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Re: [albanach] kilt history

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  • ebrowder@widomaker.com
    ... Dunbar mentions two 18th century references in his COSTUME OF SCOTLAND I ll have to do a bit of research and get back to you, but ... The length of my
    Message 1 of 11 , Dec 10, 2004
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      Quoting "Matthew A. C. Newsome" <eogan@...>:

      >
      > A couple of posts here recently have brought up some questions about the
      > early history of the kilt that I would like to address. (I have a nine
      > month old in my lap and a cat prowling across my desk at present, so
      > forgive any typos in advance).
      >
      >
      > Shel Browder writes:
      > >I think that the notion of say,a thousand highland soldiers, putting on
      > a
      > >great kilt by laying them out on the ground at 0-dark-thirty in a rainy
      > bivouac
      > >in the highlands, or anywhere else, is ridiculous. The evidence is
      > sketchy and
      > >dates from the 18th century, but the simple addition of belt loops
      > makes it
      > >possible to pleat a great kilt on a belt and put it on while standing
      > up in a
      > >very few minutes.. [snip] I have
      > >been in many situations where there was just no place to lay out nine
      > yards of
      > >tartan to pleat and put on while laying on the ground. Belt loops all
      > around
      > >also give the all round pleating that shows on the early paintings of
      > great
      > >kilts, which I have never been able to achieve when laying down.
      >
      > There are a couple of things to consider here. The first of which is
      > that Highland men on the road, especially soldiers, would likely be
      > sleeping in their plaids to begin with. That is part of the utilitarian
      > nature of the garment. Your bedding goes with you. So it would not be
      > a matter of getting up in the middle of the night and having to don your
      > plaid. You would, in all likelihood, already be wearing it.
      >
      > Secondly, there does seem to be evidence that drawstrings may have been
      > used as an addition to the belted plaid, to assist in the donning of the
      > garment, from an early date. The portrait of Lord Mungo Murray painted
      > by John Michael Wright sometime c. 1660-1680 shows a drawstring being
      > used. And we have a surviving example of a plaid with a drawstring
      > still attached from 1822. So, either these are two isolated instances
      > occurring independently in two different centuries, or this was a
      > practice more common than once thought. Again, see my article on this
      > subject at www.albanach.org <http://www.albanach.org/> .
      >
      > As for the belt loops, I'm trying to recall when we first find them
      > being used.

      Dunbar mentions two 18th century references in his COSTUME OF SCOTLAND

      I'll have to do a bit of research and get back to you, but
      > I'm pretty sure it was sometime after we find evidence for the
      > drawstring. In either case, the drawstring or the belt loops would make
      > it easier to achieve that "gathered all around" look that we find in
      > some early portraits. (Although you can also get that look putting it
      > on without these methods, especially after wearing it and sleeping in it
      > for a couple of days straight without re-adjusting it at all).
      >
      > A practiced person should be able to don the great kilt, while standing
      > up or lying down, with or without a drawstring or belt loops, in just a
      > couple of minutes regardless. I notice you refer to "nine yards" of
      > cloth in your post.
      The length of my plaid is about four and one-half yards. I don't have a three
      year old but anymore, but I am putting in 11 to 15 hour days of mostly physical
      labour right now and simply used the standard quote for length without thinking
      this morn around 5AM on the way out the door.

      This could be why you are having trouble.
      I'm not really having trouble. I decided a while back to put on my plaid every
      morning to learn something about donning the thing. I started by laying it out
      on the floor or a bed, and found it very time consuming. I learned to stand up
      and put it on faster and more easily. If highlanders put them on and never
      took them off in the field, I suppose that would be fine, no matter how they
      were put on. Do you think that that was the case? After sewing "keepers" on a
      plaid, I found it very simple and easy to put it on no matter what the
      conditions. A drawstring would certainly do the same and I will look again at
      your reference. I would like to see how the drawstring is installed.

      The
      > "nine yards" referred to in some early military records was of single
      > width (25" to 30" wide) cloth. The length would be cut in half with the
      > two long ends stitched together to make a single length of double width
      > cloth of 4.5 yards. Many contained less cloth than this even. So when
      > people try to recreate the belted plaid today by using nine yards of
      > double width cloth, they understandably have difficulties.
      >
      > In fact, many times when cloth was woven specifically to be worn as a
      > belted plaid, this can be determined in the pattern of the cloth - i.e.,
      > a border was woven in the middle of the cloth so that when the two
      > pieces were cut and joined, it would match up. It would look something
      > like this off the loom: |__||__| So that when it was cut and joined the
      > piece would have a border all around.

      The border on the picture of the Grant Piper appears to be bound with tape,
      which is what Dunbar says. There is a stitching line that shows, even on the
      small reprints I have seen.
      >
      > For a (post period) example of this type of weaving, see:
      > http://www.tartansauthority.com/Web/Site/Tartan/Research/AntigonishPlaid
      > s.asp
      >
      > Aye,
      > Eogan
      >
      > The History of Highland Dress: <http://albanach.org>
      > http://albanach.org
      > The Scottish Tartans Museum: <http://scottishtartans.org>
      > http://scottishtartans.org
      > District Tartans: <http://district-tartans.com>
      > http://district-tartans.com
      >
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > This is Albanach, a group devoted to the study and re-enactment of
      > Scotland c. 503-1603 AD.
      > Yahoo! Groups Links
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
    • Matthew A. C. Newsome
      ... laying it out ... stand up ... never ... they ... keepers on a ... again at ... Well, certainly some eighteenth century depictions show belted plaids on
      Message 2 of 11 , Dec 11, 2004
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        Shel writes:
        >I decided a while back to put on my plaid every
        >morning to learn something about donning the thing. I started by
        laying it out
        >on the floor or a bed, and found it very time consuming. I learned to
        stand up
        >and put it on faster and more easily. If highlanders put them on and
        never
        >took them off in the field, I suppose that would be fine, no matter how
        they
        >were put on. Do you think that that was the case? After sewing
        "keepers" on a
        >plaid, I found it very simple and easy to put it on no matter what the
        >conditions. A drawstring would certainly do the same and I will look
        again at
        >your reference. I would like to see how the drawstring is installed.


        Well, certainly some eighteenth century depictions show belted plaids on
        soldiers that look mussed up enough for one to believe they had been
        slept in a few times. Again, I'd have to dig through my books to find
        specific examples for you.

        As to how the draw string was attached to the plaid, all we have to go
        by in the surviving example from 1822, which is admitably way after our
        period, but it's all we have. The earliest example we have of a
        drawstring, from the Murray portrait (which, BTW, also shows a border on
        the plaid), shows a drawstring that certainly could have been fastened
        this way.

        In the 1822 example (which is a MacGregor tartan), the drawstring is
        attached at the waist of the kilt, by means of small loops of cord or
        string, sewn in at the rate of one for every repeat of the sett.
        According to an article by James D. Scarlett, this is sewn on to the
        inside of the plaid. According to Bob Martin, this is sewn on the
        outside. I have the highest respect for the opinions of both men, and
        both, to my knowledge, have examined the actual garment in question, so
        I'm not quite sure why they differ. Both excellent historians, Jamie is
        a weaver and Bob a kilt maker, so I tend to give more weight to Jamie
        when it comes to making the cloth, and to Bob when it comes to what is
        done with the cloth. In any case, my drawstrung plaid has it on the
        outside and it works just fine.

        You begin by taking hold of either end of the string, and pulling it up
        into a U shape so that the plaid falls in natural gathers at the center.
        With your plaid to your back, you tie the drawstring around your waist.
        At this time, you will have to do a bit of pulling and tugging at the
        cloth to get it all in place. Finally, you but your belt on to secure
        the whole thing. The belt will hide the drawstring.

        I'm still more used to putting on the plaid without the drawstring, so
        to me that is still faster, but I can easily see how, with practice,
        this way is more convenient.
        Aye,
        Eogan

        The History of Highland Dress: <http://albanach.org>
        http://albanach.org
        The Scottish Tartans Museum: <http://scottishtartans.org>
        http://scottishtartans.org
        District Tartans: <http://district-tartans.com>
        http://district-tartans.com



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Sharon L. Krossa
        ... The plaid worn belted was a development from a plaid (rectangular tartan mantle) worn unbelted and so was originally just a different style of wearing an
        Message 3 of 11 , Dec 11, 2004
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          At 8:12 PM -0500 12/10/04, Unspecified wrote:
          >I'm not really having trouble. I decided a while back to put on my
          >plaid every
          >morning to learn something about donning the thing. I started by
          >laying it out
          >on the floor or a bed, and found it very time consuming. I learned
          >to stand up
          >and put it on faster and more easily. If highlanders put them on and never
          >took them off in the field, I suppose that would be fine, no matter how they
          >were put on. Do you think that that was the case?

          The plaid worn belted was a development from a plaid (rectangular
          tartan mantle) worn unbelted and so was originally just a different
          style of wearing an outer garment serving the same function as a
          cloak or modern (heavy) coat -- something one put on and took off
          repeatedly throughout the day as circumstances warranted (going
          inside, going outside, the weather getting warm, the weather getting
          cold, etc.). So at least to start with (in the late 16th century)
          they would not normally have put them on and never taken them off
          throughout the day.

          Later what began as a style of wearing an outer garment of the cloak
          genre developed into a lower garment of the trousers/skirt genre, and
          after that shift in purpose occurred it would have been something
          that was put on in the morning and worn continually throughout the
          day. However, I haven't yet really researched exactly when this
          transition occurred, and it may have been a long and uneven
          transition period -- and/or it may even only have been with the
          development of the small kilt that it occurred (and perhaps only the
          small kilt was used in the skirt/trouser genre with the belted plaid
          continuing to be used in the original cloak genre). Note also that
          there may be insufficient evidence to determine exactly when said
          transition occurred.

          (Just to make things more complicated, it may be that between early
          use in the cloak genre and later development into the skirt/trouser
          genre, there might have been a period of wearing it in the old
          fashioned suit jacket genre -- that is, something put on in the
          morning and worn all day except when in circumstances where being
          half-undressed is okay.)

          Sharon, ska Africa
          --
          Sharon L. Krossa, skrossa-ml@...
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