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Ireland douze points: A history of Irish Eurovision “style”

By Kitty | May 23 2012 | 24 Comments

It’s that time of year again, folks. Eurovision week is upon us and love it or loathe it, there’s no escaping it until the shiny, sparkly final on Saturday has come to a close. Personally, I LOVE it.

While Azerbaijan are getting ready for the big night and scrapping with Iran over whose country is more gay (seriously, an Azerbaijani presidential official has actually said: “We are holding Eurovision, not a gay parade” in response to Iranian rumours that they’re holding a Pride march.  He cuttingly added “There is no word in the Azerbaijani language for a gay parade, unlike in their language.”  Handbags at dawn!

Englebert Humperdinck, the Russian grannies and our very own Jedward are gearing up for this flashiest of showdowns.

But before we get all tangled up in glittery dresses, enthusiastic backing dancers and accusations of block voting, let’s take a look at Ireland’s illustrious Eurovision past, not the songs, mind, but the STYLE. Or SHTYLE, which might be a more appropriate term.

All kinds of everything remind me to run for President
Lads, was there ever a cailín as álainn as wee Dana, singing her seventeen year old heart out on a stage in Amsterdam in 1970.  Resplendent in an Irish dancing dress and with a sparkly clip in her hair, she captured the hearts and votes of nations across Europe as she trilled All Kinds of Everything.

Ah yes, the days before she became the right-wing, Constitution-loving,perpetual Presidential candidate we all know and barely tolerate were innocent days indeed.

Fifty Shades of Green
While Dana’s dancing gúna and its Celtic knotwork were one way to remind the audience of where a contestant was from, the acts from other years took a slightly more literal view of things. “WEAR GREEN!” being the tactic they went for. Muriel Day went for an acid green priest-inspired outfit, with an enormous cross on the front in 1969, presumably so nobody would forget that the country she was representing was God-fearing as well as green. Red Hurley made the ladies swoon in his dark green velvet suit in 1976, while Sandie Jones sparkled in her her glittery green dress a few years beforehand in 1972.

Ground Control to Sheeba
My favourite Irish Eurovision outfits have got to be the ones worn by Sheeba in 1981. Keeping with the green theme, but departing from all sense and reason, the trio dressed as some manner of glorious glam rock aliens.

Their hair and nails were as sparkling and as adorned as their saucy leg-baring dresses, their celestial look likely inspired by the fact that their song was called Horoscope. I’ve literally never seen anything like the collars they wore anywhere outside of the adventures of the USS Enterprise and they seem to have directly inspired Jedward last night. Sheeba are the gift that keep on giving.

Repeat Offenders
Of course, Jedward isn’t the only act that we’ve sent to the Eurovision for a second whack at the glittery crown. Not by a long shot.

Johnny Logan brought home the trophy for us in both 1980 and 1987. A white suit was his armour of choice on both occasions, the first being a decidedly seventies-style affair, accessorised with glossy boyish hair and even glossier pouty lips. By the time his second shot rolled around though, he had fully embraced Eighties style, with a polo neck and terrible hair.

Linda Martin first graced the Eurovision stage in 1984 with Terminal 3, a song that won her second place. Her hair was big, her nails were big and the shoulders of her white pantsuit were utterly MASSIVE. It was an outfit that would be enough to make Sue Ellen Ewing cry and shove someone into a swimming pool with envy. In 1992, she returned to win the contest outright with Why Me?, slightly smaller hair and just the one shoulder pad. But that one shoulder pad was a thing of beauty. Velvety, beaded and fringed, it was
a perfect storm of Nineties trends all squeezed onto her triumphant shoulder.

In 1993, Niamh Kavanagh ran away with the number one spot in her glittery red blazer, singing In Your Eyes. However, in 2010 she limped into 23rd place in her blue floor length gown. She kept the same hand gestures and all, but even the addition of a wind machine wasn’t enough to reclaim her former glory.

The Notables
Looking back over Irish Eurovision entries reveals an awful lot of questionable outfit choices and as such, here are a few that I felt I couldn’t leave out.

The Swarbriggs (really…SWARBRIGGS) and their blue disco suits from 1975, Cathal Dunne from 1979 looking like a lost New Age gypsy, The Duskeys and their powder blue strapless jumpsuits from 1982 and the lead singer of 1986′s Luv Bug, rocking out in a white crop top and pants combo and a pink jacket thing with sleeves bigger than your head, accompanied by synth drums (SYNTH DRUMS!).

While Eurovision might not always feature the best songs in the world (but they’re damn catchy, that’s for sure), one thing it delivers on is style and spectacle and I for one can’t wait for Saturday night’s final.

GO JEDWARD! Sure he’s a great bunch of lads!

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