Tartan and Kilt

Tartan, known in the sixteen century as the breach an feileadh (belted tartan, or “great kilt”), was a long piece of woven cloth worn by Gaelic speaking Scottish Highland men in the north of the country. Made of strong, durable twill in muted colors and around six yards long and two yards wide, the fabric was wrapped around the lower body, belted and then passed over one shoulder. Unlike the brighter hues of the nineteen century, early tartans (known as plaids in North America) were basic weaves with few muted colors. In the late seventeen century tartan was more formally codified as the feileadh beat (small kilt): pleats were sewn permanently into the back of the skirt and loops were added for ease of belting. Highland clans distinguished themselves with the use of different tartans. This practice was banned with the Dress Act of 1746 and by the time the law was repealed by King George III, in 1782, tartan had ceased to be a quotidian part of Highland clothing.

The kilt subsequently became a sartorial expression of the Romantic era. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert decorated the interiors of their Aberdeenshire estate Balmoral with tartan, wore it for everyday attire and popularized the Highland Games; the tartan has since flourished as a touristic motif on shortbread tins, whiskey casks, and postcards.

Kilts were used by the British military until the mid-twentieth century. In the postwar period the garment took on a particular nostalgic symbolism for nationals in diaspora, and as a common element of girls private-schools uniforms. Punk subculture however sought to deliberately subvert such claim. British designer Vivienne Westwood became particularly associated with the use of tartan, while,  Alexander McQueen created his infamous 1995 Highland Rape collection exploring the atrocities of the Clearances. Today, however, tartan are seen mostly on guests at a Scottish wedding, school uniforms, or bagpipers busking on the street and for most people, Scottish in particular, there remains a strong association with ceremonial events and national identity.

Image result for sixteenth century tartan


Cò tha seo?


The Clan

Kikki Ghezzi, is an Italian experiential artist, who lives and works in New York City and Milan.  She is  deeply   passionate   about  Scottish   culture  and  traditions and has been studying    Gaidhlig   at   Sabhal   Mor  Ostaig  in  Skye   since   2016.   She  started  the  project:  Clan  MacDharobhnie in 2016.



Morag Jones, a Glaswegian and long-time resident of Edinburgh, is a retired school  teacher  and  a  successful   treasure  hunter  with  a  strong  sense  of community. She recently helped to set up local community greengrocer Dig in Bruntsfield weaving

Morag  was  very  honoured  to  be  the  ‘ finder’ of  one of the mysterious book sculptures – Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, currently on display at the National Library of Scotland (Morag Jones finds the mysterious book sculpture).

Keen  to   embrace   the   Gaelic language  of her  MacLeod  and McFarlane ancestors (her great grandparents were from Argyll) she  took   the   trip  to  Skye  and  Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. She is very passionate about the Scots language, politics, current affairs and social history, which she wasn’t taught at school.


Max Buettner studies anthropology at Cornell University in the United States. He is very enthusiastic about the Highlands culture and the Gaelic language.

John Humphries
is a visual artist, gardener, and designer focusing on translating one media form to another.  John is Professor of Architecture and Interior Design at Miami University and is very interested in Scottish history and traditions.