With a proud Scotsman as a father it’s hardly surprising that tartan has played a big role in my fashion life. As the nineties trend shows no signs of letting up, I’m pleased to see that the fashion world once again shares my love of the traditional highland material.
Ever since I can remember there has been tartan in one form or another in my wardrobe. Early pictures of me at family occasions, before we were able to choose our own clothes, will show my sister and I in matching tartan skirts standing with Dad, full of Scottish pride in his kilt, and my mum, smiling – probably because she was the only one not forced to wear tartan. These early memories are filled with itchy, scratchy material that made me fidget and fuss even more than usual
Once I could choose my own clothes I thought those days were far behind me. But designers like Vivienne Westwood and the punk movement brought tartan to the forefront of fashion. Tartan was an anti-trend, a symbol of rebellion and the uniform of the defiant youth. By the early nineties I found myself reaching for tartan again but this time out of choice and to the despair of my mum who no doubt remembered the tantrums as I was struggled in to the itchy fabric not too many years before.
The trend reared its highland head once again a few years later as the School Disco phase swept the club scene. My late teens and early twenties were mostly spent dancing to bad retro music in tartan mini-skirts, white shirts and badly tied ties but probably the least said about that the better.
Now as I approach my (gulps) thirties I am pleased to see that the Scottish favourite is once again populating our catwalks and high streets. This time the school girlish charm of tartan is but a distant memory, much more likely to be paired with chunky ankle boots and leather than lollipops and knee-highs. The grown-up-grunge look has snowballed through the last couple of seasons and this year you can barely see in Topshop for all the tartan.
The best thing about the trend this time round is that there is a tartan for everyone; sharp pencil skirts in deep red shades can toughen up a girlie office look or dark green and blue checked skinnies are perfect for giving some retro punk attitude to your off duty look.
From the tartan mini-skirt I could never quite bring myself to throw away to the tartan dress I bought specially for a family burns night (only to be informed by my Dad that it was the “wrong” tartan), the itchy, scratchy fabric will always have a special place in my heart, but then so will the rolling hills of bonnie Scotland.
By Samantha Vandersteen