BP12 - The Secret Life of Tartan
Blog Post: The Secret Life of Tartan
How A Cloth Shaped A Nation
In this book, one as colorful and rich as its subject, Vixy Rae sets out to tell "The Secret Life of Tartan"
and, as she says in her author's note, "to understand how a cloth can define a nation."
Rae's relationship with tartan has seesawed over the years. As a kid, she wasn't exactly keen on the iconic patterns. Growing up in Edinburgh in the 70s and 80s, Rae says that "it was clear even to my childish eyes that tartan had become a pastiche parody of itself." She talks about being repelled by "the regimented form of the cloth."
But that youthful resistance to tartan evolved, and Rae started to appreciate "the irresistible pull that compels its wearers to use it to define, stand out and in some cases shock."
This handsome book ranges far and wide to uncover the history of tartan - touching on everything from Jacobite poetry, traditional weaving techniques, the Bay City Rollers, the Romans, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, grunge, rebellion, warfare, pattern design, royal decrees, clan pride, color choices, and more.
Rae, a fashion designer, is the owner and creative director of Stewart Christie & Co. an Edinburgh institution, which is also Scotland's oldest bespoke tailor. Her sense of legacy and craft is pronounced, and yet she brings an artist/rebel sensibility to the story of tartan.
The Secret Life of Tartan is filled with lovely color photos of regal tartans, of fashion shoots using tartan, of historical images, with in-depth interviews with others, like Rae, who are instrumental in the preservation and revitalization of tartan in Scotland and around the world - textile experts, archivists, and designers.
Anyone interested in these iconic fabrics and the rich history and deep sense of regional identity woven into them will find plenty to enjoy in Rae's sumptuous book.