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  1. #1
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    29th May 07
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    Early-To-Mid Victorian Highland Wear

    At the beginning of December every year in Galveston, Texas, there is a weekend festival called "Dickens On The Strand". My wife and I manage a stall for a company that sets up there. Last year we managed to throw together some appropriate-enough clothing from my accumulated historical clothing, but this year we want to do things more correctly. We're starting this project now to allow plenty of time before we need it.

    So, what would a common Highland Scots shopkeeper or merchant wear in the 1840's or 1850's?

    ~Ken

  2. #2
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    5th September 05
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    I'm guessing trousers...

    Zardoz has posted his photos from this event a couple of times...I'd love to get down there for it as it sounds wonderful. I think that Zardoz would be a good source of info on this one.

    Best

    AA

  3. #3
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    24th November 05
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    Since Dickens on the Strand tends to be a fancy dress deal, I go for a "well dressed" 1890ish Highlander look, last years photos here;
    http://www.xmarksthescot.com/forum/f...estival-55495/

    Honestly, since these fashions have not changed a whole lot in 150 years, it is basically my normal dressy daywear, with a tall collar shirt and formal sporran to dress it up a bit. I usually pick the tartan to match my wife's outfit, X-Marks last year.

    How historically accurate is it? I'm not that sure, but I think it's more accurate than the modern PC rigs many kilted gents wear down there. (And is comfy in the fairly cold temps we've had there the last couple of years)

    I would think a "common shopkeeper or merchant" would wear a similar getup, Maybe with a plainer sporran, shirt, cloth coat or vest, I'm thinking a 'grandfather' shirt and a 1830's waistcoat; http://jas-townsend.com/product_info...roducts_id=469 , and maybe a flatcap .
    Last edited by Zardoz; 26th May 10 at 10:23 AM.
    Order of the Dandelion, The Houston Area Kilt Society, Bald Rabble in Kilts, Kilted Texas Rabble Rousers, The Flatcap Confederation, Kilted Playtron Group.
    "If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk"

  4. #4
    Join Date
    21st May 08
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    There was very little difference between Highland, Lowland and English shopkeeper and merchant classes clothing by the 1840s and 1850s. Except, perhaps, in the matter of headwear. All men wore hats, but positions in society were easily identified by what was worn on the head. Labouring class chaps and most farm workers wore cloth (now called flat) caps, and this included lower-end shopkeepers and most household servants. Upper-end shopkeepers and upper level servants and some merchants wore bowlers. Most merchants wore top hats with even the height and quality of those adjusting with their social standing. Crofters and some farmworkers continued to wear a form of bonnet that has evolved into the Balmoral of today.

    Scottish townies did not wear the kilt even at Inverness, the "capital" of the Highlands.

    I think that may be disillusioning, but you said you wanted to do things more correctly than you were able to do last year. The best thing to do is to research clothing of the 1820s and 1830s London era, keep that as a style but go to a rougher form. The clothing styles of England and the Lowlands had changed what folk wore in the Highlands, but there were no surplus pennies in the shopkeeper class with which to buy the products of the new clothing industry. The result was that styles hung around longer and coarser cloth was used.

  5. #5
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    6th July 07
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThistleDown View Post
    There was very little difference between Highland, Lowland and English shopkeeper and merchant classes clothing by the 1840s and 1850s. Except, perhaps, in the matter of headwear. All men wore hats, but positions in society were easily identified by what was worn on the head. Labouring class chaps and most farm workers wore cloth (now called flat) caps, and this included lower-end shopkeepers and most household servants. Upper-end shopkeepers and upper level servants and some merchants wore bowlers. Most merchants wore top hats with even the height and quality of those adjusting with their social standing. Crofters and some farmworkers continued to wear a form of bonnet that has evolved into the Balmoral of today.

    Scottish townies did not wear the kilt even at Inverness, the "capital" of the Highlands.

    I think that may be disillusioning, but you said you wanted to do things more correctly than you were able to do last year. The best thing to do is to research clothing of the 1820s and 1830s London era, keep that as a style but go to a rougher form. The clothing styles of England and the Lowlands had changed what folk wore in the Highlands, but there were no surplus pennies in the shopkeeper class with which to buy the products of the new clothing industry. The result was that styles hung around longer and coarser cloth was used.
    I think I would wholeheartedly agree with Rex. The one thing I do know, from those that were born in the 1870's, yes I did know more than a few of those, the kilt was not in the realm of everyday(or evening) wear for many, including the majority of the population in the Highlands. To think otherwise is just wishful thinking.

  6. #6
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    I've no doubt, and will not dispute that Rex and Jock are correct about what folks might have actually worn in that situation. Although the "Highland Romance" (Highlandism) fad was in full swing in those days it was largely the province of the wealthy. And unlikely to be on display in Victorian London (the time and place the Dickens fest is supposed to be) in any event.

    But "wishful thinking" as Jock said, does play into this situation. Just as we are pretending that the Victorian era section of Galveston is 19th century London, we also idealize how those folks might have dressed. So most people that do go for some feeling of "period correctness" tend to dress with a little uppercrust fancy. Just like at renfaires, where everyone wants to be a lord or lady, not the 80 or 90% of the population that worked for them!
    Order of the Dandelion, The Houston Area Kilt Society, Bald Rabble in Kilts, Kilted Texas Rabble Rousers, The Flatcap Confederation, Kilted Playtron Group.
    "If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk"

  7. #7
    Join Date
    21st May 08
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    Yes, no doubt no doubt. Ren Faires, Costume Balls and Dickens' London -- good fun. What I was trying to answer, though, was the specific question asked and that was "to do things correctly...what would a common Highland Scots shopkeeper or merchant wear in the 1840's or 1850's?"

    At Inverness "the gentlemen, magistrates, merchants and shopkeepers are dressed after the English manner, and make a good appearance enough according to their several ranks. Their women of fashion go seldom abroad, but when they appear they are generally well dressed in the English mode."

    In order to pretend a thing you really do need to know what is real; perhaps that is why RadioKen asked his question the way he did. If he chooses to dress himself in a PC and a top hat in his booth he will now know that he is not more incorrect than wearing a 5-yard pv kilt and a rabbit sporran as a shopkeeper down to Dickens' London from mid-19C Highland Scotland.

  8. #8
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    The MacLeay portraits are probably the best look at Victorian-era highland dress:
    http://www.tartansauthority.com/reso...leay-portraits
    Brian

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." ~ Benjamin Franklin

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodsheal View Post
    The MacLeay portraits are probably the best look at Victorian-era highland dress:
    http://www.tartansauthority.com/reso...leay-portraits
    But surely you don't think shop-keepers dressed like the subjects of MacLeay's portraits?

  10. #10
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    6th July 07
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodsheal View Post
    The MacLeay portraits are probably the best look at Victorian-era highland dress:
    http://www.tartansauthority.com/reso...leay-portraits
    Oh dear,oh dear dear dear, I really don't know what to say!

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