Tartan Shawl

Woman Sketching in a Landscape, Barthélemy Vieillevoye,1798 - 1855

Tartan Day

Apr 6

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Tartan Day
The Waggle of the Kilt
Tartan Day
Tartan Shawl
Tartan Day
Makin' The Tartan
Show More

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"The fair have sighed for it,
The brave have died for it,
Foeman have sought for it,
Heroes fought for it,
Honour the name of it,
Drink to the fame of it,
The Tartan!"

~ Murdoch MacLean, The Tartan

Are you wearing some tartan today? The popularity of tartan in the modern era outside of Scotland was greatly increased by the royal visit of George IV to Edinburgh in 1822. George IV was the first reigning monarch to visit Scotland in 171 years. The festivities surrounding the event were originated by Sir Walter Scott who founded the Celtic Society of Edinburgh in 1820. Scott and the Celtic Society urged Scots to attend festivities "all plaided and plumed in their tartan array". One contemporary writer sarcastically described the pomp that surrounded the celebrations as "Sir Walter's Celtified Pagentry". Regardless of such wet blanket reporting, the ensuring popularity of tartan extended not only to garments but created a particular challenge for artists to realistically depict the draped pattern in painting and portraiture.

Tartan Shawl

April 6th, Tartan Day is an official celebration held mainly in the United States and Canada, of a recognition of Scottish Heritage. 

Though tartan patterns became fashionable outside of Scotland as a result of appreciation for the pattern as Highland regiments moved through Europe during the Napoleonic Wars, leading to tartan as a favored choice for accessory garments such as shawls, turbans, and trimming, by the 1840s Queen Victoria's frequent visits to her estate at Balmoral in Scotland further stimulated a fashion for tartan garments, aided by advances in colour printing of fabrics.  It has been popular ever since.

The skill of Celtic weavers was acknowledged even in Roman times, and visitors to the Highlands of Scotland in the early 18th century commented on the quality of the fabric that the inhabitants produced. Their woolen cloth had a distinctive checked pattern that, by the 17th century at least, was commonly referred to as tartan. Tartan patterns, or 'setts', are created by using two colours of thread, which results in three colour combinations. All patterns are structured as a series of stripes around a central 'pivot' stripe, which are then repeated as regular blocks of pattern. Typically, early tartans would have been relatively muted in colour and created from natural dyes, but a trend for more colourful patterns emerged as brighter dyes became available. 

From 1815 there was a move to register all tartans, and many patterns were created and linked with surnames for the first time. It is likely that what started as geographically based patterns, resulting from the local availability of dyes, - then became linked with clans in a particular area, and, in turn, with surnames alone. 

The popularity of tartan during the Romantic period, both in clothing and due to the Romantic revival of posed a challenge for period artists to depict the rectangular patterns in portraiture.

For more beautiful vintage depictions of tartan, visit the facebook site, Vintage Tartan - A Pictorial Gallery, by clicking the portrait below - Alexandre Jean Dubois-Drahonet Portrait of a young Scottish girl, wearing tartan and thistles in her hair, 1843.

Tartan Shawl
Tartan Shawl

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The majority of dance descriptions referenced on this site have been taken from the


Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary or the

Scottish Country Dancing Database 


Snapshots of dance descriptions are provided as an overview only.  As updates may have occurred, please click the dance description to be forwarded to a printable dance description or one of the official reference sources.

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