Starched Collars and Cuffs: Costumes by Joan O’Clery

In a special behind-the-scenes reveal from Joan O’Clery, costume designer, we delve into the design process of wool cardigans and hospital gowns for THE PULL OF THE STARS.

Della Garret in her nightdress, played by India Mullen.

Della Garret in her nightdress, played by India Mullen.


“In researching nurses clothing in 1918 I found it was surprisingly restrictive for the hard work that entailed – starched collars and cuffs, corselettes, underskirts and laced boots. I based the costume for Julia Power on an amalgamation of the uniforms worn in St Vincent’s Hospital (then based in St Stephen’s Green), and those worn by the St John’s Ambulance at the temporary hospital sited in Parnell Square at the time.

Mary Tierney is a ‘Canary Girl’ working in a munitions factory, a relatively well-paid job for a young woman. The poisonous materials they worked with tinged their skin yellow. I have dressed her in a hospital issue gown as Mary wouldn’t have owned much.

The women and girls in the laundries wore a basic uniform of a cotton dress and linen pinafore, most likely made by themselves. They had hand knitted rough wool cardigans. Because they were working in steam and water, they wore rubber boots which left sores and red marks on their bare legs.

I wanted to dress Della Garrett in a nightdress made of fine fabric and lace so she would look out of place in the makeshift ward. Mary thinks that Della looks like a film star. Supplies were scarce at this time due to the war and the 1916 Rising, but Della has come from the comfortable South Dublin suburbs and could afford to have her clothes made.”

— Joan O’Clery, Costume Designer

This piece is an extract from the Gate Theatre programmes for THE PULL OF THE STARS, to read more you can find our programmes on sale in the Gate Theatre box office, café and bar. You can see the costumes live in action onstage at the Gate Theatre until 12th May in THE PULL OF THE STARS. For more information, and to purchase tickets, click here.

Joan O'Clery's original sketch for Nurse Power

Joan O’Clery’s original sketch for Nurse Power, and final outfit, featuring Sarah Morris.