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Dating in Scotland
It is hard to emphasize enough the lack of information about clothing in the Scottish Highlands until the middle of the s, but around the late s to early s, Scottish Highland clothing became more distinct from Irish clothing of the same period. Whereas the Irish began to wear clothing that more closely resembles that of the common English peasantry, the Scottish Highlanders adopted and kept several forms of clothing such as the bonnet and plaid, both of which were originally worn in the Lowlands and then migrated into the Highlands, where they developed their own distinct forms. Moreover, checkered cloth, which was worn to some extent in Celtic cultures throughout history usually as simple checks and two-color patterns , becomes highly developed, and a multitude of patterns can be found in the portraits of Highland chiefs and their followers dating from the middle of the s onward. These highly-developed tartans may have existed well before this period, but it's hard to know, as no remains have been found. The mummies of Urumchi were not Celts! They were Tocharians, another branch of Indo-Europeans, so they don't count here. See my discussion of this subject on the ' Myths and Tips ' page. This is not to say that clothing in the Scottish Highlands was completely unique and separate from that worn in the Lowlands or in England -- you can certainly see that elements of clothing common throughout Europe made their way into the Highlands too, particularly in the styles of men's jackets. However, some items that were used throughout Europe for instance, the ballock knife and the sporran, which is basically a medieval belt-pouch like that found in 16th century paintings by Breughel and others had a much longer lifespan in this remote area of the British Isles. Basic elements of men's Scottish costume still include the Leine a shirt like that worn in the rest of Europe at this time, which did NOT lace up the front in fantasy pirate shirt fashion , the Plaid previously might have been called a 'brat', or cloak; this word has changed in modern Gaelic to mean a rug or carpet , Trews, a jacket, and shoes. They also wore knee-breeches like the ones worn in the Lowlands or in England. Women are not well-portrayed in Scottish art until the end of the s, but it should be assumed based on what little evidence there is that they were wearing what most country women were wearing in the British Isles: The Appin Regiment's guidelines for men's and women's clothing The Plaid: Tartan is the term used for the checked pattern itself. The plaid is described as being 12 to 18 feet long by about 5 feet wide, being made of two strips of cloth about 30" wide sewn together lengthwise. McClintock, Old Highland Dress, p. Those who could afford to do so wore colorful tartans, whereas the poorer folk wore browns and so on, the better to blend with the vegetation. This is not, however, due to a lack of access to colorful dyes, which were, and are, quite plentiful and readily available throughout Scotland. White, striped and single-color plaids were also common. In earlier periods, sheep and goat skins seem also to have been worn as mantles, both with and without the hair still attached. Clan tartans are a relatively recent innovation, due to renewed interest in Scottish heritage in the early s, when the laws against the wearing of kilts and tartans were lifted. People most likely wore a pattern of tartan common to the district they lived in weavers had their favorite patterns in different areas , and could therefore be identified as being from that area if they travelled outside their district. Some very complex tartans are shown in the portraits of Scottish lords that date from the s. Often the portraits show that the clothing was not all made up of the same tartan -- various pieces of clothing were woven with different 'setts' tartan patterns , with an effect that looks to the modern eye rather like a bad golfing outfit. There is a description of Scottish soldiers from the Hebrides in Ireland fighting for Red Hugh O'Donnell in that makes clear that they had sufficiently different appearance from the Irish soldiers that an observer could tell them apart. They are described as wearing their belts over their mantles, which sounds to me like a description of the belted plaid -- the first kilt: Many of them had swords with hafts of horn, large and warlike, over their shoulders. It was necessary for the soldier to grip the very haft of his sword with both hands when he would strike a blow with it. Others of them had bows of carved wood strong for use, with well-seasoned strings of hemp, and arrows sharp-pointed whizzing in flight. Irish Texts Society's publications, vol. There isn't any credible documentation of a kilt any earlier than this, however. The belted plaid may have been in use for some time in the Highlands before this mention, but it is a rather unique garment and certainly would have been remarked on by outside observers if it were common and widespread. The plaid usually unbelted was also worn with trews, and can be seen in portraits worn wrapped over one shoulder and under the opposite arm. The bottom part of the belted plaid should NOT cover the knees; when properly worn, it should hang just long enough to graze the back of the calf when the wearer is kneeling. Plaids are generally pinned at the shoulder with an iron pin or bodkin, not a penannular brooch, which fell out of use about years prior to this period. Women's Plaids or Arisaids deserve special mention, since they could be a little different from men's plaids. They were about the same size, but sometimes were plain white or striped rather than tartan. To get the striped fabric, they most likely used the same warp as was used to make the tartans, but used one color for the weft. Women wore the plaid like a shawl, with large silver brooches fastening them at the breast. At some point, women also started belting their plaids around themselves, very much as men did, pinning both upper ends of the plaid on their breast. Women's plaids, whether belted or unbelted, however, were called arisaids, as distinct from the breacan feile the Gaelic name for the kilt. Women's plaids are described as "much finer, the colours more lively, and the squares larger than the men's" Governer Sacheverell, in McClintock's Old Highland Dress, p. The penannular brooch is NOT worn in this period -- none have been found that date later than the very early Middle Ages. Two Victorian-era illustrations of women wearing arisaids from McIan, 19th c. Reconstructing History's page on the Arisaid Trews and Breeches: I'm inclined toward the latter derivation, since the cut of Highland trews is very much like the cut of footed hose. Knee breeches were also worn in the Highlands, but presumably were not remarked upon very often since they weren't unusual. He may have been wearing linen breeches, but if he was, the acidity of the bog has eaten them away since linen is a plant material, leaving the protein fibers of his woolen garments untouched. Both men's and women's outerwear seems, as far as we can tell from period portraits, to mirror that worn in England at the time, with the exception of men's coats when they are wearing the belted plaid, in which case they are shorter than usual, reaching only the top of the hip. This is a practical consideration, since it would be impossible to wear a knee-length coat with a belted plaid -- the skirts of the coat would interfere with the belted plaid. Men also wore waistcoats under their coats, either with sleeves or without sleeves waistcoats in this period often had sleeves, which could be either sewn in, or tied on with lacing. Men would NOT have worn their waistcoats alone without their coats, unless they were engaged in hard physical labor. Women in Scotland, as in England, seem to be wearing either a jacket like a feminized version of the man's jacket, or by the mids what is called a 'bedgown' -- a more shapeless, mid-hip to knee-length gown. It's possible that women also sometimes wore a sort of waistcoat over their stays , with sleeves that tied on, like men's waistcoats. However, they did NOT wear these waistcoats as outer garments. Currently circulating in the 18th century reenactment community are two bodices called the 'French Bodice' and the 'English Bodice', which women sometimes wear alone without stays or a coat as their sole upper garment apart from the chemise. The cut of these bodices is loosely based on 18th century jumps and waistcoats, but is generally not accurate, and they certainly should not be worn alone, without stays. You'll never see anything like either of them in period illustrations. Women would have worn stays. Also worn at home would have been lightly-boned stays called 'jumps,' worn for very informal occasions such as during the confinement after childbirth; they aren't considered proper wear for public, however there's a reference in a poem from referring to a woman being one day 'a shape in neat stays' and the next 'a slattern in jumps' -- Waugh, 'Corsets and Crinolines', p. Research indicates that women in all strata of English society, from milkmaids to princesses, wore stays, the difference being in the cut and quality of the materials working women's stays were cut so as to be much easier to move in than stays made for the rich. Working women's stays were often of rough linen canvas or of thick leather, which would be scored along the lines where boning goes on a cloth corset; this scoring helps the leather to bend properly around the torso. If the stays were of cloth, the boning could be of materials such as straw like broom-straw , caning, or other cheap and available stiffeners. Stays could also be purchased secondhand. Contrary to popular opinion, stays were not just worn as a fashion statement; they were considered so essential to the proper dress of women that charities and local governments responsible for the welfare of indigent women and children provided them with stays, which they would not have done if they were not considered absolutely necessary. One writer identifies prostitutes in London by among other things their lack of stays; hence the origin of the term 'loose woman'. A final reason for the wearing of stays is the prevalence of rickets and other diseases causing curvature of the spine -- stays were seen as one way of keeping the body from becoming deformed due to illness. Properly constructed stays are actually as comfortable as a modern underwire bra. Country women did not consider their stays to be intimate garments -- in other words, they were not embarassed to be seen working in their stays. It's unlikely that they would have gone to church, or to the town fair, in their stays, any more than a man of the period would have been seen in only his waistcoat, but there are depictions of peasant women working in their stays and shift-sleeves. See article on stays cited in bibliography Links:
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