Seems like I still have Scotland on the brain since we went last summer and we have plans to go again the summer of 2016. Several of the gifts I’m giving this Christmas are Scottish-based so…
According to A History of Tartan:
Chaotic yet orderly, clashingly exuberant, tartan’s history jumble fact with outrageous fiction. Nearly everything you think you “know” about tartan was invented, then furiously believed until fact seemed pale and unsporting in comparison.
First, to vocabulary: “tartan” refers to a twill-weave pattern consisting of two sets of stripes at right angles. An individual tartan – with its color palette and stripe widths – is called a “sett”. In Gaelic, a plaide refers to any woolen blanket.
The oldest known Scottish tartan, the Falkirk sett, dates from the 3rd century CE. Ancient Scots wore a three-piece ensemble: a léine, or tunic-shirt, a brat, a semi-circular cloak, and tight-fitting hotpants called trews.
By the seventeenth century, this getup evolved into the fhéilidh-Mor, or belted plaid. Scots would place a belt on the ground and the plaid blanket on top of it. You’d lay down on it, belt the blanket into place, and stand up a kilted Scotsman. It also doubled as a sleeping-bag.
My grandfather wore the Black Watch tartan into World War 1 with his regiment, so my kilt is also Black Watch.
I also have a fly plaid, which is Kelly – my maiden name. I know that the fly and kilt are supposed to match but I wanted to honor both grandfather and father.
(NOT a picture of me!) The fly plaid is the tartan that goes over the left shoulder…
The modern fly plaid originated with the traditional Féileadh Mòr (Great Plaid) worn in the Scottish Highlands. The Great Plaid was a large piece of cloth, which by the 16th century measured up to 8.2 metres (9.0 yards) in length, half of which was pleated and belted about the waist, while the upper half was draped over the left shoulder, was then gathered in front and could be used as a cloak and hood during inclement weather.