Our Costumes

There has been no real traditional Manx Costume available for dancers to use, therefore,  the
Manx Folk Dance Society has had many costumes over the years it has been in
existence.

History of our Costumes

A costume for the National Team was agreed in February 1953, consisting of –
Men :- White ‘Ducks” (trousers), Embroidered Waistcoat, White or Saffron Shirt, Criss –
alternative was a fisherman’s jersey;
Women :- Plain coloured Skirt in Blue, Red or Tan, Bedgown (blouse/ dress to
form blouse-underskirt?)), White or Blue & White check Apron, Fichu & White
Stockings.
The General Costume was
Men :- Grey Flannel Trousers, & White Shirt;
Women :- Striped skirts (Festival 1951), fichu & Apron.

In October 1954 they considered adding a head-dress of some sort to the
women’s costume.

In March 1955 the men’s jerseys were to be altered, taking the large 3 Legs of
Man from the back and replacing it with a small badge on the front left. The
women were going to have a small cap.

In March 1956 it was suggested that the women wore striped frocks . This
would be a suitable dress for general use of the female members.

There was a floral dress, then a coloured, gathered skirt, – knee length;
buttoned, coloured blouse with a gingham or checked apron, fichu collar and
white sickle cap – which most dancers did not like to wear! This lead on to :-

A sub-committee was formed and, in 1974, the following new costume was
adopted :-

Red Petticoat
Many people wore a thick red flannel petticoat to keep themselves warm,
especially in the wintertime. Today’s petticoat, although red, is of cotton or
synthetic material with a lace trim.

Black Pleated Skirt
The dancers wore a fine wool pleated skirt, which had a box pleat at the front

and was then pleated round to an inverted pleat at the back. This apparently
was a traditional way of making skirts – again for warmth. The dancers
decorated near the bottom of their skirts with a traditional Celtic design
executed in red, blue or yellow felt and embroidery.

White Blouse
The white blouse used by the dancers incorporated a large collar – replacing the
traditional fichu, but giving a similar effect. and wide sleeves gathered at the
wrist gave a nice line to the arms when dancing.

Waistcoat
The dancers wore a sleeveless waistcoat, laced down the front, with a peplum
round the waistline. The colour of the waistcoat matched the colour of the felt
Celtic interlacing on the skirt.

Apron
Over the skirt, the dancers wore an apron, which was fastened at the left hand
side of the waist, as the theory is that the housewife would put her knitting in
the bow while she got on with other jobs, which needed both hands free.

Shoes
The dancers decided to wear white tights, for effect and they wore soft shoes,
similar to those worn by Scottish dancers. (A harder shoe could be worn for
dancing outside on tarmac & concrete).

In 1997 the dancers went to Barbados to take part in an International Celtic
Festival, and decided that their normal costume would be too hot for that
climate, so they designed a bright, cheerful, thin costume for use in warmer
weather, not based on any traditional ideas.

Skirt
The cotton skirt is made calf length, in three tiers of increasing volume in the
same traditional colours of either red, blue or yellow as use for costume 1.

Blouse
The white, cotton blouse has long, full sleeves gathered loosely onto a narrow
cuff. The centre front and centre back are pointed to give a flattering and
interesting line to the top, and the centre panel has a matching red, blue or
yellow two tone Celtic interlacing design, shaped across the slightly scooped
neck and more than half way down the front.

Shoes
The dancers wear natural coloured tights, and soft shoes, similar to those worn
by Scottish dancers.

Men’s Costume

Trousers
Long, white or cream trousers were worn, but. dark grey/black trousers are
often worn now as they are easier to get and are more suitable.

Shirt
Ordinary white or possibly cream shirt.

Waistcoat
A cream or oatmeal coloured, lined waistcoat (although some have used dark
colours as well), with Celtic designs either embroidered or cut out and stitched
on the side panels and back used to be worn . Phillip Leighton Stowell had a red
waistcoat with Celtic designs printed on in yellow. (In the past, one of the
costumes used navy jerseys or ganseys for the men, with a Three Legs of Man
logo on the chest, but these proved to be too hot for comfortable dancing.)
The men often wear a jacket/waistcoat similar to the ladies these days.

Criss
This is a type of long belt usually woven on an ingle loom. It should be long
enough to go round the man’s waist twice and then be tied on the left, with the
fringed ends hanging down.

Shoes
Black leather shoes or pumps are usually worn.

PRESENT COSTUMES

At present the dancers are using a costume that is based on the 1974 version :-

Red Petticoat
Today’s petticoat is of cotton or synthetic material with a lace trim, and may be red or white.

Black Pleated Skirt
The dancers wear a fine wool pleated skirt, which has pleats all round attached to a plain band to high hip level. The dancers decorate near the bottom of their skirts with  traditional Celtic designs executed in red, blue or yellow felt and embroidery.

White Blouse
The white blouse used by the dancers has a scooped neck (but not too low)
and wide sleeves gathered at the wrist to give a nice line to the arms when
dancing.
Waistcoat
The dancers wear a reversible sleeveless jacket/waistcoat, laced
down the front,in black and the colour of the felt Celtic interlacing
on the skirt. This has incorporated a slightly smaller white collar,
and has short slits at the base where it sit on top of the skirt.

Apron
Over the skirt, the dancers wear a white apron, decorated with lace, which gives
the impression of being fastened at the left hand side of the waist, but in fact,
buttons there, with long ties.

BonnetsBonnetsSun Bonnet
It was decided to add a white sun bonnet to the costume, based on those worn in the past. They have a brim which comes out round the face and can be folded back to give better vision, are gathered over the head in bands with long gathered flap to cover the neck. These tend to be worn by the married ladies.

Tights
It was decided, that as white tights were not always easy to get that natural
colours be used instead.

Shoes
Soft shoes, similar to those worn by Scottish dancers. (A harder shoe could be worn for
dancing outside on tarmac & concrete).

Men’s Costume

Trousers

Long, black or dark grey trousers are worn.

Shirt
Ordinary white or possibly cream shirt.
Waistcoat
A black waistcoat with Celtic designs either embroidered or cut out and stitched

on the side panels and back are worn. It compliments the ladies’ waistcoat.

Criss

This is a type of long belt usually woven on an ingle loom. It should be long
enough to go round the man’s waist twice and then be tied on the left, with the
fringed ends hanging down.

Shoes
Black leather shoes or pumps are usually worn.

The other dance groups on the Isle of Man have developed their own costume,
some based on tradition and others to give impact. It is always difficult to decide
which of these two qualities to follow, especially when there is no true National
Costume.