The humble but iconic Aran sweater went on display at a major fashion exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, New York, recently. The Irish sweater was one of more than 100 items selected for their ‘profound impact on the world over the last century’ in an exhibition entitled ‘Items: Is Fashion Modern?’
The traditional hand knit sweater will sit alongside other iconic fashion items such as the Wonderbra, Jane Birkin’s Hermès Birkin bag, Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking suit, a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans from the 1940s, a 1950s biker jacket, and a selection of LBDs (Little Black Dresses).
The Aran sweater in question is a cream piece dated from 1940 and made from a heavy, scoured wool. The patterns vary on the 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 has been loaned by the National Museum of Ireland in Castlebar, County Mayo. Manager Tony Candon outlined why the sweater was chosen and what makes it so unique:
“It is an iconic piece of fashionwear made popular originally in the 1960s by the Clancy brothers and Tommy Makem,” he said.
“The Clancy brothers’ mother was concerned that the poor guys in the States would be cold so she sent them some sweaters to wear and they happened to wear them on the stage and it just took off from there.”