Highland dress

Highland dress
Traditional highland dress as worn by Duncan Campbell of Inverneill circa 1820. He is shown outfitted with a Capercaillie feathered Balmoral bonnet, belted Ancient Campbell Tartan plaid held with an amber Cairngorm gemstone brooch, dirk, sporran with silver Inverneill Campbell crest badge, sporran chains, thistle belt badge in silver, leather gloves, silver epaulettes, dress shirt, waisted Inverneill Campbell Crest Badge, Bonnie Prince Charlie Jacket, silver kilt pin, Ancient Campbell Tartan kilt made from Traditional dyes of the Scottish Highlands, flintlock pistol and ceremonial sword.

The term Highland dress describes the traditional dress of Scotland. It is often characterised by tartan (plaid in North America) patterns in some form.

Male highland dress includes kilt (or trews), sporran, sgian dubh and ghillies. Ghillies, or ghillie brogues, are traditional thick soled shoes with no tongues and long laces. The laces are wrapped around and tied above the wearer's ankles so that the shoes do not get pulled off in mud. The shoes lack tongues so the wearer's feet can dry more quickly in typically damp Scottish weather. The ghillie brogue is named after the ghillie, the traditional Scottish gamekeeper and outdoorsman.

Female highland dress includes women's shoes, also called ghillies, that are tied in the same way but have thin soles for indoor wear and dancing. Traditionally, women and girls do not wear kilts but may wear ankle-length tartan skirts. A tartan sash or shawl may also be worn. Women may also wear dress tartans which are modified versions which include white in place of a more prominent colour.


Historical descriptions

Near the end of the seventeenth century, Martin Martin gave a description of traditional women's clothing in the Western Islands, the arisaid with its brooches and buckles.

"The ancient dress wore by the women, and which is yet wore by some of the vulgar, called arisad, is a white plade, having a few small stripes of black, blue and red; it reached from the neck to the heels, and was tied before on the breast with a buckle of silver or brass, according to the quality of the person. I have seen some of the former of an hundred marks value; it was broad as any ordinary pewter plate, the whole curiously engraven with various animals etc. There was a lesser buckle which was wore in the middle of the larger, and above two ounces weight; it had in the centre a large piece of crystal, or some finer stone, and this was set all around with several finer stones of a lesser size. The plaid being pleated all round, was tied with a belt below the breast; the belt was of leather, and several pieces of silver intermixed with the leather like a chain. The lower end of the belt has a piece of plate about eight inches long, and three in breadth, curiously engraven; the end of which was adorned with fine stones, or pieces of red coral. They wore sleeves of scarlet cloth, closed at the end as men's vests, with gold lace round them, having plate buttons with fine stones. The head dress was a fine kerchief of linen strait (tight) about the head, hanging down the back taper-wise; a large lock of hair hangs down their cheeks above their breast, the lower end tied with a knot of ribbands."[1]

Piper playing the Great Highland Bagpipes, in traditional Scottish piper's uniform. From top to bottom these are called, feather bonnet, doublet, plaid & plaid broach, belt, sporran, kilt, hose tops, spats, brogues.

Highland Formal wear

Morning dress

The morning suit version of Highland dress consists of:

  • Black (or charcoal) semi-formal kilt jacket in superfine wool or barathea; Argyll-, Crail-, and Braemar-style jackets are suitable
  • Five- or six-button waistcoat in black, grey, putty, or tartan
  • Kilt
  • White shirt with turndown collar, French cuffs, and cufflinks
  • Tie in a single colour
  • Black brogues
  • Tartan, argyle, diced, or dark hose (white and off-white hose should be avoided)
  • Flashes or garter ties
  • Dress sporran
  • Dress sgian dubh

Black tie

Traditionally, black tie Scots Highland dress comprises:

  • Black barathea jacket with silver buttons—Regulation Doublet, Prince Charlie, Brian Boru, Braemar, Argyll, and black mess jackets are suitable. There is some contention about whether the Duke of Montrose and Sheriffmuir doublets are too formal for black-tie occasions.
  • Matching or tartan waistcoat
  • Kilt
  • White shirt with shirt studs, French or barrel cuffs, and a turn-down collar (wing collars are reserved for white tie in most locales)
  • Black bow tie or white lace jabot
  • Evening dress brogues
  • Full-dress kilt hose (diced or tartan) (Off-white hose are often seen but are deplored by some, such as the late David Lumsden of Cushnie[2])
  • Silk flashes or garter ties
  • dress sporran with silver chain
  • Black, silver-mounted Sgian dubh
  • Dirk (optional)
  • Highland bonnet with crest badge (only suitable out of doors)[3]

Contrary to common belief, a Scottish waist belt should not[dubious ] be worn along with a waist coat unless a dirk is being worn, in which case the belt is worn over the waistcoat.

White tie

The traditional[dubious ] white-tie version of Highland dress consists of:

  • Formal kilt doublet in barathea or velvet— the regulation doublet, Montrose doublet, Sheriffmuir doublet, and Kenmore doublet are suitable in a variety of colours
  • Waistcoat in white marcella, tartan (to match the kilt), or the same material as the doublet; no waistcoat is worn with the Kenmore doublet
  • Kilt with formal kilt pin
  • White stiff-front shirt with wing collar and white, gold, or silver studs and cufflinks for the regulation doublet, or a white formal shirt and optional lace cuffs for the Montrose, Sheriffmuir, and Kenmore doublets
  • White lace jabot; a black silk or white marcella bow tie may be worn in place of the jabot with the regulation doublet (highland wear often includes a black bow tie even at white-tie events)
  • Black formal shoes or black buckle brogues
  • Tartan or diced kilt hose
  • Silk garter flashes or garter ties
  • Silver-mounted Sporran in fur, sealskin, or hair with a silver chain belt
  • Black, silver-mounted, and jeweled sgian dubh
  • Short belted plaid with silver plaid brooch (optional)
  • Scottish dirk (optional)
  • Highland bonnet with badge (only worn out of doors)[4]

External links


  1. ^ Martin, Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, (1703), pp.208-209: quoted in Robertson, ed., Inventaires de la Royne Desscosse, Bannatyne Club, (1863) p.lxviii footnote.
  2. ^ Published: 6:56PM BST 12 Sep 2008 (2008-09-12). "David Lumsden of Cushnie". Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/2826366/David-Lumsden-of-Cushnie.html. Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  3. ^ MacKinnon, C. R. (1970). Scottish Tartans & Highland Dress. Glasgow/London: Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd.. p. 98. ISBN 0004111141. 
  4. ^ MacKinnon, C. R. (1970). Scottish Tartans & Highland Dress. Glasgow/London: Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd.. p. 99. ISBN 0004111141. 

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