Discovering Scotland’s Oldest Tartan: A Glimpse into 16th Century Fashion

People typically look to the past for fashion inspiration as time goes on. Tartan has represented Scotland and her clans as a unifying emblem for generations. Scotland’s rich cultural heritage can be better-understood thanks to the discovery of its earliest tartan, which dates back to the 16th century.

Discovering Scotland's Oldest Tartan: A Glimpse into 16th Century Fashion
Image Source: Alan Richardson Pix-AR

The Discovery of Scotland’s Oldest Tartan

Many pieces of fabric have been discovered in Scottish peat bogs throughout the years, and each of them claims to be the earliest tartan in Scotland. New evidence suggests that the term really refers to a textile discovered in a Scottish peat bog called Glen Affric in the 1980s. The fabric is at least 400 years old, having been dated to the 16th century.

The Glen Affric tartan, which is around 55 cm by 43 cm in size, is a fading check pattern of green, brown, red, and yellow. It’s the oldest authentic tartan fabric ever discovered in Scotland. From the early third century AD, the Falkirk “tartan” has been preserved; however, it is essentially a simpler check pattern woven with undyed strands.

Tartan in 16th Century Scotland

Changes in government and society rocked Scotland in the 16th century. The clans of the Highlands used tartan at this time to show their affiliation with a particular group. Each clan had its own unique tartan with distinctive colors and patterns that signified membership in that clan and loyalty to its chief.

The Highlanders relied heavily on tartan for practical uses, including clothes and blankets. Natural plant, root, and berry dyes were used to produce the tartan designs, and each clan had its own signature color scheme.

The Significance of Scotland’s Oldest Tartan

The earliest known tartan in Scotland can now be studied, allowing researchers to learn more about the fabric’s role in Scottish history and culture. It’s a rare look into 16th-century Scottish dress that also explains why tartan is such a potent symbol of Scots’ national and clan identities.

V&A Dundee’s Tartan exhibition is the first public showing of the Glen Affric tartan. Tartan has become an icon of Scotland’s cultural identity, and this exhibition gives visitors a chance to learn more about its origins and history.

In conclusion, 16th-century Scottish fashion and culture can be better-understood thanks to the discovery of Scotland’s oldest tartan. It’s a great way to learn about the history of Scotland and discover the significance of tartan in the country’s identity.


Written by Barbarz Steelz

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