- It's a fabric made up of horizontal and vertical stripes in different colours, on a coloured background
- The interwoven stripes are known as a sett
- It originated in the Highlands
- The first mention of tartan in Scotland was in 1538
- Originally, clanspeople used local plants, mosses and berries to dye the wool
Kilts & tartan
Name five iconic things about Scotland, and chances are one of them will be tartan or a kilt! We're well known for men in kilts, but it's so much more than just something to wear - it's a historic piece of clothing which has stood the test of time.
These days you can find tartan in even designer collections, high street stores or homewares, but it all started here in Scotland hundreds of years ago.
A kilt is a piece of tartan, worn around the waist, however, a "proper" kilt is usually accompanied by:
- A sporran - a small bag worn around the waist, over the kilt. Sporran is the Gaelic word for purse
- A kilt pin - a heavy pin affixed to the outer flap of the kilt
- Sgian dubh (pronounced skee-an doo) - a small dagger which sits in the sock
Known as the fèileadh-mòr in Gaelic (pronounced philamore), meaning the "big kilt".
Some fun facts about kilts
- The kilt also originated in the Highlands
- Originally it was an untailored, 5 metre-long piece of cloth
- It was known as the fèileadh-mòr in Gaelic (pronounced philamore), meaning the "big kilt"
- It was worn around the waist, similar to a modern kilt, but the remaining fabric was also draped over the shoulder and pinned
- This upper portion could be adjusted according to the demands of weather, temperature or freedom of movement needed
- It grew in popularity after being chosen by Highland regiments serving with the British Army
- It quickly became sought after south of the border as the British aristocracy considered all things Scottish a fashion statement. Today it features prominently in Vivienne Westwood designs
Where are kilts worn today?
- At weddings, by the wedding party and guests
- At Highland games, by athletes and spectators
- At ceilidhs, by dancers and the band
How else can tartan be worn?
- A traditional tartan plaid, wrapped over a plain piece of clothing
- A tartan dress or skirt
- A tartan bow tie or tie
- A tartan ribbon
- Tartan shoes
- Tartan bags
- Tartan trousers
- And much more!
Places to find out more about tartan and kilts in Scotland
Many tartan companies will also let you commission your own tartan, creating your own style and colour combination. You can even submit it to the Scottish Register of Tartans for approval!
Scottish Register of Tartans
If you're looking for a specific colour of tartan, search through the thousands of designs on the Scottish Register of Tartans' online collection
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