Tartan tea dress: inspirations behind the project

I’m constantly on the look out for new designs or fabrics to inspire my next project. Since I got married and made my own tartan shawl in the OH’s family tartan, (see photos from our 2015 wedding here and wedding sewing/DIY projects here), I keep thinking about how I can bring in more of Scottish culture and history into my designs.

One that I feel personal about is the OH’s family tartan. Unfortunately I learned from making the wedding stole (see here) that the family hunting tartan is not one that is sold commercially so will cost more for this particular tartan to be sourced (the half metre of light woolen tartan fabric cost me about £36 for the stole). Even if I can’t use the OHs’ family tartan, I figured I can still use another tartan for my next dressmaking project.


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Using a commercially available tartan fabric makes it less personal, but it still brings something that’s inherently Scottish into the world of fashion. Not that I’d really be making a statement, tartan has been used in various fashion cultures from punk fashion to high street (such as Ness, see here) to designers like Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen.

Maybe it’s the history behind each tartan and how it’s significant to each family, maybe it’s the repeated use of colours on a simple checked pattern, but the tartan has always held an appeal to me. You can easily match the repetition in the fabric to make it look like a continuous piece is used for each garment, or you don’t have to worry about matching the pattern at all. It is such a simple yet beautiful design to work with and I have thought about re-using a vintage pattern which I made my first dress with to make a tea dress with exposed front zip with the red, black and white Stewart-style tartan cotton fabric I recently purchased.

To give you an idea of how well tartan fabric works in fashion, I’ve included some photos that inspired me below. The use of tartan fabrics have ranged from punk-style dress to work wear, casual tunics or shirt dresses to more traditional style Scottish wedding dresses made entirely from the family’s tartan.


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What do you think about the use of tartan fabric for a dress? Have you made a garment from tartan fabric recently?

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