THE HISTORICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COSTUME
THE CLASSIC WORK OF THE 19TH CENTURY
TRADITIONAL COSTUMES OF THE 1880s
TARTAN AND THE CLANS
THE MOST DISTINCTIVE ELEMENT of traditional Scottish costume is the material from which it is made: tartan. This may have originated as a type of camouflage for use when hunting; certainly it blends in well with the colours of the heather-clad landscape in which the Highlanders live. The tartan pattern is referred to as a breacen - possibly a suggestion of the way in which tartan deceives the eye, breaking up visual impressions to enable a huntsman or warrior to escape detection.
Click for a larger image of the upper register.
The colours used in tartans are not arbitrary, but have been determined by a tradition that allocates different patterns to different clans - originally so that they could be identified in battle. Also by tradition, the various ranks of society are allowed to wear different numbers of colours: one for ordinary clansmen; three for chieftains; and seven for the royal family.
1.1 A warrior from the clan of MacDougal of Lorne, wearing the traditional kilt and sporran.
1.2 A Ferguson clansman, the leafy twig on his helmet being the clan emblem. He is wearing a saffron-coloured shirt - this colour is popular in Scotland, especially among gentleman.
1.3 A warrior from the Macmillan clan, wearing a kilt and brandishing a small claymore with a basket-guard.
1.4 A MacInnes clansman, armed with an aseth - a spear that was thrown at the enemy, then retrieved by means of the strap to which it is attached. He is wearing a fur jacket and a mail coat that covers his flannel coat.
1.5 A piper from the clan Mac Cruimin, wearing the traditional bonnet that carries the clan's symbol. The piper was an important figure in the royal household. He is dressed accordingly, in a fur baldric and laced buckskin boots, and is carrying a small claymore.
1.6 The laird of MacDonald of the Isles and one of his barons, holding audience on the torn moid, or "mount of law". His helmet is decorated with a circle of precious stones and surmounted by an eagle's wing, the chieftain's insignia. His mail coat goes almost down to his knees over a leather doublet and his arms and legs carry the MacDonald clan colours.
1.8 An archer from the Maclaurin clan, wearing a conical helmet and a silk doublet underneath a coat of chain mail.
1.12 An archer of the MacQuaaries clan, wearing a doublet that has been slashed at the shoulders.
Click for a larger image of the lower register.
2.14 A laird of the Skenes clan, dressed in the style of the time of James VI of Scotland (later James I of England). His doublet is decorated with braid in the Spanish manner - a fashion that persisted in the Highlands long after it had died out elsewhere.
2.16 A Scottish gentleman of the Robertson clan, who lived at the Court of Louis XV, managing to successfully blend French influences with Scottish plaid.
2.19 A gentleman of the Macintosh clan, dressed for the court in a lavishly embroidered velvet coat.
pages 254 & 255, of Scotland - Tartan And The Clans by Racinet
Index of Racinet Prints