formative period for the Celts was from c.1300-750 BC. The
emergence of the Celts as a people with a similar language
and eventually similar material culture started in this period.
The origin place of the Celtic language is believed to be
the Rhine-Danube Valleys (linguistic and archaeological evidence
lends credence to this belief). Following the formative period
is the emergence of the early chiefdoms from c.750 to 450
BC. This period was followed by the La Tene Period from c.450
to 200 BC. This period is dominated by warrior societies and
the art and material culture is considered to be the classically
"Celt". From c.200 to 50 BC we start to see the
fall of the Celtic identity throughout Europe as the Germanic
Peoples and the Romans begin their expansion. This period
is the late La Tene period. By 400 AD the Celtic Languages
survived only in the far west Atlantic zone.
the Celtic Period, there were three primary zones of Celtic
Peoples: the Rhine-Danube zone (a route nexus -- i.e.trade),
the Atlantic Zone (metal rich -- copper, tin, silver &
gold) and the West Mediterranean zone. These three zones were
established by the 1st millenia BC.
know of these early Celtic Peoples comes from the writings
of the Romans and Greeks as well as through archaeological
evidence. If not for the early writings all we would have
are the material remains from burials and existing carvings.
The writers from the 1st C. BC named these peoples the Keltoi
(Greek) or Celtae (Latin). Caesar in his writings called them
was no pan-Celtic language especially by the first millenium
AD. From the Proto-Celtic Language of the Rhine-Danube four
primary Celtic language familes developed. The most well known
is the Goidelic line which by early in the 1st millenium AD
had developed into Manx, Scots Gaelic and Old Irish. The next
line was the Gallic Brithonic which before the end of the
1st Millenium BC had divided into Brithonic and Gallic. After
the start of the new millenium AD Brithonic had divided into
Welsh and Cornish and one branch of Gallic had developed into
and a half millenia people have been fascinated by the "Celts."
However, by the height of the SCA period (700 AD) very little
existed of these early Celts.
The Scots will be addressed first followed by the Irish. For
the Scots only men's clothing will be addressed. The author
has found little in regards to Scottish women's clothing.
If you want to portray a Scottish woman you may use standard
Elizabethan clothing or that of the Irish. If you have found
a source of information for Scottish Women's clothing I would
love to hear about it.
Dunbar gives a little information on the types of clothing
worn by Scottish women. He talks about two contrasting illustrations
in his book. He also notes that he does not give them much
value. However, they are accounts from the period. The first
is a picture from 1562 entitled 'La Sauvage d'Ecosse' printed
in 'Recevil de la Diversite des Habits' in Paris. The picture
shows a Scots woman wrapped in a large sheepskin cloak.
There are many myths and misconceptions regarding the dress
of the Scots throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Movies such as Braveheart and Rob Roy have not helped in these
The kilt... When did it arrise? How was it worn? And by whom?
it must be generally stated that the townspeople and aristocracy
of Scotland, and also of Ireland and Wales, followed the fashions
of the continent as did the English.
Most people in the SCA believe that the kilt is the ancient
traditional dress of the Scots. However, this is not true.
The traditional dress of the Scots is very similar to that
worn by the Irish. According to McClintock, up to the year
1600 the Scots wore a saffron shirt (similar to a léine),
a mantle, at times tartan trews, and possibly a short woolen
jacket. The picture to the right shows Scots hunting. As you
can see, the dress is very similar to that of the Irish.
number of extracts from period writings detail to some degree
what the Highlanders wore. The following is a brief breakdown
of some of them.
mantle or plaid ("Chlamys")
"Pannus lineus" worn in battle and daubed with pitch.
probably a quilted and padded linen coat serving the purpose
Barelegged from middle of thigh
The King's Highland Suit -- 1538
Short Highland jacket of velvet
long Highland shirt
Jean de Beaugue -- 1548-9
Mantle or plaid ("couverture") of several colours
Pitscottie -- 1573
Barelegged to the knee
Bishop Lesley -- 1578
Plaid or mantle ("chlamys"). Nobles' vari-coloured,
Also shaggy rugs ("villose stragulae") like those
of the Irish
Short wollen jacket ("tunicella") with sleeves open
Very large pleated shirts made of linen, flowing loosely to
the knees and with wide trailing sleeves, dyed saffron among
the rich, smeared with greese among the poor
Buchanan -- 1581
"Variegated" and "striped" garments. Plaids
("sagum") sometimes many coloured, but more generally
of a dark colour matching the heather.
D'Arfeville -- probably 1547 -- not published till 1581
Large, wide saffron shirt
Coarse wollen coat to the knees, like a cassock, over the
Bareheaded with very long hair
Barelegged and generally barefooted, occasionally high boots
reaching to the knee
History of the Gordons -- 1591
"yellow warr coat, which amongst them is the badge of
Gordon of Straloch -- 1594
Tartan plaid. ("Loose cloke of several ells, striped
Short linen shirt, which the "great" sometimes dyed
Trews (in winter)
Short hose (stockings) at other seasons
Raw leather shoes
The very earliest that we have any evidence of the great kilt
or more properly the belted plaide is the late Elizabethan
period (1590). One of the earliest accounts that can be thought
to be a great kilt is from 1594. This is a description of
a body of Hebrideans who come to Red Hugh O'Donnell's aid.
"They were recognized among the Irish Soldiers by the
distinction of their arms and clothing, their habits and language,
for their exterior dress was mottled clocks of many colors
(breacbhrait ioldathacha) with a fringe to their shins and
calves, their belts were over their loins outside their cloaks.
many of them had swords with hafts of horn, large and warlike,
over their shoulders. It was necessary for the soldier to
grip the very haft of his sword with both hands when he would
strike a blow with it. Others of them had bows of carved wood
strong for use, with well seasoned strings of hemp, and arrows
sharp-pointed whizzing in flight."
The earliest drawing we have of the belted plaid is from 1641.
It is a German woodcut of Scottish Soldiers. This woodcut
may be found in the British Museum in England. The four figures
show four different styles of dress. The first wears a long
coat to the knees that opens in the front. It is made of a
plaid cloth and has plain sleeves. It is belted at the waist.
The second wears plaid trews in the style worn on the continent.
The third wears what appears to be a belted plaid with the
upper part pulled up over the shoulders. The fourth wears
a belted plaid with the plaid cast off the left shoulder.
was a length of tartan cloth. Tartan is a style of plaid designs
native to Scotland. However, it must me noted that the tartans
used during this period are not the same as the clan tartans
in use today. You should also be warned that it is considered
highly improper to wear a modern clan tartan unless you are
from that clan. The tartan cloth was about 5 feet wide (made
of two strips 30 inches wide and sewn down the length) and
some 12 to 18 feet long. The cloth would then be laid out
on the ground and would be pleated longwise to a length of
4 or 5 feet. A couple of feet would be left unpleated at either
end. The wearer would then lie down on the tartan with the
middle of the knees equal with the lower edge of the tartan.
The unpleated unds would be wrapped across the front of the
wearer's body and then would be belted on at the waist. Pleating
the tartan over your belt makes the process easier. After
standing up the wearer would put on their jacket and then
would arrange the top portion of the tartan on the shoulders
(either over one shoulder or both).
small kilt that many wear today is well outside the range
of the SCA. So, if you want to portray a Highland Scot, you
must be of the Elizabethan period to wear a belted plaid (great
kilt), or you may wear standard Elizabethan dress, medeival
dress if from an earlier period similar to Scandinavian) or
wear a léine and trews.
The traditional dress of the Irish changed very little from
Pre-Christian times up until the end of the 16th C. However,
the dress of the town dwelling/non-traditional Irish followed
the patterns as existed in the European mainstream. This document
will discuss the more traditional dress of the Irish during
the 16th C.
The poorer Irish wore a standard outfit that would more than
likely have been found not only in the British Isles but also
on the continent. This outfit consisted of the Inar, Trius,
Brat, and Léine.
Inar The Inar was a jacket. It was normally constructed of
wool and like the later doublets had a skirt. The skirt of
the Inar was heavily pleated.
The trius or trews were a type of pants. They were normally
fairly tight to the leg. Some existing bog examples have buttons
up the back of the leg from the bottom to mid-calf. These
were made of wool cut on the bias.
brat was a mantle or cloak made of a long rectangle of wool.
It was edged with some sort of fringe. The longer the brat
the more affluent the individual.
The léine or shirt can be considered the mainstay of
Irish and early Scottish clothing. It was worn from mid thigh
to below the knee depending on if it was worn alone or with
trews. Fashioned of linen, the léine was dyed a saffron
color for those of better standing.
affluent Irish wore large léines. The English in the
16th C. went so far as to limit the number of yards of cloth
that could be in one. The following picture to the right shows
the standard dress.
We know less about the clothing that women wore than the men.
This may be attributed to many of the details of men's clothing
being reported about the military Irish. What we do know is
from some accounts and also some drawings by period artists.
We do know more about townswomen than we do of the poorer
rural dwelling women. In general a woman would wear an ankle
length léine. Over this she would wear a dress. Over
this she would wear a brat (shawl/cloak). The brat would be
similar to that worn by a man.
piece of dress that many women wear in the SCA that is considered
to be period is the Celtic Overdress. These garments as far
as I can tell were invented by Hollywood. To be authentic,
you should wear a léine over which you will wear a
sleeved dress. The picture to the right shows two example
of women's dress.
dresses according to Dunlevy were in three basic styles. The
first was a volumnous gown worn by women of means. These dresses
(gowns) were formal and a status symbol. The dress itself
was made of heavy worsted wool with thick tubular folds. Dunlevy
indicates they were influenced by the earlier houppelande.
The neckline had a V shape and the sleeves were very full
with turned back cuffs. The second type of dress have a low
V shaped neck that was open down the front of the bodice.
The opening ended in a U shape at the stomach. De Heere's
illustration of this dress shows the distinct Irish half-sleeve
that is a strip of cloth that covers on ly the top of the
arm. The thrid type of dress has a high neck with a fitted
bodice and full skirt. The arms are buttoned from the cuff
to the upper arm. This last type of dress may be seen on the
effigy carving of Johanna Purcell on her tomb.