The Banshees of Inisherin Costume Design
The amazing jumpers from the Banshees of Inisherin were made by 83 year old wicklow native Delia Barry who created the patterns using vintage photos provided to her by Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh, the film’s costume designer. The knitwear became a viral sensation online after the movie’s release and garnered a cult following. Traditional knitwear sales went up in Ireland and many have attempted to recreate their own versions at home.
The film is set in 1923 on a fictional Western Irish island- though it’s hard not to see it as Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands and one of the filming location’s for the movie.
The four main jumpers Delia created were:
Colin Farrell’s navy rollneck jumper.
Colin Farrell’s red jumper with distinctive oversized floppy collar.
Brendan Gleeson’s blue number.
Barry Keoghan’s purple ribbed jumper also with a collar, but not as dramatic as the one on Colin’s.
Each took a week to knit and Brendan Gleeson liked his so much that he commissioned Delia to make another for him!
Delia told the New York Times that on an average week, she rises at 6 a.m. and knits until 8:30 a.m. At 9:30, she goes for a walk to the beach with a friend, about two miles away. They’ll get a coffee and watch the sea for an hour. Back home, she’ll knit for another three to four hours. She’ll take a short break for dinner, then knit throughout the evening. “I get up and walk around every so often,” she said.
She knits mostly for family and charity causes but has contributed costumes to other films including Dancing at Lughnasa (1998), in which Meryl Streep wears her knitwear.
Eimer provided Delia with photos of Aran Islanders in the 1920s. One showed a fisherman wearing a wool jumper with a long collar- the inspiration for the red jumper Colin wears. Eimer theorized that Kerry Condon’s character would have made the sweater for him.
She told Filmmaker Magazine that “Martin and I didn’t want it to become a pastiche of the Aran Islands, which had a very specific kind of dress code at the time. The cloth was all homespun, and everything the men wore was like a uniform,” she says. She also told the Guardian that she wanted to veer away from traditional Aran Jumpers as “They are now in fashion. I felt they were expected. I was worried they could come across as almost comical.”
Besides the knitwear, the rest of the costuming of the film is an equal feast for the eyes. Dublin Tailor Denis Darcy (a frequent collaborator of Eimer’s), also in his 80s, made much of the menswear.
All of the shirts are made from Irish linen and dyed a variety of colours. One of the things Eimer does so well is the use of colour in her work.
Brendan Gleeson’s duster coat is made of Donegal tweed dyed a dark brown and lined with linen. It is deliberately reminiscent of a cowboy in a classic American Western movie and made to cause dramatic effect when it flaps in the wind on the beach or up a boreen.
Another inspiration touched on is the traditional clothing of women from the West of Ireland.
“The red skirt or petticoat was a staple of the women of the west of Ireland so I wanted red to be an important punctuation within the film and a colour that would root Siobhán and Pádraic to the community and the land,” Mhaoldomhnaigh told GQ.
She also told IndieWire: “We did a red coat (for Siobhán) and put black stripes on it, that recalls the customary red petticoats with the black stripes on the hem.”
She wears a Tara brooch pinned to her lapel.
Siobhan’s yellow coat is an Irish wool and linen mix, made at John England Linen in County Down. “The yellow coat is her going away coat,” Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh said. “She’s stepping into a brave new world.”
The banshee’s costume (Mrs. McCormick) is all linen and her two-tone red and black cloak is trimmed with a traditional Crios belt. The cloak was woven at Emblem Weavers in County Wexford. A lot of the characters wear Crios belts tied about the waist.
The jumpers, along with many other costumes, are safely preserved as part of the Irish Costume Archive Project (ICAP), which Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh runs with fellow costume professional Veerle Dehaene @irishcostumearchiveproject https://icap.ie/