Ah, Burns Night. Scotland’s gift to those of us fully recovered from the festive season and desperate to bring a bit of spirit-lifting glam to these dreich January nights. And the perfect gown for a night of whisky and dancing? Why a tartan one, of course – did you really need to ask?
Tartan embodies so much that is vintage chic, it is universally flattering and guaranteed to garner all the attention. Those interlocking jewel colours leap from the fabric and create the most splendid blur when swirling around the dance floor. If you adopt a vintage style then you will be au fait with the idea that what you wear carries more than just a superficial style message. Every gown tells multiple stories of fashion history, design and culture, not to mention the personal stories of those who wore a dress just like yours.
Tartan is particularly rich in history but not quite the way you would imagine. A fairly recent addition to the iconography of Scotland, it really became a fashionable commodity when Queen Victoria settled at Balmoral and Walter Scott wrote novels steeped in a romanticised Highland tradition. The idea of a “clan” tartan is a fairly recent invention, too, and one that is exploited in the tourist shops of (lowland) Edinburgh where visitors can buy a kilt for any vaguely Scottish-sounding surname. If you are lucky enough to own a piece of vintage Westwood it may well be a tartan creation from her 1977 Seditionaries collection, and since then, a host of glossy modern American designers have appropriated tartan to lend an air of romance and history to their collections, too.
But let’s forget what we think we know about tartan, remember that when we adopt a vintage style we are taking something classic and beautiful to celebrate it on our own terms; we can add something of ourselves and become our own work of art each time we wear it. So, wear Bonny Betsy with a neat little soft wool cardi and flats for cute appeal or match it with DMs for a spiky post punk feel. Go glam for Burns Night adding a petticoat to make that skirt dance, and you’re ready to cock the wee finger in the best of style. Slainte mhath!