Cruinneachadh na nGaidheal
 
Home
About Us
Celtic History
Celtic Culture
Gaelic Languages
Celtic Music
Clothing
Crafts & Tools
Warfare
Photo Gallery
Event Schedule
Market Place
FAQs
Links
Guestbook
Contact Us
Join CnG
Members Area
Cultúr Ghaelach
(Irish and Scots Clothing in the 16th Century)

The clothing in Gaelic cultures was very different than that of the townspeople in Scotland and Ireland and even more so than that worn by the English and mainland Europeans. A distinction needs to be made between the garb worn by the Gaels and the garb worn by the Lowland town dwellers and the English, espeically in reenactment. We want to come across as different than the rest and our clothing says it first.

The clothing worn by the Gaels reflects the climate more than glamourus fashion sense and it shows. Their garb was generally 50 years behind the times compared to the styles in other parts of Europe and the textiles tended to be coarser and less refined. Silks and brocades would be a waste to the Gael who had to endure rain, mud, wind and other less than desirable weather. Not only would the fancier fabrics be more expensive than most could afford, they'd not be warm enough and get dirty too quickly. This leaves the heavy woolen cloth and woven linen. Wool was a choice textile because of its "warm even when wet" properties and it's abundance. It was most often used on the heavy outergarments such as breccan (kilts), ionars and women's overdresses. Linen is a fabric spun from a plant making it affordable and perfect for lighter undergarments such as shirts.

The styles themselves tended to be over sized, bulky and with little tailoring. Dresses were loose and unflattering, shirts (léinte) were all purpose garments when outerwear was removed and even the kilt was just a belted piece of hand pleated fabric with not a stitch in it. While the upper classes clothed themselves in fancy trimed outfits, the clothing of the Gaels was more rustic and plain. The styles were more utlitarian and practical, not to impress the neighbors.

The styles worn by men and women were distinct. The main undergarment, the shirt (léine), was worn by both however with little difference between them. Men did not wear women's clothing and women never donned a kilt. Below is a section with pictures, descriptions, and purpose of the articles worn by each of the genders.

Men:
Léine (Both Irish and Scottish): The léine must be made out of linen or a linen/cotton blend. Either a natural or saffron colour is preferred. The léine is a simple shirt with a generous cut, and large, baggy sleeves. Typical lengths ranged from knee to ankle depending on the owners' fancy. They would generally be worn belted up to just above the knee to keep them from dragging in the muck. Léine
Ionar (Both Irish and Scottish): The ionar may be of wool or leather, in any colour, decorated as shown in the Ashmolean and De Heere's illustrations or unadorned as the Kilcommon jacket. Ionar
Breccan (Scottish specific): A plaid can be of wool or a wool blend as long as the blend doesn't lend it an unnatural sheen. Clan tartans were not yet invented so feel free to buy the cheap non distinct patterns form your local fabric store. Much debate still exists over how long the length of plaid should be, a good rule of thumb is at least 5 yards and consider more if your waist is a bit larger. This will be pleated and belted on, not sewn. Please do not iron your pleats, it gives them an obvious look and we want the "just rolled out of bed in this thing" look. Breccan
Boots/shoes (Both Irish and Scottish): Most people went barefoot, but for safety's sake, please wear closed toe boots or shoes. Your best bet is to get a pair of simple leather lace up boots like the Minnetonka kind and cut off the fringe. This will do nicely for your first pair. Boots
Bonaid (Scottish): It's a simple knitted style cap similar to the famous "Blue Bonnets" of the Bonnie Prince Charlie era. Bonaid
Women
Léine (Both Irish and Scottish): The léine must be made out of linen or another suitable natural fabric similar enough to it and either white or saffron-coloured. No current documentation supports the use of any other colours for léine in the 16th century. As mentioned before, women and men both wore this simple shirt with bag sleeves, there is little difference between the gender's garment. Léine
Overdress (Both Irish and Scottish) An overdress must be worn by women. One option for women in our camp is what we call "the tucked-up kirtle". The kirtle is a simple fitted dress popular all over Europe from the 14th century. In the 16th century, Lucas De Heere drew Irishwomen wearing such a garment with a contrasting petticote, tucked up into a belt to show a different coloured fabric or fur lining. The garment laces closed in the front with zig-zag lacing. The sleeves may either be of the "hanging" type shown on the Shinrone gown but it is much simpler to make for a beginner.

Sleeves may be of the hanging variety like the Shinrone gown (and a léine worn showing through). Other sleeve options include fitted sleeves or sleeveless. If the gown is worn sleeveless, a long-sleeved linen under dress or léine must be worn. There is no documentation to support Irish or Scottish women going around with bare arms!
Kirtle




Shinrone
Shinrone Gown
Under Skirts (Both Irish and Scottish) Simple gored skirt or gather waist skirt of linen or wool is acceptable. No plaid skirts, we have no documentation of this being done as early as the 16th century. Under skirts
Earasaid (Scottish Specific) Note this is the modern word for the garment as no name is given for the women's plaide during the 16th century. It's suspected at this time that it was worn more like a wrapped shawl to fight the chill and not belted at all like it's male counterpart. This should also be of a wool or wool blend avoiding blends that have a sheen. Again, clan tartans are a post Renaissance invention and should be avoided at all costs. Not only will a generic piece of plaid from your local fabric store be cheaper, it will also look more rustic and unrefined unlike modern tartans. 3 yards should be sufficient for any woman, if you choose to have more, just be sure you can carry it all. Earasaid
Bréid (Both Irish and Scottish) Women covered their heads after marriage in both Ireland and Scotland. The Irish appear to have less of an obsession over it than the Scottish Gaels did. A linen (or cotton) head covering should be worn by marriage aged women at all times. Pictures can be seen here of the kertch. Wearing hair in braids coiled around the head or loose is also acceptable. Modern hairstyles or colours must be disguised. Bréid
Accessories A belt should be worn and a purse may dangle from it. Medieval turn sole shoes resembling "China flats" should be worn. Modern "Celtic" jewelry should not be worn, stick to torques and other period looking pieces. Clan badges are not period and should not be worn with your garb. Shoe
 
The myths:
Clan Tartans: These were an invention of a later time. The colours and patterns of an individual's plaid had nothing to do with clan affiliation during the 16th century.

2 piece kilts: Do NOT cut your plaide in to two pieces to get the Rob Roy or Braveheart look please. The over the shoulder second piece became popular much later when non-Gaelic nobles took a fancy to "highland" dress and modified it to be attractive rather than practical.

Irish kilts: At this time in history, the Irish were unlikely to wear kilts.


All content (except as noted) is copyright © 2000 - 2006 by Cruinneachadh na nGaidheal
Site Credits | Send Comments