Let’s Talk About Tartan


Let’s talk about tartan.  From Stella McCartney to Jean Paul Gaultier, the top fashion houses have been sending their kilted designs to sashay down the catwalk for Fall/Winter 2013-14, and it’s all over the high street.  The fashion world has been overrun, Braveheart style, by the Highlands.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge Visits St Andrew's School

For me, tartan is somewhat of a Marmite fashion.  When my sister asked me to buy her a Topshop tartan handbag for her birthday, my jaw hit the ground.  You may ask why, and it’s a very simple answer: we had to wear tartan kilts to school.  A hideous article that blew open in the wind, barely secured by a flimsy kilt pin, and went way past the knee (accompanied by highly attractive bottle green knee high socks), it was Mallory Towers gone very wrong.  So I could hardly believe my sister was willing to touch tartan with a barge pole.  Then I remembered my own faux cashmere Urban Outfitters tartan scarf that has been my staple winter accessory for the past two years and realised that I was a hypocrite in its basest form.

Tartan has been traced back to between 700 and 500 BC, when they were worn by Celtic tribes, but has remained a symbol of Scottish ancestry and pride.  However, like any other great fashion, it has been recycled through the eras, for example, famously becoming a staple fabric in the punk subculture of the mid-1970s and again in the grunge days of the 90s.  All in one, tartan makes us think of Scotland, rebellion, punk rock, a dubious skirt your mother wore to her office job in the early 90s, and really terrible school uniforms.

So, the question is, should we be wearing tartan?  Should anyone at all?

Yes.  Now I’ve had time to recover from my school days throwback, I’m really rather liking this 7716491529_2_1_1new phenomenon.  But it’s a tread-with-caution situation.  In my opinion, this is definitely a less is more trend.  Jackets, bags, scarves, and mini skirts can all look fantastic when well tailored and in flattering colours.   Anything with too much length and volume is drawing attention to oneself in the worst way (you might end up looking like Vivienne Westwood).  Avoid tartan trousers, dresses, and pinafores (my primary school had a tartan pinafore, and the poor year six girls looked horrendous in their outgrown ones), and any garishly bright patterns.  Call me old fashioned, but bright purple and yellow tartan is a big faux pas.  And please, please, don’t try to revive the Punk Era.  With all respect to their alternative, freedom-seeking aspirations, that time has passed and the safety pins should be put to bed.

But, best of all, tartan is a great winter fabric – both for colour and warmth – and with the nights drawing in, we could all do with a spot of it in our wardrobes.  And for anyone headed out to interviews this term, a professional tartan skirt or jacket looks both classy and memorable.  That and walking in feeling like Mel Gibson in Braveheart can be no bad thing.

by Heather Tarplee, Razz Fashion Correspondent

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