Sybil Connolly for Robert Allen

October 4, 2017


We recently received a very interesting fabric in the store, with a great history in particular an Irish one. The steel blue chintz with floral patterns is part of the Sybil Connolly collection for Robert Allen from 1985.


Sybil Connolly (1921-1998) was an Irish designer who was, and is, a pioneer to Irish business women with her huge contribution to the fashion industry. With her innovative use of traditional fabrics she had the international world of fashion falling at her feet. She began her career by studying dress making in London followed by a managerial position under the French designer Gaston Mallet at fashion house Richard Alan. After replacing Mallet as the design director, she changed the ways of the company and started creating traditional fabrics, using tweed, crochet and lace. The interesting silhouettes and the vibrancy of the colours soon attracted the attention of the American market including the editor of Harper's Bazaar, Carmel Snow. 


Sybil Connolly

Snow brought press and buyers to Ireland to see Sybil's collection. Following this gathering, Connolly's full length red cape and white crochet dress was featured on the cover of Life magazine with the caption 'Irish Invade Fashion World'. Throughout her career she designed for many Hollywood stars including Elizabeth Taylor and Julie Andrews. Jackie Kennedy wore her trademark pleated linen dresses in her official White House portrait.




An image of Connolly's classic handkerchief linen dress from the 1950s, and in modern day worn by Gillian Anderson at the BAFTAs.

However as the fast paced fashion industry moved at a rate that Sybil had a reluctance to adapt to, her career was forced to change direction. She tried her hand at interiors, collaborating with Tiffany & Co. in designing tableware items including china patterns such as Mrs. Delany's Flowers and designing fabrics and wall coverings for Brunschwig & Fils. Her book, In An Irish House, is a magnificent collection of ancestral Irish homes. The book shows architectural detail ranging from Gothic to Palladian, oil paintings and watercolour landscapes, and luxurious furniture. She includes her own private home at 71 Merrion Square in the book, which also housed her couture studio. The interior of her house was filled with floral wallpapers and fabrics and antique furniture. 

This sofa in Sybil's house was covered in another fabric from the collection for Robert Allen.

Her legacy was evident after her death in May 1998 when thousands of visitors came to her home in Merrion Square to attend an auction where bids were placed on 600 lots.



Chintz was originally wood blocked printed, painted or stained calico produced in India used for bed covers, quilts and draperies. 

The early chintz fabrics that were brought into Europe were rare and expensive but by 1680 more than a million pieces of chintz were being imported into England per year. With imported chintz becoming more and more popular in the 17th century the English and French mills were worried as they could not make chintz. In 1686, the French declared a ban on all chintz imports. In 1720, the English Parliament approved a law that forbade the use of imported chintz in clothing, upholstery, cushions and any other household furniture. By 1759, the bans were lifted as English and French mills could produce chintz. The European designs began by reproducing the Indian patterns, later adding to them and creating original designs. 

Modern chintz usually consists of bright floral patterns with pale backgrounds.

Have a look at another chintz fabric we featured on Vintage Wednesdays here.

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