By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Top fashion designer Paul Costelloe’s description of Irish women as only "a couple of generations out of the bog" and "scared of fashion" has ruffled feathers in the rag trade.
Costelloe, who has moved his design business from Dublin to London, said that some Irish women brought to mind "ambitious mutton" and are dressing "with a degree of pretentiousness and lack of humor that that would embarrass their mothers."
A lot of them "wouldn’t know style if it tottered up to them in 10-inch heels," he wrote in the Sunday Times.
He advised Irish women to seek inspiration by thinking of "Maureen O’Hara in the ‘Quiet Man.’ That’s when Irish women are at their best, when things get tough.
"So they should get back to who they are. Irish women have got to stop drinking so many cappuccinos and dining out so often."
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Costelloe wrote that Irish women were essentially uncomplicated, feminine and beat all others in most areas such as wit, warmth, ambition and natural beauty. "Everything except dress sense," he said.
Costelloe also criticized former client Princess Diana, saying that early on she had been laid back and dressed simply and elegantly.
"That was before she got into her Versace mood," he said. "Then she started showing her breasts, and the labels became more vulgar as the years went on. She came to rely more on the name than the look.
"Now Irish women are doing this and more, particularly with tacky accessories. They think it’s power dressing, but it is nothing of the sort.
"It is self-indulgent, boring and middle class. And it’s out of control."
He wrote his article "Dressed to Overkill" as Image magazine celebrates the style of the Irish and features 90 women who best define style in the new "confident, modern" Ireland.
Image editor Jane McDonnell described Costelloe’s comments as "extraordinary and insulting."
"I think it is extraordinary that he is slagging Irish women off in this way," she said. "I think Irish women are very stylish and have been for the last 10 or 20 years. I cannot understand how he says women, for inspiration, should think of Maureen O’Hara in the ‘Quiet Man,’ that we are not an aristocratic race, we ought to dress according to our roots. I think that is an appallingly insulting thing to say about Irish women.
"He is a designer with a strong designer label who would like to be selling more clothes in Ireland. I think perhaps he is a little bit jealous."
Designer Richard Lewis was also outraged and clashed with his colleague on RTE. "Two generations out of the bog? Come on Paul," he said.
He said Dublin was the second capital of the British empire in Georgian times.
"Personally, I think the standard of fashion has shot up in the last 20 years," Lewis said.