Tartans and Clan colors

If you have some family affiliation with a clan, you'll probably want to have a kilt made in the tartan pattern of that clan. For those of us without Scots ancestry, well, pick one you like.

Some people can be very sensitive about someone wearing a color which they aren't "entitled" to, but I haven't yet met anyone who is Scottish who is mortally offended by a non-member sporting the clan's colors. (However, I've found it is fairly important to at least know which tartan you are wearing, and even more helpful to know something about them when faced with a kilt-wearing Scotsman wanting to know just exactly who you are.)

When you are in doubt, or have not even the slightest imagined connection to a clan or a sept of a clan, there are also regional tartans. For example, the Black Watch and Royal Stewart are considered "free" setts and can be worn by anyone.

Colors and Variations

Tartans for any particular clan usually have several variations. A Hunting sett may be a more muted version of the Dress.
  • Ancient, or Old colors mimic the original vegetable dyes, and are usually darker or richer colors.
  • Modern colors are the expected brighter colors available to modern weavers.
  • Reproduction colors are simply a trademarked name for new patterns that mimic ancient or old colors, and are based on historic research and analysis.
  • Muted and weathered colors are just that - faded, old-looking fabrics.

There are usually several accepted modern versions of a clan's tartans:

  • Dress usually describes the brighter, vibrant colored tartans for the clan worn for formal occassions. These often had a white background, especially for women.
  • Hunting is the muted, darker toned tartan worn, obviously, for hunting.
Tartans originally emerged to denote rank (based on the number of colors in the sett). As such, several tartans were developed for each clan:
  • Chief's Sett - worn by the ranking members of the clan.
  • Clan Tartan - the general colors of the clan.
  • Hunting Tartan - the darker, muted version
  • District Setts - worn based on where you lived, not your allegiance to any specific clan.
  • Free Setts - such as the Black Watch or Royal Stewart, which can be worn by anyone.

Tartan Samples

There are several collections of bitmapped or .GIF images of various clan tartans, if you want to get a feel for the patterns. < c o m m e n t s    t o    p h o u k a @ f r i i . c o m

Types of Kilts
Where to buy a kilt
Now what do I do?

Travelling to Scotland
Learning Irish

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