Tartan Fling

By Justine Tabak

Tartan Fling

Tartan fabric epitomises the turn of autumn weather to crisp and cool with its rugged Highland provenance and has to be one of the most famous Scottish exports around the world. It never seems to go out of fashion and is one of those fabrics steeped in heritage but appears on the catwalks every autumn, a perennial favourite. 

This season I fell in love with its charm, whether it be woven into yarn dyed Black Watch Irish linen or boucle wool. It reminds me of school kilts, dressing up at Christmas, the lining of a childhood duffel coat. 

Children playing hopscotch in their tartan school skirts
Girls  playing french skipping in their tartan school skirts.

A little history on the most perfect perennial pattern........

The simplest description of a tartan comes from the Gaelic word breacan, meaning chequered. 

Tartan has been noted by travellers to Scotland where it has been worn for centuries by its inhabitants. It has always been a favourite with the Royal Family and one of the earliest references to the use of tartans was by the treasurer to King James 3rd, who in 1471 purchased a length of cloth for the King and Queen. King James 5th wore tartan whilst hunting in the Highlands in 1538, and King Charles 2nd wore a ribbon of tartan on his coat at his marriage in 1662.

 

Antique photograph of two girls in Highland dance tartan.
Antique photograph of two girls in Highland dance tartan.

There are well over 4000 tartan designs that are registered. However, there are only about 500 tartans that have ever been woven.

 

A female tram driver and conductor of the Glasgow Corporation in 1918.  
Tram driver and conductor of the Glasgow Corporation in 1918. 

Tradition has it that those who have no tartan of their own clan can wear the Black Watch, the Universal or Government Tartan.

 

Tartan fabric shopping for Autumn Winter 2018. 
Tartan fabric shopping for Autumn Winter 2018, I chose the cotton check in the centre! 

For my Autumn Winter range I chose a tartan Black Watch design for my Columbia Road dress in yarn dyed Irish Linen, my Annie dress is in brushed cotton and my Highland Mini in boucle wool made in a small English mill. All are now available online.

Columbia Road dress.

 



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