‘No fabric means quite as much to both traditionalists and rebels alike’
Luella Bartley, British fashion designer and writer 2010 *
WHAT IS TARTAN?
Tartan is a typical Scottish pattern formed by two colours which, when united, create a third one. It is made with the crossing of stripes which create square blocks. There are tons of different tartans out there, most of them are associated with the specific Clans’ names and are traditionally worn by the family belonging to the clan. Think of kilts, ‘Hilghlander’ movies and Vivienne Westwood – here’s your perfect tartan image :)
IN LOVE WITH TARTAN
This is a long term love affair: I have been dreaming of a red tartan skirt since adolescence and my love of punk rock music. Unfortunately back in 2004, I couldn’t find the fabric in the shops (pre-online-shopping era, aye). And when I first came to Edinburgh in 2017 I couldn’t believe my eyes: tartans tartans tartans everywhere! Cashmere and wool, scarfs and kilts, tights and mugs – name it! Then I met Andrew and he and his family started giving me tartan scarfs, shawls, gloves… I absolutely LOVE it! (keep them coming, keep them coming). It was just a year before all those mass-market shops got flood with various tartans and only a lazy one wouldn’t have a pair of tartan trousers in their wardrobe. Luckily, trends come and go, the true lovers of tartan stay :p
ROYAL STEWART TARTAN
It is probably one of the most famous tartans out there and exactly the one I was dying for when I was 17. So when I was in Edinburgh in March last year (waiting for my visa hell to be over) I started thinking of sewing and the first fabric I got online was exactly the Royal Stewart one. I was thinking of making an exaggerated long dress to take a few great photographs in the city centre but then the idea to make outfits for the Croatian trip came to me and the tartan thing was put in pause. Until…
THE BIG PARTY ANNOUNCEMENT
The company where Andrew works were to celebrate its 20th anniversary, all the staff and their partners were invited. Everyone was to dress up nicely and a hint was given that it would be great if the men showed up in tartan (which in Scotland is usually a “=“ to a kilt). And we both have decided that the best thing to do was to show up in matching tartan suits, since I already had enough of fabric we went for the Royal Stewart tartan. Too much + too kitsch = FANTASTIC!
STEP ONE: LINING
I wanted the lining of Andrew’s blazer to be different. I didn’t want the obvious red, I wanted something WOW and I decided to go with purple even though it is far away from my favourite colours. I knew it would create a great contrast (and it did!). By the time I had already ordered the lining fabric, I was in the middle of printing the book and the bedding for our anniversary (check the links, these are two cool projects which I did with digital drawings and screen printing). The screen was wet, there was still paint left on it and I had the lining fabric – one plus one and I printed the same images in white on the purple fabric creating a personalised unique signature lining!
STEP TWO: SUITS MAKING
Man, sewing tartan isn’t easy! Thankfully when I started the suits I had a little bit of practice with the tartan trousers and a plaid dress I made for my trip to England and more or less had an idea of how. We both were not exactly sure of what. Eventually, we have decided that Andrew will have a full tartan suit with skinny trousers and I would have flappy trousers and a blouse.
I had to remake his trousers quite a few times: either the lines were not straight, or the trousers were too loose, or then too narrow… Trust me, there were many issues and I can say that I don’t like making male trousers haha :)
Mine, on the other hand, were done from scratch in ONE day. I got so focused and I just couldn’t stop! My favourite part of flappy wide oversized trousers is that they work perfectly with elastic in the belt and there’s no need for all that zipper nonsense. I love elastic! And despite such a short time for the making, all the patterns are perfectly aligned, pockets are great and they sit and feel fantastic! My favourite pair of trousers ever!
Andrew’s blazer took me about a week, it was very much guesswork (as I do things in life most of the time); lining was sewn by hand. I also added a purple hanky to match the lining. I had no time for pockets, oh well. But the blazer sits great, it’s not woollen but looks like an easy summer one (now I know that plain cotton is not good for suit making, learning through mistakes yes).
And the blouse had to be done from the leftovers: I was badly lacking fabric and there was no time to order more. With my love to deadlines, I was attaching the buttons one hour before the event, oops!
STEP THREE: ACCESSORIES
Purple lining dictated the colour for the wee details. I got Andrew a purple tie and it looked just great! I needed a bag of some form and I decided to go with the whole kilt concept. You might have noticed that when men wear a kilt they have a furry bag/pocket attached to the front: a sporran. There it was! I needed a furry bag! I ordered cheesy fake fur fabric and made myself a furry clutch to finish off the look :)
LAST STEP: DRAW ATTENTION
We were absolutely the most noticeable couple at the event! And when we wore the suits again to take photographs for this post we gathered around us a good bunch of tourists wondering what kind of stars we were haha.
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xx, love, hug, Liza
* “A to Z of Style”, Amy de la Haye. V&A Publishing, 2011. London