May
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Tartan Variations – Ancient, Modern, Hunting, Dress or Weathered?

If you use our Tartan Finder to search for your family Tartan, you might notice that your name returns several Tartans, each with a slightly different range of colours used in the design. There are a selection of colour variations used in the Tartan industry, and this article will explain the differences between each one.Tartan Kilts on Display

The 5 main variations in Tartan styles are Ancient, Modern, Hunting, Dress and Weathered (sometimes referred to as Withered or Muted). Within these groups you can also have a mixing of some of the style, for example a Ancient Hunting Robertson Tartan, or a Modern Dress Gordon Tartan. (Though you can’t get an Ancient-Modern Tartan combination!)

Ancient Tartan

Tartan’s with the prefix ‘Ancient’ are not necessarily older than other Tartans, it simply refers to the colour palette used in the design. The colours are often softer and lighter to what you would see in a ‘Modern’ Tartan design. These colours are choosen to have a closer link to the historical colours of Tartans in years gone by – produced with the natural dyes available. The colours are pastel-like, creating a softer feel, and giving the look of material that is worn beyond its years.

Modern Lamont with Ancient Lamont Tartan Comparison

Here you can see the Ancient and Modern Lamont Tartans. Note that the Sett of the Tartan is the Same, but the colours used in the Ancient Version are lighter/pastel.

Modern Tartan

As with ‘Ancient’ Tartan’s, the name ‘Modern’ relates to the colours used in the Tartan, not the date of the design. Ancient and Modern design’s tend to share the same sett, the change is in the colour palette used. While ‘Ancient’ Tartan use lighter softer colours, ‘Modern’ Tartans use stronger, darker colours.

Hunting Tartan

Hunting Tartans traditionally were worn when the wearer was on a hunt. To tie in with this, the colours usual are suited to match with the woodland background linked with a hunt – Greens and browns being the strongest colour here.

MacPhail, MacRae, MacGregor and MacFarlane Hunting Tartans

Hunting Tartans - MacFarlane Hunting Modern, MacGregor Hunting Ancient, MacPhail Hunting Ancient and MacRae Hunting Modern Tartans

Dress Tartan

It is often easy to identify Dress Tartan’s with the abundance of white thread used to make up the design (An exception to this is the Dress MacLeod Tartan, which uses yellow thread instead of the normal white). These designs are most popular with Highland Dancing Kilts, though they can also been worn to give a brighter looking Tartan Kilt. Dress Gordon is perhaps the most recongizable Tartan in this range as it has been incorporated into many popular fashion items such as scarves and jacket linings.

Dress Gordon, MacDonald, Gillies and MacLeod Tartans

Modern Dress MacDonald, Ancient Dress Gillies, Modern Dress Gordon and Ancient Dress MacLeod Tartans. Note that the MacLeod Dress Tartan Uses Yellow instead of White

Weathered Tartan

Tartans of the Weathered Styling use a colour palette to reflect the name – tones that are faded, giving a look of the Kilt being aged by exposure to inclement weather. In years gone by the Great Kilt worn by the Scots would have endured the harsh Scottish Weather and terrain. The Great Kilt would be used to protect the wearer from the elements, and would gain a worn and aged look from this. (Weather Tartans are also sometimes referred to as ‘Withered’ or ‘Muted’, depending on what Mill that Cloth is produced from.)

Watson, Sutherland, Murray of Atholl and MacLaren

A range of Weathered (Withered) Tartan - Watson, Sutherland, Murray of Atholl and MacLaren. You can see the Browns and Weather-Beaten Colours used here.

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While there are many different varieties of Tartan to choose from, at the end of the day it is down to preference what Tartan you decide upon. There is no right or wrong Tartan for any occasion – as long as the wearer likes it! Search now for all your families Tartans with our Tartan Finder!

 

 

 

 

  1. A nice explanation although you omitted the detail that “Modern” colours are actually a century older than the so-called “Ancient” hues.

    Comment by Dr Phil Smith on July 31, 2015 at 5:35 pm

  2. [...] close!!!), I found my family “hunting” tartan.  For those not familiar with tartan, here’s a nice blog on the variation one family tartan might come in.    And naturally a hunting tartan [...]

    Pingback by The Tartan Coat « SewingArtistry.com on November 24, 2015 at 12:01 pm