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  1. #1
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    What is a Doublet?

    Questions come up fairly regularly on various threads involving this thing called a "doublet", in traditional Highland Dress.

    Many people might say "oh, I know what a doublet is, it's the thing they wear in the Army" and they would be correct.

    Here's the style of doublet worn by pipers in the Scottish regiments beginning in the 1840s and well into the 20th century:



    Though nowadays people think of the doublet as an Army thing, the doublet is one of many elements of military Highland Dress that had a civilian origin. In the second half of the 19th century the doublet was by far the most common civilian Highland jacket. The growing popularity of the Prince Charlie Coatee after its introduction c1900 has seen the old civilian Doublet steadily decline, though it is still available from many Scottish (and Pakistani) makers.

    The defining things that make a doublet a doublet are the skirts, which on most old doublets are functional pockets, perhaps making up for the lack of pockets in the kilt. I've heard them called skirts, flaps, and tashes, often with the addition of Inverness as in "Inverness skirts". I don't know what the Inverness connexion is. (Tashe is bag or pocket in German.)

    I can't trace the evolution of the doublet very well, beyond noticing that such flaps were common in Renaissance jackets, and flaps akin to the Renaissance ones can be seen in some early Highland portraits.



    However throughout most of the 18th century and for at least the first quarter of the 19th century the jackets seen in Highland Dress tended to follow Saxon/European fashions. It's as if the doublet lay dormant, for over a century, only to appear in some images of pipers in livery around the 1830s.

    In the first half of the 19th century military piper's dress varied tremendously by battalion. Some pipers were put in ordinary soldier's uniform, some pipers were put in the reversed-colours uniform of the military band, and some pipers were put in civilian livery such as they would wear in the employ of the aristocracy.

    Pipers in the latter category were often dressed in doublets, at a time when all ranks of the Army wore coatees. (Here the skirts' origin as pockets is very clear.)



    Doublets took a firm, and permanent, foothold in the Army in the 1840s when The Cameron Highlanders dressed their pipers in dark green doublets, the first in the Army. (Green was the facing-colour of the Camerons, and musicians traditionally wore reversed colours.)

    By the mid-19th century all Highland regimental pipers were in dark green doublets. Scarlet doublets were introduced for all ranks of the Highland regiments in 1855. (As you can see these were originally double-breasted and had slash cuffs, while the dark green piper's doublets retained the gauntlet cuffs.)



    Here is the classic 1868-1914 soldier's doublet



    Around 1980 all ranks of all the Highland regiments were put in dark green doublets, and when the Royal Regiment of Scotland was created the dark green doublet became the Number One Dress of the entire Scottish infantry.

    Today, pipers and soldiers alike in the dark green doublets originally worn only by the pipers of the Camerons



    What I don't know is why the doublet became so popular with civilians at around the same time it was beginning to be adopted in the Army (1840s). From c1850 to c1920 the doublet was by far the most popular civilian Highland evening and piper's jacket. Unlike in the Army where the doublet had a standardized cut, in the civilian world there was bewildering variation. The skirts were always there, and the gauntlet cuffs usually were present too, but there was endless variety in the jacket front, with various lapel, collar, and button arrangements.

    Here is a typical civilian doublet c1860. It was the style to button only one button at or near the top and let the jacket front sweep open. Note how in this case the front edges of the jacket are in line with the front edges of the skirts; the jacket is cut to be worn as it is.



    Here's a doublet designed to be worn buttoned



    Here's an early doublet with very short lapels designed to be buttoned only at the top and swing open; interesting to see four buttons on each gauntlet cuff



    This very interesting photo shows three distinct doublet styles L-R

    1) civilian doublet edged in what the British call "lace" and Americans call "braid". This style became extremely popular around 1900.

    2) plain civilian doublet in the most typical cut

    3) military-style doublet, very popular with civilian Pipe Bands. This costume is nearly identical to that of military pipers, the doublets and accoutrements made by the same firms, making civilian and military pipers difficult to distinguish.

    4) a slightly more home-grown version of the civilian military-style uniform (he wouldn't be mistaken for a military man)



    Modern gents in Highland Evening dress: few are the men who still wear the doublet, in a roomful of Prince Charlie coatees

    Last edited by OC Richard; 1st October 19 at 05:01 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  3. #2
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    An incredibly useful post - as so often you do! Thanks, Richard!
    Rev'd Father Bill White: Retired Parish Priest & Elementary Headmaster, lover of God, people (most of them!) dogs, joy, humour & clarity. Legion Padre, theologian, teacher, philosopher, linguist, dreamer, traditionalist, bon-vivant, encourager of hearts & souls & a firm believer in dignity, decency, & duty. A proud Canadian Sinclair.

  4. #3
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    Thank you Richard, I always enjoy learning new things.
    "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.' Benjamin Franklin

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    As an American Civil War Historian, I can surmise that during the 1840 through 1860 (beginning of the American Civil War), there was in the U.S., England, and France, a large interest and increase of organizing civilian military marching bands and rifle drill teams for competition on the town greens. Most popular were Ellseworth's Zouaves, the Phoenix Zouaves, Irish Rifles Team, Duryea Zouaves, Meagher's Zouaves and the list goes on. Many of these Civilian based groups used a Civilian made flamboyant Military or Militia type outfit, travelled around the country doing competitions for best bands and drill teajms.

    In the U.S. many of these civilian uniforms, were NOT associated with US Military at that time, took many dress cues from the more flamboyant British, French and Prussian Regimental dress uniforms, using many bright colors of reds, greens, blues, grays etc. For exempt the New England 1st Regiment, which usedcivilian band musicians adopted the British Bearskin Headgear, and wore grey and blue uniforms modelled after the French. Although they eventually became state militia, as the sense of Civil War grew near, they did start out as Civilian, the same with the 5th Massachuesetts, which contained the Salem Zouaves, who were a drill team with short red Zouave style jackets, with French gold embroidered kepis, also had the Leather Shako too, and grey trousers with white cross leather straps, and carried Enfield Tower Rifles. While the rifle drill teams work the Shako, with French Hunting Horn, and blue uniforms. Some uniforms of the civil groups became Militia Groups on the call to arms of 1861 and carried into the Civil War.



    So in Scotland or England I would guess this trend toward military influenced uniforms carried over to the civilian world.

    Even womens dress had a military flavor during the mid-19th century. I am sure you heard of the French Zouaves, well womens fashion had the short Zouave Jacket, with matching skirt


    A Zouave Soldier, 5th NY.



    So, I know this is a little off the subject title, but I think the influence of the Military from earlier military clothing changed and influenced civil dress, especially as military activites became popular for civilian rifle drill team and marching band competitions in the mid 19th century, which did carry over to the early 20th century. After WWI is these competitions died, less the High School Marching Bands. However, to this day we still see the influence of Military Style design, in both women's and men's clothing lines. From the trench coat to the Navy Pea Coat, it is considered fashionable.
    Last edited by CollinMacD; 2nd October 19 at 05:47 AM.
    Allan Collin MacDonald III
    Grandfather - Clan Donald, MacDonald (Clanranald) /MacBride, Antigonish, NS, 1791
    Grandmother - Clan Chisholm of Strathglass, West River, Antigonish, 1803
    Scottish Roots: Knoidart, Inverness, Scotland, then to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada.

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  7. #5
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    Richard,

    You note that Renaissance-era jackets have flaps that are similar to the various styles of Highland doublets. I would add that the form-fitting short jackets of the late Medieval and Renaissance periods were in fact called "doublets," to differentiate them from earlier, longer styles such as the "cotehardie." Many early (1500s-1600s) portraits of kilted aristocrats (such as the one in your post) show them wearing Shakespearean doublets, which would have been the contemporary style.

    The Tartan Revival that followed the lifting of the ban on kilts and Highland dress involved a Romantic revival of what were seen as earlier styles. It seems likely to me that the Victorian doublet styles were originally conceived as connecting to an earlier tradition that had been interrupted.

    Military styles have certainly had a major impact on menswear in general--just think of the prevalence of khaki, waist belts, trenchcoats and the like. With Highland wear, the gap in civilian styles during the proscription period meant that the only active kilt wearers when the garment was legalized again were soldiers. This meant that military influence on traditional Highland dress has been perhaps even more pronounced than for Saxon wear. The cross-influence of military and civilian doublets may be an example illustrating this point.

    Just a few thoughts.

    Andrew

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  9. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingandrew View Post
    The Tartan Revival that followed the lifting of the ban on kilts and Highland dress involved a Romantic revival of what were seen as earlier styles. It seems likely to me that the Victorian doublet styles were originally conceived as connecting to an earlier tradition that had been interrupted.
    Andrew, that's not correct. Highland Revival (broadly 1784-1840) clothes closely followed the fashion of the day. From c1815-40 there were significant changes in style every couple of years,. At the end of that period there was a move away from tartan jackets to plain ones and the development of the style we can broadly describe as a Doublet.

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  11. #7
    Benning Boy is offline Membership Suspended for repeated rule violations.
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    I havent absorbed the whole thread as I've only just skimmed it, so maybe i'm just being stupid, but might the pipers being uniformed in dark green have a little something to with The Rifles uniform of rifle green? As I recall the 42nd was brigaded with the rifles and the 53rd as the light infantry brigade in the pennensular war where The Rifles distinguished itself. Could rifle green have become the honorific color of distinguished light infantry units as seen in the pipers uniforms? Again just doing some rambling speculation and I may be off base.

  12. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post

    Modern gents in Highland Evening dress: few are the men who still wear the doublet, in a roomful of Prince Charlie coatees

    A great post! I've always been a fan of the regulation doublet and hope to find a vintage one at some point. The combination of skirts and Argyll cuffs make for a wonderful looking garment IMO.

    Shane

  13. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Benning Boy View Post
    might the pipers being uniformed in dark green have a little something to with The Rifles uniform of rifle green? As I recall the 42nd was brigaded with the rifles...
    The then-new piper's uniform including the dark green doublet was introduced in the Cameron Highlanders, in 1841. Since dark green was the Cameron's facing colour, and it was traditional for musicians to wear reversed colours (the body of the jacket made in the facing-colour of the soldier's red jackets) the simplest and most logical explanation was that the Camerons chose dark green for that reason.

    Actually the Black Watch were late to the party concerning piper's dress, their pipers wearing doublets in Black Watch tartan at a time when most of the other Highland battalions were putting their pipers into the Cameron's dark green.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

  14. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingandrew View Post
    the form-fitting short jackets of the late Medieval and Renaissance periods were in fact called "doublets" ... Many early (1500s-1600s) portraits of kilted aristocrats (such as the one in your post) show them wearing Shakespearean doublets, which would have been the contemporary style.
    However that portrait is from the early 18th century. Highland styles appear to have lagged behind those in England.

    Quote Originally Posted by kingandrew View Post
    ...military influence on traditional Highland dress has been perhaps even more pronounced than for Saxon wear. The cross-influence of military and civilian doublets may be an example illustrating this point.
    For sure nowadays the perception is that many elements of civilian Highland Dress have a military origin.

    However in most cases things thought to have originated in the military actually appeared in civilian Highland Dress first, and were later adopted in the Highland regiments.

    For example, the doublet complete with its defining characteristics (the flaps, the gauntlet cuffs) evolved in civilian Highland Dress and were later introduced into the Army, through the civilian piper's kit adopted by the Camerons in 1841.

    The entire Highland costume, the kilt, plaid, sporran, brogues, hose, crossbelt, sword, bonnet, and the rest moved as a complete whole from civilian Highland Dress into the Army.

    The near-certain exception is the feather bonnet, if the story of its origin is to be believed.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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