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Gowns of Glory: A Special Exhibition at Kerry County Museum

12 - 20 August, 9:30am - 5pm

  • Ashe Memorial Hall, Denny Street, Tralee
  • V92CXE3
  • Co. Kerry

The Rose of Tralee Festival is held every year during the month of August, coinciding with National Heritage Week. The festival takes his inspiration from the 19th century ballad of the same name, and the centrepiece is a competition, broadcast live on national TV, in which a young woman is crowned as the Rose of Tralee. Entrants come from over sixty Rose Centres globally, and the winning Rose represents the Festival and Ireland in a year-long ambassadorial role at home and abroad. ‘Gowns Of Glory’ charts the changing styles over the decades with more than 40 dresses on display worn by the winning Rose of Tralee over the past 60 years and entry is free during Heritage Week.

Also on display are memorabilia from Alice O’Sullivan, the first Rose of Tralee in 1959, including her fob watch, clutch bag and ‘Dublin’ sash. The dresses are part of a wider context in fashion trends, and some are very much of their time, notably the 1980s with its puffy sleeves and flouncy skirts. Styles have become sleeker since then, with designs aiming for a timeless elegance. In the early years the Roses either made their own dresses or bought "off-the-rack". From 1978 the competition was broadcast live on RTÉ, and this had a major impact in the following decades. Designers became keen to get their styles shown on one of the nation's most watched TV programmes, and many of the gowns on display were designed specifically for the occasion.

The Rose of Tralee is a national institution, loved and loathed in equal measure. Its critics argue that it is a relic of an Ireland that no longer exists, with outdated notions of Irish femininity. Supporters point to the increasing diversity of the Roses as reflecting a changing Ireland. Revealing much about the tensions between the country's past, present, and its future direction, this annual debate bears down heavily on an event that for many is about entertainment and the glorious gúnas.

Do you have a story or special memory about the Rose of Tralee or any object relating to the festival? We would love to hear from you: education@kerrymuseum.ie


Further Information

Kerry County Museum



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