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What’s Behind The Tartan Trend?

Whether or not you hail from proud Scottish lineage, you might be embracing tartan next season.

The rich cultural heritage of the British Isles is an enduring source of inspiration for many modern day designers and fashion houses, and we’re seeing signs of the tartan trend being triggered again for autumn/winter 2017.

So where did it all begin?


Tartan’s illustrious history can be traced back to the Highlands hundreds of years ago. The Celts are believed to have brought their weaving techniques over from Ireland, with the earliest sample of tartan-like cloth found in Scotland dating back to around 325AD.

But from this time until the 16th century, not much is known about its development.

The first recorded use of the word ‘tartan’ was in 1538, by which time its weaving process had become firmly established. After spinning the wool on a wheel, natural vegetable dyes were used to give the yarn its distinctive colours, and this was then woven by hand to make the different ‘setts’ or patterns.

While clan tartans can be traced back to the 1746 Battle of Culloden, where both armies wore woven attire, historians haven’t managed to find a connection between these and the familial associations of the modern age. After the Jacobites were defeated, civilians were actually banned from wearing tartan for fear of sparking further rebellion, despite its prevailing use in military uniforms.

So, with its shrouded past, there remains an element of romanticism surrounding tartan – while it’s still widely believed that clan tartan dates back to the beginning of Scottish history, its traditional symbolism really stems from Victorian times.


Although long valued for its practicality and durability, the style credentials of tartan date back to the 19th century, when Queen Victoria’s famed fondness for the Highlands began. It is around this time that clan tartans really started to take off, with clansmen commissioning their own distinctive patterns that manufacturers were happy to supply.

Growing demand for clan tartan bestowed a sense of identity on its wearers that continues to this day. There are over 4,000 named tartans in existence, and the possibilities for further variation are practically endless.

Of course, tartan’s popularity isn’t limited to Scottish style –  if you had an eye on the Paris catwalks earlier this month, you won’t have missed the chequered clothes on parade. The trend is prominent in the collections of Louis Vuitton, Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, Hermès and Chloé among others for autumn/winter 2017, and high street brands are already following suit.

Tying in with the trend forecasts, the new Dugdale Bros Lightweight Tartan collection is now available, and includes 96 different clan and military tartans. Slightly lighter than traditional kilt tartan at 320g/11oz, the versatility of the collection means it is already in high demand among tailors and designers.

So it doesn’t matter if people don’t have the lineage, or the legs, to sport a kilt – rest assured there will be plenty of other options to work this trend in the coming months.

You can see the full range of Dugdale Bros Lightweight Tartans here.


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