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This page has some of my observations and comments on the process by which I am attempting to understand the cloting worn by the Ancient Irish (arround 500 A.D. or so..):

"the essential attire"
look here for Fine an Ruirleach wearing all this...
This, according to McClintock (Old Irish and Highland Dress : H.F. McClintock, 2nd edition Dundalk, Dundalgen Press, Ltd., 1950), consisted of a leine and brat--at least for the upper classes--with or without shoes (depending on the occasion).
In later years, or among those with active work to do, tight hose/trousers might be worn (trews) and a distinctive Irish jacket was added in the late medieval period.

wearing it all
The basic leine and brat are simple and comfortable to wear (I confess, I look for any exchuse to slip mine on! ).
Put the leine on and tie a piece of string or leather around the waist, then pull the "excess" up over the tie until the lenie is the length you want.  An "overbelt" (one you want to show) can then be buckled around the waist, tucking down the folds of "excess" cloth, if desired (at "RenFaire" or other events, the belts can be handy for hanging stuff from in an otherwise pocketless attire).
The sleeves were tucked along the fore-arm and tied with a thong (or ribbon) to fit at the wrist (you can see this quite clearly in some of the illustrations in McClintock).
The leine can be worn loose or be made more "fitted" by the use of the various pins and fastners that were common in Ancient times.  These were both decorative and functional, often with zomorphic or other motifs from the natural world. The saftypin-like fastners were used at the shoulder, and other button, pin and broch like fastners were used at back, sides and breast.
The Brat is then folded to the desired length and thickness and wrapped around the shoulders.  A large pin or pennumbular boach holds it in place at the center (see the page on the brat for more details on how to use a pennumbular brooch).

what about hot weather
Toss the brat over a fore-arm, or set it aside.  Roll up the sleves of the leine,if any.
Alternatively, there are now "rustic" silks being sold in tartan patterns, one could look like a wool brat if it weren't inspected too carefully (and if it's wearer isn't too picky about authenticity...).

what about gender differences?
We know actually very little about this. In times past, archaeologists classified burial finds as "male" or "female" based on the kind of jewerly, etc. found there...recently it was discovered that some of the "female" skeletons were really male!
Now, this could be evidance for ancient "cross dressing" or, just maybe, there was less gender distinction in clothing, or there were different tastes as to what looked "feminine" vs. "masculine".
In any case, it's pretty safe to "hike up" a leine when worn by a guy, and leave it floor-length when worn by a woman. A floor-length leine, with full gores is actually a very flattering dress style.
The wearer can then arrange the "fixings" and brat to suit themselves, and it will be pretty easy to tell the guys from the gals. Trust me.

is this really pratical in a modern context?
Of course not!


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© 1997 Robin A. NíDána

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