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.
(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.
(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
(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.
(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.
(Scottish): It's a simple knitted style cap similar
to the famous "Blue Bonnets" of the Bonnie Prince Charlie
(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.
(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!
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.
(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.
(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.
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.
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.