When we think of Celtic culture, we likely think of Ireland. However, the Celts historically inhabited larger swaths of continental Europe and Anatolia. While the history of the Celts isn’t completely clear and often debated, it’s clear that a modern Celtic identity has risen in Ireland, Great Britain, and some other European territories.
Whether you are interested in representing your Celtic heritage or you just appreciate the spiritual symbolism of their culture, incorporating Celtic style into your fashion can be a fun and meaningful way to express yourself.
If you’re interested in wearing Celtic fashion, though, what should you look for?
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know so that you can outfit yourself in the finest Celtic jewelry and clothes.
Who Were the Celts?
Before we delve into Celtic fashion, let’s take a moment to learn a little more about who the Celts were.
What we call the Celts were actually a group of different tribes. They shared similar religious beliefs, language, culture, and traditions. With origins in central Europe, it is believed that their culture began evolving potentially as long ago as 1200 B.C.
The exact history of the Celtic people is actually the subject of much disagreement and controversy. However, it seems clear that through migration these people spread through western Europe, including Ireland, Britain, Spain, and France. The legacy of the Celts is most prominent in Great Britain and Ireland today, where there are still noticeable traces of Celtic culture and language.
Celtic languages that are still spoken include Welsh, Cornish, Irish, Breton, and Scottish Gaelic. It’s also worth noting that the bagpipes, the musical instrument that instantaneously evokes thoughts of Scottish hills, can trace its origin point back to ancient Celtic times.
Amazingly, neither the Romans nor the Anglo-Saxons were ever successful in their attempts to invade Ireland. For this reason, the two main tribes that had settled in Ireland, the Gaels and the Irish, were able to preserve and continue their culture, traditions, and practices.
Many ancient Celtic traditions were incorporated into Christianity when St. Patrick brought the religion to Ireland in 432 A.D. You can still hear ancient folktale stories being told in Ireland, and you’ll notice that the Celtic cross offers a truly unique take on the Catholic cross.
Many incredible artifacts have been discovered across Europe that have been attributed to the Celts. These include fine metalworking, intricate stone carving, and beautiful pieces made out of gold, silver, and precious gemstones.
What Was Celtic Fashion Like Historically?
The further back in time you go, the less certain we can be about how the Celtic people dressed. The oldest depictions of their dress, from somewhere around 500 B.C., showed men wearing tunics with tight-fitting pants and shoes with the toes upturned. There is also evidence that they would wear conical hats made out of either birch-bark or animal fur.
The clothing of the Gauls during the later Iron Age was typically made out of linen or wool, with rich people occasionally having garments made out of silk.
As time went on, many of the Celts on the European continent during Roman times dressed much like their Germanic neighbors. They were often distinguished by the Romans based on the differences in their language rather than their clothes.
How Can You Incorporate Celtic Culture Into Your Wardrobe?
There are a lot of stylish ways you can incorporate Celtic culture and design into your own outfits. This can range from the fabric your clothes are made out of, the nature of the designs on your clothes or jewelry, and the colors you wear.
One of the most prominent and recognizable Celtic designs is knotwork. While it isn’t understood exactly what the historical purpose of these designs was, the representation of a cyclical nature and never-ending threads is undeniable.
Historically, Celtic society relied on bards or harpers in order to share ideas, tell stories, and communicate information. The artistry of the Celtic harp was nearly lost many times over when Ireland was colonized. Due to this reality, the harp now stands as a symbol of expression, resistance, and freedom.
The fox was seen by the Celtic druids as cunning and able to easily hide. Associated with adaptability because they were seen as a type of shapeshifter, fox symbolism can be a lovely addition to a Celtic outfit.
In Irish culture, it’s believed that deer are able to pass between worlds. For this reason, they are viewed as creatures that can guide humans that are stuck in liminal circumstances. Incorporating the imagery of deer into your wardrobe can be a wonderful nod to the fairy-like nature of deer and their role in Irish culture.
The Celtic Cross
There are some people that believe that the Celtic Cross actually predates Christianity by many thousands of years. Whether or not it came before or after Christianity, it is a beautiful symbol.
Some believe that the Celtic Cross represents the four cardinal directions, while others say that it represents the four elements of water, earth, air, and fire.
The Dara Knot
This is the Celtic symbol for strength. The name Dara is derivative of the word “doire,” which in the Irish language refers to an oak tree. In Celtic culture, the oak tree was the most sacred of trees. In general, trees were seen as living entities that provided doorways into other worlds and connected people to the world of ancestors and spirits.
You’re probably not too surprised to find this one on the list. Of all things, the shamrock might be what you think of first when you think of Ireland.
Now the national flower of Ireland, this small clover was symbolic to the ancient inhabitants of Ireland. In Celtic culture, it was believed that all things come in threes, so the three leaves of the clover was representative of this.
The shamrock became symbolic of rebellion and Irish nationalism against the British crown during the 19th century.
The Celtic Tree of Life
Also known as the Crann Bethadh, the Celtic Tree of Life is representative of the connection between earth and heaven. Since it was believed that trees were a connection point to ancestors and spirits, and served as a doorway into the other worlds, tree of life imagery points to the interrelated nature of heaven and earth.
The Trinity Knot
Also known as the Triquetra, this knot is made of one endless line. This symbolizes the eternal nature of spiritual life, as there is no end and no beginning. This knot appeared in the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript from the 9th century.
This symbol reflects the important notion that all-important things come in threes.
The Claddagh Ring
A beautiful piece of Celtic jewelry is the Claddagh ring, which represents friendship, loyalty, and love. Depicting hands holding a heart wearing a crown, each piece represents a different virtue. The crown represents loyalty, the heart represents love, and the hands represent friendship.
This is a popular style in Ireland and there are rules to how you wear it. If you wear it on your left hand with the point of the heart facing the wrist, it means you are married. If you wear it on your left hand with the heart pointing towards your fingertips, it means you’re engaged.
If you wear this ring on your right hand with the heart facing the wrist, it means you’re in a relationship. Lastly, if you wear it on your right hand with the heart facing the fingertips, it means that you’re single and potentially even looking to find love.
These rings have notably been found in the jewelry collection of a number of famous celebrities. Some names you might recognize include Jennifer Aniston, Walt Disney, and Julia Roberts.
You can find sterling silver Claddagh rings as well as other designer jewelry that is Celtic-inspired at https://www.dreamlandjewelry.com/collections/celtic-jewelry.
Quaternary Celtic Knot
This is a four-cornered Celtic knot. No one is entirely sure what this knot represents, but there are a number of theories.
Some believe that it represents the four directions, while others say that it represents the four Latin Gospels in the Book of Kells. Other claims include that it depicts the four elements, the four seasons, and the four Celtic festivals.
The Celtic Bull
In Celtic mythology, the bull represents strength. Animals were often featured on tapestries, clothing, jewelry, and carvings. This is because they were an important part of Celtic mythology and culture.
Bulls were seen as strong-willed, fearless, and strong. This was also a symbol of wealth in their culture, as the bull was a major food source in their villages.
Celtic Fashion: How Will You Incorporate It Into Your Look?
The amazingly rich history of Celtic culture is a fountain of fashion inspiration. Whether you chose to incorporate Celtic jewelry into your outfit or some of the more naturalistic and pagan imagery of their mythology, delving into Celtic culture for fashion ideas is nearly a bottomless pit. Did you enjoy this article about Celtic fashion? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more interesting and informative content!