess I just need to demystify the whole process. I will eventually get to scratch my sewing itch, but probably not this time. Thanks for the info.

      2. FitnessNut | | #6

        Since you live in Plattsburgh, you may want to hop over the border to Montréal if you have difficulty finding fabrics. Their garment district has most everything you could want. I'm willing to bet that, with a little research, you can even find the special interfacing there.

        1. McNally | | #9

          I'm off in search of the garment district in Montreal. As long as I can find it at 80+ mph(about 250 kph), I'll be ok.

          1. FitnessNut | | #12

            At that speed, the only thing you'll find is a ticket!There are two areas of Montreal you could check out. The first is around St. Laurent and Chabanel, not far north of hwy. 40. The other, which is more "user friendly" is a stretch of St. Hubert running north of Jean Talon (a five minute walk from the metro). It is also not far from the 40, but the other direction.

          2. JuliaR | | #15

            As an irish dancer, i have some tips on design. We bought team dresses but a few years ago i was looking into a solo dress. I would first look into buying a dress that someone has worn but is trying to sell, you can get a great deal and at most competions there are people looking to sell an old dress. If you are set on making i would make sure that there is room to grow, lengthen sleeves and the skirt and so on, this also makes it easier to pass a dress on later. If you plan on making a cape, velcro is great. Our capes velcro on and off it is wonderful when we un-zip our backs to cool off.  If you are worried about the embriodery, when i was looking into making my dress we found someone who would work with us to design the embriodery and give us the pieces to stitch together. Also don't get too caught up in what is popular in the dance world now, make a dress that you and your daughter love. remember that it is the dancing that wins, not the dress. Hope this helps!

    2. rjf | | #3

      When I read Brian's first post, I thought "tartan" but of course, that's the wrong country.  I've seen Irish step dancers and usually they were wearing green skirts, black vests and white blouses with puffy sleeves.  Anywhere near right?  Would you post a picture of your daughter's dress?    rjf

      1. lorrie | | #10

        Not even close. I believe Brian is asking about competition solo dresses. Think of the gaudiest, glitteriest, brightest dress. It is designed to stick straight out at the sides. I'll see if I can download the dress pic to send.

  2. BarKy | | #5

    Brian,   I too have had to make an Irish Dance dress.  What a pain in the neck.  We changed the pattern which made things more difficult.  When it was all said and done my daughter loved it.  I even allowed for growth.  Since that dress, we have changed schools and now I have to make another one.  I agree that the hardest thing to find is the Vilene.  Let me know where you got it. 


    1. McNally | | #8

      Sounds like a sure fire source is "Irish Threads" website, but I'm sure there are others. I'll check out Montreal and let the rest of the world know if I find some. It is hard to come by.

    2. lorrie | | #11

      I ordered the vilene through Irish Threads. I believe that Baer fabrics in Louisville has it also, as may some other places, couldn't find it anywhere in Cincy.

      1. melanie | | #13

        Regarding Vilene - if you would care to write to Freundenberg Nonwovens Ltd.,Vilene Retail, P.O.Box 3, Greetland Halifax, Yorkshire, HX4 8NJ England, they would tell you where the outlets for their product is in the U.S.. Fax number which might be more convenient is 01422 327998. For the equivalent of £3 last year they sent me their full range guide which not only contained samples of their enormous variety of interfacings for dressmaking but also for quilting and soft furnishings, with plenty of informative leaflets on the best use for each weight, sew-in and fusible.

        1. FitnessNut | | #14

          Also try http://www.nonwovens-industry.com/BuyersGuide/CompanyDetail.asp?CoId=10368 for Freudenberg Nonwovens Ltd. North America contact information.

This post is archived.

Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in

Conversational Threads

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All


Shop the Store

View All
View More