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  1. #1
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    Origin and Use of "Dress" Tartans

    A recent post which referenced "Dress" tartans got me thinking, but I didn't want to de-rail that thread. I'd be interested to get more background on "Dress" tartans. It seems to me that "Dress Tartans" really fall into three distinct sub-categories:

    1. Brightly colored tartans that seem (to many) too garish for day wear [for example, MacMillan "Dress", Barclay "Dress", MacLeod "Dress" (Macleod of Lewis)]. I think there is good evidence to show that these were originally "Clan" tartans, despite their bright hues. In the case of "Dress" Macmillan it's listed in "Clans Originaux", circa 1880, as merely "Macmillan", in addition to "Old MacMillan" which is listed as "Macmillan-Ancient". This sub-category seems to have become "Dress" tartans (in the sense of "formal dress", i.e. "Dress" = "Formal") through common usage, because there is often an aversion to these bright tartans in other than formal settings and most clan members choose to wear a more subdued, conventional "Hunting" tartan during the day.

    2. Clan tartans to which white has been added [for example "Dress" Campbell, "Dress" Gordon, "Dress" MacDonald]. My understanding is that these were patterned after older arisaid tartans which contained lighter colors and were worn by women. In this case "Dress" = "A lady's garment".

    3. Dancer's or "Dress" tartans which are worn by Highland Dancers and are based on clan or district setts, but which have been adapted as "fashion" tartans. D. C. Dalgliesh makes a wide range of these and there are often multiple color variations in a given sett- i.e. Dress Blue Erskine, Dress Green Erskine, etc. In this case "Dress" = "Dancer's Tartan", and there doesn't seem to be any real adoption by the clan chiefs of these setts as clan setts.

    I, personally, stay well clear of categories #2 and #3 above, since I think these tartans are designed for women's clothing. I think category #1 is fine for men's wear, although they are often very vibrant.

    Cordially,

    David
    Last edited by davidlpope; 23rd November 09 at 03:57 PM.

  2. #2
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    David,

    Wouldn't this thread be better in the heraldry & tartans section?

    T.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by cajunscot View Post
    David,

    Wouldn't this thread be better in the heraldry & tartans section?

    T.
    Perhaps, sorry if I had started it in the wrong forum. I had meant to elicit responses solely in the context of Traditional Highland Dress, so started it here. Mods, please move if you think it would be better in Tartans and Heraldry.

    Thanks.

    Cordially,

    David

  4. #4
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    For men, I've always understood these to be acceptable to wear to festive, evening type affairs, though that's not that commonly done.

    Here's a picture of Prince Charles doing just that with his Dress Stewart kilt. http://www.art247.com/Photo/4235-King-Carl-Gustav
    Ken

    "The best things written about the bagpipe are written on five lines of the great staff" - Pipe Major Donald MacLeod, MBE

  5. #5
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    My understanding was that after PRoscription was repealed, in subsequent centuries all things Scottish became de rigeur, at least in part due to Sir Walter Scott. Cannot remember which queen, but one of them was supposedly making a tour of Scotland. Since red was a color rarely worn by proper women, becasue it was associated with prostitutes, and becasue many tartans had a base color of Red, dress tartans were devised by replacing most of the red in a tartan with white (a color of feminine purity) so the women could wear tartan and remain "proper" from a color dress standpoint. Not sure how true any of that is but that is the story I have heard.

    Most dress tartans are now worn by highland dancers, or predominantly by women on other occasions, but I think the latter is falling into disuse.

    Now let's see what hornets nest I have stirred up.

    jeff

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ForresterModern View Post
    My understanding was that after PRoscription was repealed, in subsequent centuries all things Scottish became de rigeur, at least in part due to Sir Walter Scott. Cannot remember which queen, but one of them was supposedly making a tour of Scotland. Since red was a color rarely worn by proper women, becasue it was associated with prostitutes, and becasue many tartans had a base color of Red, dress tartans were devised by replacing most of the red in a tartan with white (a color of feminine purity) so the women could wear tartan and remain "proper" from a color dress standpoint. Not sure how true any of that is but that is the story I have heard.

    Most dress tartans are now worn by highland dancers, or predominantly by women on other occasions, but I think the latter is falling into disuse.

    Now let's see what hornets nest I have stirred up.

    jeff
    The Queen you have in mind was HRM Victoria as the story goes.

    Slaite'
    Bill
    May all your blessings be the ones you want and your friends many and true.

  7. #7
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    I, personally, stay well clear of categories #2 and #3 above, since I think these tartans are designed for women's clothing.
    You really, REALLY, ought to know your tartans and your categories better before you make such a silly statement.

    Category #3 includes quite a few men. In fact the current world champion highland dancer is a MAN. And, almost to a man, the men of the dance world wear dress tartans.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill View Post
    The Queen you have in mind was HRM Victoria as the story goes.

    Slaite'
    Bill
    Thank you, Bill, for the assist. Just did not have a chance to look it up while at work.

    Cheers

    jeff

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dixiecat View Post
    You really, REALLY, ought to know your tartans and your categories better before you make such a silly statement.

    Category #3 includes quite a few men. In fact the current world champion highland dancer is a MAN. And, almost to a man, the men of the dance world wear dress tartans.
    I'm sorry this appears silly to you, but I have never seen a man wearing a kilt in a dancer's dress tartan, but maybe I'm missing something. I don't know of any mills that provide these tartans in heavyweight fabric designed to be made into mens' kilts. Can you provide pics of men wearing a dancer's dress tartan in a non-dance setting? I'm always eager to have my misconceptions shattered...

    Cordially,

    David

  10. #10
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    I was under the impression the dress tartans are appropriate for men and women, alike, for formal evening wear. Also for Highland Dancers, again, for men and women, alike.. notice the last picture shows men dancers from the past.






    Last edited by peacekeeper83; 23rd November 09 at 04:08 PM.

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