Traditional Scottish Dress: From Sporrans to Fanny Packs

By Katy McCoy

If there was a Scottish version of the board game Clue, the suspects would be a fishmonger, a farmer, a weaver, and a pub-regular and the weapons would be bagpipes, cabers, and large stones. If only we could also choose their wardrobe pieces. Unlike Clue, little is left to the imagination when it comes to traditional Scottish dress that includes the kilt, tartan, and sporran.

            The kilt has always been compared to a skirt for men. Now, I don’t know about all men, but I do know that you can’t pay most of them enough to wear a skirt in public. However, unlike most men today, the men of Scotland were not ashamed to show a little leg in a knee-length, plaid piece of fabric that pleated in the back. These kilts were once part of the military uniform for the Scottish army, then part of the Scottish Highlands experience that can be roughly compared with today’s Olympics. Today the kilt is worn as a costume that represents the country’s heritage and is usually saved for special occasions.

            The tartan, or “plaid”, was a rectangular piece of fabric that was wrapped around the left shoulder, usually matching the kilt. This piece of fabric, usually plaid and made from wool, was a symbol of the region or clan that one came from. It was of extreme importance to represent who you were and where you came from. Who knows, maybe these tartans could have been the inspiration for Nike’s Texas flag shorts that have been trending recently!

            Sporrans were the fanny packs of traditional Scottish culture. Usually made from leather or fur, these tiny bags served as a container for personal items, seeing as how there were no pockets on the kilt. They were either attached to the belt or would hang below the belt buckle in front, on the side, or behind the body. Although those sporrans weren’t Louis Vuitton like Rihanna’s, they were considered very high quality and a sign of social standing.




Scottish Influence in Contemporary Fashion

            All jokes aside, traditional Scottish attire did and does have an affect on contemporary fashion in today’s world. Two of today’s distinguished designers, Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood often incorporate Scottish elements into their designs. McQueen’s work often reflected his Scottish heritage. Collections titled Highland Rape (Autumn/Winter 1995-96) and Widows of Culloden (Autumn/Winter 2006-07) were two of his collections that were based off of Scottish events and happenings. In these collections, certain items like the tartan and plaid wool were re-introduced in quite unique, biographical and political ways.

            Vivienne Westwood also adopts traditional Scottish elements into her designs through the use of tartan fabric, rich colors, and unique checked patterns and plaid. She has done unbelievably beautiful things through her ability to mix and match different tartan textiles into a contemporary garment. Interestingly enough, Westwood’s tartans were made to order by Locharron, where we’ll be headed in only a short few days!





Beyond Braveheart: To Learn More about Scotland and its Native Dress:

“About the Exhibition”.  (2011).  The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  (Web log            comment).  Retrieved from

Chambers, Ryan.  (2010,  April 26).  Scottish clothing- traditional dress.  (Web      log comment).  Retrieved from     traditional-dress/

“Dress: Tartans & Kilts”.  Windsor’s Scottish Heritage.  Retrieved from  

“Vivienne Westwood’s Philosophy and Influences in Contemporary Design”.  UK           Essays. Retrieved from   westwoods-philosophy-and-influences.php

Photo References:

Photo 1: “Dress: Tartans & Kilts”.  Windsor’s Scottish Heritage.  Retrieved from  

Photo 2: “Ten People Wearing Fanny Packs”.  (2010, December 22).  Now That’s Nifty. Retrieved from         wearing-fanny-packs.html#.T7HHg82_aeY

Photo 3: “About the Exhibition”.  (2011).  The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  (Web  log comment).  Retrieved from          culloden/

Photo 4: “Using Traditional Fabrics in a Modern, Untraditional Way is Considered           Postmodern”.  Fashion & Textiles Design. (Web log comment).  Retrieved    from

1 thought on “Traditional Scottish Dress: From Sporrans to Fanny Packs

  1. In these days, traditional days don’t look so traditional . I observe that traditional looks was also a nice way to apparently be more fashionable and iconic because there were some liable looks which are made from the past creations . Cheers for this idea!

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