The oldest recorded Scottish tartan has been revived for modern wear.

Estimated read time 3 min read

Experts have recreated the oldest known piece of tartan, originally found in a peat bog.

Discovered four decades ago in a marsh in Glen Affric in the Scottish Highlands, the plaid fabric underwent thorough examination last year to verify its status as the oldest remaining fragment of the classic design.

The Scottish Tartans Authority has verified that the Glen Affric tartan originated between 1500 and 1600. It was later displayed at the V&A Dundee.

The House of Edgar, with the help of a tartan historian, has produced a new version of the garment for people to wear using tartan fabrics.

The plaid showcases the hues that were verified through analyzing the dye of the authentic fabric. This includes the incorporation of green, yellow, and red, which were likely derived from woad or indigo to achieve the green, as well as other natural dyes.

The original Glen Affric tartan laid on top of the newly recreated tartan

Emma Wilkinson, the designer at House of Edgar who was involved with this project, stated: “While I am constantly creating new tartans, this particular project holds a special place for me – it’s a rare chance to revive a piece of the past.”

“Tartan is such an iconic piece of Scotland’s identity and it has been a true pleasure to see this fabric come back to life to be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Peter E MacDonald, the head of research and collections at the Scottish Tartans Authority, assisted the manufacturer in recreating the product. According to MacDonald, examining the Glen Affric specimen was a privilege as it is a remarkable example of our textile history that has managed to survive.

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Through a combination of dye analysis, carbon-14 dating, and a thorough examination of the item, in partnership with House of Edgar, we have successfully resurrected a tartan that offers a glimpse into the past and allows us to connect with history.

“It is truly remarkable to witness the tartan being recreated as it may have appeared 500 years in the past.”

According to James Wylie, who works as an assistant curator at V&A Dundee, the Glen Affric tartan made a huge impact when it was first unveiled before the Tartan exhibition opened. It has remained a popular attraction for visitors in the nine months since.

“I am thrilled that the Scottish Tartans Authority and House of Edgar have taken on the task of reinterpreting the design of this legacy, allowing its beauty and historical significance to continue to be appreciated by all who love tartan.”


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