The Most Iconic Tartan Moments In Fashion

Christopher Kane Resort 2017 | Courtesy Of Christopher Kane
Christopher Kane Resort 2017 | Courtesy Of Christopher Kane
Photo of Tori Chalmers
31 October 2016

Anointed with a kaleidoscope of colors and a captivating crisscross pattern, tartan is more than a tangible embodiment of Scotland; it is a pattern entangled with history and shrouded in statements. A worthy withstander of time, tartan is forever gracing the catwalks in all manners and forms. From Alexander McQueen and Chanel to Vivienne Westwood, discover the most iconic tartan fashion moments.

Not forgetting the signature plaid blazers from Ralph Lauren, crisscrossing designs adorning Chanel handbags or Christopher Kane’s innovative use of the pattern, perhaps the main culprit guilty of creating the most iconic tartan moment in fashion history is Alexander McQueen. Mourned by millions, McQueen has left this earth but is undeniably immortalized through his ingenious designs. An undying infatuation with Scotland and his linking heritage, this design debonaire appropriated tartan throughout his career, but especially in his AW95 Highland Rape collection.

In true McQueen style, critics were forced to think as bruised and battered looking models bludgeoned down the catwalk draped in ripped swathes of tartan and lace, portraying a sense of calculated disarray. The inspiration behind this provocative collection was the abhorrent mid-18th century occurrence of the Highland Clearances in Scotland. Despite accusations from critics, McQueen’s primary goal was not to objectify women, but to represent them. It was during this famous display of tartan and torment that the ‘bumster’ trouser made its debut.

Never has tartan appeared in such splendor as in the exquisitely dramatic Chanel Métiers d’Art show in 2012. The show was destined to exude ineffable beauty the moment Karl Lagerfeld scheduled it to take place amidst the ruins of Linlithgow Palace, the birth place of Mary Queen of Scots. A great source of inspiration for Coco Chanel, Scotland hosted her on numerous accounts when she visited the Duke Of Westminster during the late 1920s; it is then that she connected with the enchanting land and adored wearing the Duke’s tweeds, tartans and trousers, which in turn, ignited a flame that transformed into a fire while conjuring up some of Chanel’s most iconic designs.

From Scottish supermodel Stella Tennant resembling a vision in a tartan-lined tweed coat and look-at-me branded sporrans to tammy hats, embellished kilt straps on evening dresses, Ghillie dhu hats with sweeping ribbons, and Argyll socks — all of which were riddled with tartan and the epitome of chic — the Chanel Métiers d’Art 2012 show was not just one for Vogue, but one for the history books. The fashion elite fortunate enough to witness such a spectacular affair were covered in luxurious Chanel tartan blankets, acting as a chic alternative to brave the harsh elements of Scotland.

Before Lagerfeld added another collection to the Honours Of Scotland (the Scottish Crown Jewels) Chanel-style with that spectacular Scottish show, Vivienne Westwood was taking her love of tartan to a whole new level — she seemed to wave a tartan wand on nearly every other design. From tartan suits and handbags to jackets, dresses and pretty much the full works, it is no surprise that this zany designer has her own tartan, the McAndreas (named after her husband). Westwood’s AW 1993/94 collection Anglomania was a full blown tartan affair, with supermodels like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista gracing the catwalk resembling tartan clad members of a Scottish pipe band about to break out into the Highland Fling. This was the show where Naomi Campbell — looking like a sight for sore eyes in a kilt — famously lost control of her 10-inch blue mock-croc platform heels and fell. Although Naomi’s catwalk moment is still remembered through gifs and memes to this day, there is no denying that Vivienne Westwood and tartan have shared many a memorable and iconic tartan fashion moment.

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