The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal


Clothing in early medieval Irish literature can often serve as a representation of a character’s wealth and status. However, this paper asserts that the storytellers of these texts costume characters in order to reflect more nuanced layers of their identity. By examining the ways in which clothing is desccribed in Irish tales from the Mythological Cycle and the Ulster Cycle, as well as the legal text “Cáin Íarraith,” this paper argues that storytellers use garments to indicate a character’s geographical roots and occupation, reinforce customs and strengthen social bonds, comment on gender roles of aristocratic women, and serve as a characterization device. By analyzing how attire is portrayed in these texts, one can glean how this society may have used clothing to define identity beyond socioeconomic class.