Portrait of a Jacobite Lady (18th century) by Alexander Cosmo
(The sitter's tartan military-style riding jacket, white rose in her hand and rosebuds in her bonnet symbolize support for the Stuart cause & Highland dress)
There is no daubt that checks and tartans are also one of this season's fashion trends. From time to time chekered fabrics are back in vogue during autumn and winter as they fit into the season's landscape.
They are related to the warmth and coziness...and yes, we see them also this year...
That's why I wanted to find out more about why during the earlier times tartans were so popular among travellers or those who were busy with daily routines...Why do they are so related to autumnal feelings or rebellious attitude?
So to say... the better, however, is to know what we are wearing today!
But how it all started?
What's in the name?
Tartan is a closely woven woolen cloth which originated in Scotland, where the different patterns are used to identify individual clans. The fabric is cross-banded with coloured stripes which create designs of various checked widths.
In the 1840s Queen Victoria's frequent visits to her estate at Balmoral in Scotland stimulated a fashion for tartan garments (see pictures below).
Tartan's history is closely linked to the history of a plaid and the kilt, and also, - it has deep roots in the history of Scotland.
In early times the kilt was a long, toga-like garment, woven of vegetable-dyed yarns, which was gathered at the shoulders. It served as both clothing and a blanket. From the Middle Ages it was made from a plaid - a piece of fabric, usually 16 foot by 5 foot, which was wrapped around the lower torso to make a calf-length skirt, with the other end draped across the chest and over the shoulder. By the 17th century the kilt had become identified with Scotland. It consisted of a skirt of seven and a half yards of tartan cloth, most of which was pleated, except for the last half yard at each end which was left unpleated. The unpleated ends were crossed over each other in the front and held in place by buckles or a large pin. By this time the plaid was a separate piece, worn over the shoulder.
The Royal association with tartan really began with the 1822 visit of King George IV to Scotland - the first visit of a reigning monarch to Scotland in nearly two centuries. The famous writer Sir Walter Scott organised the visit, and convinced the King to wear a tartan kilt, which had until recently been banned under the Dress Act of 1746 as a symbol of Scottish rebellion.
Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, helped to design the Balmoral tartan, which is still regularly worn by the Royals to this day. By convention, no one outside the Royal Family (other than the Queen's personal piper) may wear the Balmoral tartan. So DC Dalgliesh is one of the few weavers ever to have produced the plaid.
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My name is Edīte Parute and I am a fashion historian and researcher from Latvia, association member at "The Association of Dress Historians" (UK) and author of the book "Stila un modes enciklopēdija"/"Encyclopedia of Style and Fashion" (2010) as well as author of many publications.