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Aran jumper will feature as an iconic fashion design of the century in New York exhibition

The Aran jumper, from the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life in Co. Mayo, is going on loan to the Museum of Modern Art, New York


(Image: The Clancy Brothers helped the Aran jumper gain international popularity)

An Aran jumper from the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, at Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, is set to feature in a major new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, this autumn.

Items: Is Fashion Modern? will explore 111 of the most iconic fashion garments and accessories over the last century.

The history and impact of the Aran jumper will be explored alongside a host of well-known fashion designs such an example of the biker jacket from the 1950s; a Wonderbra; a Birkin bag; a 1960s Breton shirt; a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans from the 1940s; and a collection of Little Black Dresses.

The Aran jumper is going on loan from the National Folklife Collection, which is housed at Turlough Park, Co. Mayo. 

According to MoMA, each of the 111 items explored in the exhibition were selected because they have had a “profound impact on the world over the last century”.

The Aran jumper in question (left) is a cream, knitted piece from 1940 and made from a heavy, scoured wool. The patterns are different front and back. The centre panel on one side has a diamond stitch and the centre of the other side consists of a trellis openwork pattern with bobbles.

It was last exhibited in 2008 at the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life as part of the exhibition Romantic Stitches and Realistic Sketches.

Aran jumpers have long been a highly recognisable symbol abroad of the romanticism of Irish rural life and Irish folk art. The jumpers became particularly popular from the 1950s onwards when they began to be exported in their thousands from Ireland to shops in America, Europe and Japan.

Clodagh Doyle, curator at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, who has coordinated the loan of the Aran jumper, said the Aran jumper is part of Ireland's folk heritage.

"It is magnificent that a piece of our folk heritage will represent our country and one of our traditional crafts in this exhibition of ground-breaking fashion essentials," she outlined. "This Aran jumper came into the National Museum of Ireland in 1942 from the Irish Homespun Society, which was founded by Muriel Gahan. Irish knitwear design has come along way since she set up The Country Shop in 1930  to sell home crafts in a flagship Dublin store.”

Tony Candon, Manager/Keeper of the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, said celebrities helped to popularise the Aran jumper internationally.

"Through their association with the Irish folk singers, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, they achieved huge international popularity and were worn by celebrities such as Steve McQueen and Grace Kelly," explained Mr Candon. " Aran sweaters continue to be popular today though now also made in materials other than just wool and are also machine-knit as well as hand-knit.

“We are pleased to be able to contribute to this exciting new exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  Aran sweaters are a powerful expression of the creativity of the Irish folk craft tradition and we are very happy that this is being recognised through inclusion in this important exhibition." 

Announcing the exhibition, Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, MoMA, said fashion is a "powerful form of creative and personal expression".

“Like all physical and digital forms of design, it moves today on a spectrum ranging from post-industrial seriality (from prêt-à-porter to fast fashion) to precious, handcrafted uniqueness (couture). As design, it exists in the service of others. In most cases, it is designed by a human being to dress others - sometimes many, many others - so that they can function in the world, in different arenas.”

Items: Is Fashion Modern? opens on October 1 and continues until January 28, 2018, at the Museum of Modern Art, West 53 Street, New York.

Ireland’s National Folklife Collection and other early Aran knitwear can be viewed at the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo.

Find out more about visiting the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life.