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Tartan Ferret
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Ideal Outfit (c1900)

 What A Highlander Should Wear

The following was reprinted in  The Cetic Monthly (est. 1876), probably in the very early 1900s. It is extremely detailed and prescriptiveand and would cost a small (even 'large') fortune to adhere to. Probably what is most interesting is the acceptability of wearing two different tartans at the same time - something which has been frowned upon by previous anonymous arbiters of Highland fashion. Wearing a kilt in the clan tartan and a plaid in the hunting version is now set to come back into fashion!


"Quite recently The Peoples Journal offered a prize for the best concise description of "What a full-dressed Highlander should wear." From a large number of competitors the Editor of that Journal has awarded the prize to our well-known correspondent " Fionn," for the following description of what a Highlander should wear. As it must interest many of our readers we gladly give it the publicity of our pages.


According to the best authorities, the Highland costume consists of a kilt, or "feileadh-beag" and plaid of some regular tartan, with hose, either made from the web of tartan or knit in check of its prominent colours, in the proper proportions; a doublet of cloth, velvet, or tartan, with lozenge or diamond-shaped buttons; low-cut shoes, sporran, and a broad bonnet, with badge and crest; a brooch to fasten the plaid, a waistbelt and a caldric or swordbelt; the arms, a claymore or broadsword, dirk, "sgian-dubh," a pair of pistols, and a powder horn.

If a member of a clan possessing one or more tartans, such as clan, " hunting or dress, the person should wear his own tartan, either clan, hunting dress, or a combination of the first two. If belonging to a sept of any clan, he should wear the tartan of the clan of which he is a sept, if the sept has no special tartan of its own.

If the sept has a special tartan be should wear it. The person may wear a combination of his own clan tartans, such as a clan tartan kilt and a hunting tartan plaid or vice versa. It is not considered proper to combine either clan or hunting tartan with dress tartan. If one is to wear dress tartan, the kilt, plaid, and hose must be uniform. The proper length of the kilt is to the centre of the kneecap.

John Sobieskie Stuart

The long shoulder plaid should be worn, but the square or shawl plaid is allowed, especially in the ballroom. The hose must correspond with either the kilt or plaid.

The bonnet should be broad and blue, somewhat akin to what is called the Balmoral. The Glengarry bonnet is a modern invention introduced about a century ago, and while tolerated, it is not considered correct form. The bonnet should bear the crest of the wearer's clan, with motto, also the evergreen badge of his clan or sept.

The garters should be of scarlet worsted lace, about an inch in width, pattern and knot correct.
There is a special knot, called in Gaelic "snaoirn gartain," or garter knot. (Garters ornamented with rosettes, being a modern invention, are not considered correct.)

The jacket or doublet, as already stated, may be made of velvet, cloth, or tartan, cut on the bias. The jacket must be of proper Highland pattern. The oldest form is the "cota-gearr" something like what is commonly called a "swallow-tail," but cut short in the tails, or even like an ordinary shooting coat, but short, and with Highland pocket flaps and cuffs. The buttons must be lozenge ordiamond.shaped.

A sporran of goatskin, black, white, or grey, with er without tassels, but considered more complete with tassels. The mounting of the sporran should show the crest of the clan, with motto, and the ornamentations thereon should be Celtic in design, and correspond with those on the brooch, belt, and buckles.

The shoes are low-cut. Buckles are generally allowed. When such are worn they must be uniform in ornament with the other buckles, etc.

Swordbelt, etc., of black leather, bearing crest; buckles to be ornamented. Claymore-A double-channelled blade, with basket hilt, lined with scarlet cloth or tartan to correspond with the dress. Dirk of proper pattern, ana bearing uniform Celtic ornamentations. "Sgian-dubh" of proper pattern, uniform with dirk in design.

The proper pistol is a single-barrelled muzzle-loading belt pistol of antique pattern, having the ramrod attached to the barrell; powder horn (worn on right side).

The ornaments are buckles for shoes and belts ; a mounting for the sporran, on which is displayed the proper crest, which should also appear on the waist and swordbelts ; an ornament for the bonnet, on which is shown the proper crest and motto ; and a brooch to fasten the plaid, with or without a Cairngorm or other stone, and ornamented uniformly with the buckles, etc.

The ornaments should be embossed, etched, or engraved. The long plaid must be worn over the swordbelt, and removed entirely in the ballroom. The whole dress should appear as if it belonged together, the arms and ornaments all being of the same degree of richness, and the design of the ornaments should be similar. The wearer must carry his dress easily as to the manner born. Gloves form no part of the Highland dress.

Any one not bearing a clan surname or that of any clan sept, may adopt the tartan of their mother's clan or sept should she possess a clan surname or that of a sept

For a list of clan septs consult Adam's "What is Mr Tartan?" (Published 1896)."





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Scottish Tartans Authority (Scottish limited company no. 162386), c/o J & H Mitchell, 51 Atholl Road, Pitlochry, PH16 5BU
Scottish Charity Number SCO24310

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