Scottish Clan Tartan
Tartan is a Scottish icon, much celebrated in our national dress. Its origins are ancient and only partly understood, but its name is probably derived from a French word for a particular type of fabric.
From its origins as a type of hard-wearing cloth, worn in whatever combination of colours the owner wished, tartan has now become a way for clan members to proudly identify themselves.
Breacan and beag
The plaid, as it is known, is a piece of cloth with a tartan pattern. The original plaid was wide, forming a cloak above the waist and a kilt below, with a belt holding the material in the required way. Wearers of the so-called Feile-breacan, or belted plaid, could cover themselves with the cloak as protection from the weather if necessary. Nowadays the upper and lower parts are separated and known as the Feile-beag, with the kilt being the best known element of this striking attire.
Which tartan is yours?
Following the defeat of the rebels at Culloden in 1746, the wearing of tartan or Highland dress was forbidden, but gradually the government allowed its regiments of Highland soldiers to distinguish themselves by different tartans. Over time, tartan became fashionable and an industry grew up, associating different designs with the various clans.
The novelist Sir Walter Scott found this to be terribly romantic and encouraged 'society' to adopt Highland dress. Rules were defined, though often these were more imaginative than historical in origin.
Whatever your clan, you'll probably find that there is a tartan you can wear. Often, indeed, there will be more than one tartan. Whichever one you choose, though, you can wear it with pride, even though it may have more recent origins than some would claim.
From ancient to modern
Contemporary designers are re-inventing the wearing of kilts and the use of tartan, reflecting the creativity and confidence of modern Scotland. Don't be afraid to experiment yourself!
To find out more about Tartan and to start searching for your own tartan, please visit the Scottish Tartans Authority website.