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Kilt wearing advice and kilt sources

Started by groomporter, May 17, 2008, 08:34:38 PM

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I read a very interesting post on the solid colored kilt on another forum. It was written by Mathew Newsome, curator of the Scottish Tartans Museum . I've read some misconceptions on this forum about solid colors for kilts, so I thought it would be good to repost it here to help clear up the confusion:

Quote from: M. A. C. Newsome;1031219To many people, solid color kilts are either associated with "modern urban" or "utility kilts," or else they associated them with the Irish, because of the tradition among Irish pipers of wearing solid saffron or green kilt.

However, I have to point out that there has long been a tradition of wearing solid colored kilts in the Scottish Highlands.  They simply have never been as popular or as common as the tartan kilt.

It's not a modern thing, or even a Victorian thing.  One of the earliest examples we have in Scotland of a solid colored kilt is from a portrait of Duncan Campbell of Lochow, painted in 1635.  He's shown wearing a solid red belted plaid.

Remember that the belted plaid is the earliest form of the kilt, and itself can only be positively documented to 1594, so this is a scant 40 years after the earliest evidence for the early kilt being worn.  And we see it depicted in a solid color.

This should not be that surprising when we remember at this time that tartan did not have quite the same significance to the wearer as it does with us today. 

When R. R. MacIan painted his Highland figures for James Logan in 1845-47, a few were in solid kilts.  Some were outright fanciful, such as his wildly inaccurate portrayal of the leine on his MacArthur figure.  But by contrast, his figure for MacIntyre is in contemporary dress and is shown in a solid blue kilt.

This suggests that at least some people were wearing solid kilts at the time, if MacIan chose to show one of his figures in such.  And indeed evidence is not hard to find of solid kilts worn in the nineteenth century.  Perhaps the most famous wearer of a solid kilt is John Brown, shown here in this portrait from 1870.

And if you prefer photographic evidence (love this sporran!):

So my point in all of this is simply to say that even though many will associate solid kilts with either the Irish or with modern "contemporary" kilt wearing, they are really no strangers in the Scottish tradition, either.  They simply have never been nearly as popular as tartan kilts.


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