1960s Sybil Connolly Couture 'Non Chalance' Pink Pleated Linen Dress
Sybil Connolly was based in Dublin and her first major fashion show as a designer in her own right was in 1953 and quickly became a darling of the American market. Jacqueline Kennedy wore Connolly for her official White House portrait and Connolly was a particular favorite of Carmen Snow, the editor of Harper's Bazaar. In 1957 she launched her couture label. She created Haute Couture pieces made from Irish textiles and in particular she became famous for her distinctive use of pleated handkerchief linen. This excerpt from the FDIM Museum explains Sybil Connolly's techniques:
"Sybil Connolly's trademark gowns required a tremendous amount of fabric. To construct one pleated evening dress required between 72 and 90 yards of Irish handkerchief linen. After undergoing a secret pleating process, this initial yardage became 7 to 10 yards of slightly irregular, narrow linen pleats. Like the early 20th century designer Mario Fortuny, Sybil Connolly was very protective of her pleating process, swearing that it was a secret she would "carry to the grave." In her designs, Connolly usually oriented the pleats horizontally, covering the seams with self-fabric cording. The cords also lengthen the overall line of the garment, providing a counterbalance to the horizontal pleats. As Connolly tended towards solid colors, the stiff cording also provides a necessary visual contrast to the soft linen pleats."
Connolly was named the 'Dior of Dublin' by the press and rightly so. This dress is not perfect but is a stunning example of the pleating techniques as described above. I believe this is a version of the dress she named the 'Non-Chalance' that I found a sketch of from the permanent collection of the Hunt Museum in Ireland and I found a similar gown that is held in the collection of the Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum. You can see the similarities on all but the hem in those examples. Sybil worked directly with the cloth when she did her design work and rarely did any preliminary sketches so it is a pleasure to have found one to reference. I found a quote that referred to the Irish linen she used to be 'of a quality so fine it was almost chiffon-like in weight' and that’s description is very accurate. This dress has a very formal feel to it that is softened by that lovely soft pink color that the linen has been dyed to. The elaborately layers cuffs are a made from the same fabric but here the pleats are more a traditional tiny pleat and they are set vertically, rather then the horizontal pleating of the dress. They are dramatic and very full with their two layers stacked on top of each other. They add a touch of romance and whimsy to the dress and give it a lovely movement when you move your arms. The dress is otherwise kept to simple lines so that the pleating technique takes center stage. The bodice is fitted, with a slightly scooped neckline. The waist cinches in for shape and then the skirt billows out to a beautiful strong line that allows the many yard of fabric used to take full center stage. Gathers at each side of the hip and at the back create more volume. That wonderful sweep of the back is stunning and the back hem is cut just a touch longer then the front. It is wonderful and rare example of her work. The gown presents as excellent condition at first glance but does have some condition notes below to review.
The dress is fully lined in a matching pink hand set silk and closes with a back painted metal zipper. The hand work done can clearly be seen through the interior. Some shattering to the silk on the inner bodice, under each arm and some small areas of the inner skirt. This does not affect the exterior at all. There are areas of a yellow discoloration present. A large one to one side of the skirt at the hem that is roughly 7" x 4" and some scattered areas on the front skirt under the waist. The edges of each sleeve show some discoloration. Inside, there is a tiny bit of fading to the seam under the arm and the inside neck. The exterior underarms are perfect and the dress is strong and stable otherwise. The discoloration ranges from a light fading of the pink to a yellowing of the fabric as photoed. You could easily get away with wearing it as is if you don't mind a piece that is not perfect. All the flawed areas are photoed and shown after the label photo. It is cut slightly narrow through the shoulders but of you are small through there it may fit more a medium as well.
Bust: 18" flat across from side seam to side seam
Waist: 13" flat across from side seam to side seam
Bodice: 16" from top of shoulder to waist
Skirt: 44" from waist to front hem and 46" to the back hem
Modern Sizing Equivalent: XS-SML
Reference Photos: (1-2) Sybil Connolly Design Sketches from The Hunt Museum. / (3) An original Sybil Connolly creation. Copyright Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum. / (4) Oil on canvas, 47 x 31 inches, executed between 1968-1995, from a Private Collection, courtesy Davis & Langdale Company, Inc., New York. / (5) Cherie, Owner of Shrimpton Couture, by Erin Leydon.
This garment has been professionally cleaned, pressed and is odor free. Thoroughly checked over before shipping, it will be ready to wear upon arrival.
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