The Killery Coat – Introduction

The Killery Coat – Introduction

In 1824, a suit of clothes was found six feet deep in a bog in the parish of Killery, County Sligo, in Ireland.

Before we go any further, it’s pronounced “KILL-er-ee,” not “kill-AIR-ee,” which I learned to my great shame after a decade saying “kill-AIR-ee.” Take it from me, children: Go to someone who lives there and speaks the language if there’s any question of how a name is pronounced. Otherwise people will cut you in the pubs when you try to sound cool. KILL-er-ee. Got it? Good.

The Killery suit consists of a pair of trews, a brat or mantle, a conical cap, a leather bag, and a coat. This series of blog posts is all about the coat, because I need, need, I tell you, a coat like this for daily wear. And I might as well drag you along on my journey.

Mairead Dunlevy in Dress in Ireland describes the Killery coat as “[…] of unlined frieze, about knee-length, shaped in a long line style with a gore inserted in the skirt and a vent at the back.” She goes on to note that this coats shares quite a few construction characteristics — such as the sleeve attachment, the collar insertion, and sleeve construction — with clothing from the 14th century. In fact, she sees in the Killery and other Irish coats a connection between 14th-century tailoring and Ireland which can be seen in the Irish extant record through the end of the 18th century. Irish clothing expert Kass McGann says the Killery coat is definitely early-to-mid 17th century, as it is distinctly later than the Dungiven finds and just as distinctly earlier than the Tawnamore finds.

The Killery coat is made of a relatively rough woolen 2/2 twill with no nap. Unfortunately nothing is known of its possible original color; like all Irish bog finds, it is now a uniform, drab greenish-brown. The main seams are welted. The front openings, as well as the openings along the back of the sleeve, are hemmed. The bottom edge is not hemmed.

The coat closes with cloth buttons presumably made from scrap from making up the coat. There are 11 buttons closing the back of each sleeve and 14 buttons to close the front opening (the 5th button from the top on the front is missing; I’m contemplating duplicating that, just for grins, but you’ll have to stay tuned to see if I do it or not!). That’s a lot of buttons. But I actually enjoy making cloth buttons, so that part of the project is a plus.

Kass and I recently had the privilege of examining the Killery coat at the National Museum of Ireland. Part of one of my sketches from that examination is pictured above on the left. There’s going to be a pattern soon (we’ve reserved RH311, so keep an eye out). Well, there will be, as soon as I finish the test reconstruction.

The fabric I got to make my reconstruction is 18-oz melton, pictured at right, which should hold up quite well without hemming the bottom edge. Plus melton is warm and snuggly and fairly weather-resistant. Just what I want for venturing outside on a blustery winter day.

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