In the era of the European Romantic movement around the turn of the 19th century, the Scottish Highlands became the subject of international fascination. Ideas about Scotland which took hold at this period remain with us to the present day, and continue to be expressed through traditional dress and material culture.
National Museums Scotland holds a significant collection of Highland dress and tartan clothing, ranging in date from the early 18th to the 20th century. The collection is particularly rich in material from the early 19th century, a time when tartan was emerging as a popular fashion fabric in Britain and when Highland dress was becoming known as the national costume of Scotland through its association with the Romantic movement.
The aim of this two-year research project is to survey and re-interpret the Highland dress and tartan fashion holdings of National Museums Scotland, assessing them for further research and display potential. While the project will focus primarily upon assessing garments and accessories, research will also be undertaken across the Museum’s documentary material, to fully understand the political, cultural and commercial contexts of the Highland dress and tartan fashion collection.
Research resulting from this project is featured in the major summer exhibition Wild and Majestic: Romantic Visions of Scotland (National Museum of Scotland: 26 June – 10 November 2019), in a series of rich costume displays. Other outputs from the project will include a study day and two peer-review articles.
Above: William Grant Foundation Research Fellow Rosie Waine and Baillie Gifford Textile Conservator Rosie Nuttall examine a tartan cloak in preparation for the exhibition Wild and Majestic: Romantic Visions of Scotland.
This project runs from 2018–2020 and is supported by the William Grant Foundation.