How do Women Wear Tartan?


How do Women Wear Tartan?

You probably hear people asking all the time, “Do women wear tartan?” Okay, maybe not literally all the time. Some of the time, though, we bet, someone asks, “Do women wear tartan?”

We’re sorry if you’ve been losing sleep over this critical question. You don’t deserve that kind of treatment. You have a real, legitimate question, and someone should answer it for you.

This family-owned and operated company with a wide variety of authentic tartans is uniquely suited to answer your question. Shall we begin?

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Why Might a Woman Have Tartan Questions?

Those recently initiated to the world of kilts and tartans might wonder why anyone would ask this question. Why should a 21st-century woman care how or what she should wear? The simple answers come down to tradition and pop culture.

When many people think of tartans, they think of William Wallace or Jamie Fraser. A woman who has recently discovered their Irish or Scottish heritage may be unsure of the tartan rules. She may wonder, “Are there even tartan rules?”

Since the image of men in kilts has saturated the public imagination, these are natural questions. People may wonder since pictures of women in tartan are comparatively rare if women are even allowed to wear tartan. If women are “allowed” to wear it, then when do women wear tartan?

Let’s take a look at how women have historically worn tartan and some of the customary expectations.

Hostess Kilted Skirt 


Kiltsplaining 101: Tradition

We will start with traditional women’s tartan-wearing practices.

The customary piece of Scottish womens wear is the earasaid (or arisaid in its Anglicized form). The earasaid did not necessarily have a tartan pattern, but it could have a tartan motif.

If you picture a long, floor-length kilt that belts around the waist, you’ll have some idea of the earasaid. But wait, there’s more!

The wearer could then take the material and wrap it around their shoulders and pin it in front. Women would usually take any additional material around the shoulders to form a hood. In effect, it was a prototype for those blanket/hoodie combination garments that commercials insist you wear to football games.

Earasaid had the additional benefit of hiding the wearer while they snuck in a quick church nap. 

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There were additional traditions surrounding head-coverings for both married and unmarried women. Often, these head-coverings also had corresponding hairstyles. You probably won’t see many of these in Scotland today, so we won’t go too in-depth on this aspect.

Getting Fancy

Earasaid and the traditional head-covering customs were for day-to-day wear. Evening wear and special occasions bring with them additional options and practices for tartan.

The uniformity of European and American men’s fashion is a double-edged sword. Formal and professional menswear brings with it a complicated code, a peculiar language, and many rules. Parameters make it harder to make a mistake, but also more apparent when you do; they can also limit creativity.

Women’s fashion doesn’t suffer from the same constrictions in most respects. When it comes to formal wear, women have much more latitude for innovation.

The same holds true for when a woman chooses to wear tartan.

Tartan skirts can be any length or style. Women may choose to forgo a skirt or dress altogether and wear tartan pants.

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What You Gonna Do With All That Sash?

To the extent that Americans are familiar with seeing women wear tartan, they have likely seen them wearing a sash. People may wonder, “How do women wear tartan sashes?”

As recently as 1979, the popular reference text So You’re Going to Wear the Kilt had specific tartan sash guidelines. According to this book, wearing the sash pinned on the right shoulder was the rule of thumb. 

It seems simple, right?

This formula was followed by exceptions and weirdly specific rules for how to drape your sash depending on marital status. 

Guidelines like these are largely outdated in this day and age, which means women have lots of freedom.

Our take? Let your freak sash fly!

Rosette Sash


Creative Ways for Women to Wear Tartan

Sashes, skirts, and earisaids don’t have to be your only options for tartan womenswear. There are plenty of innovative, stylish, and non-traditional opportunities. 

If sashes aren’t really your style, never fear. The Celtic Croft offers a fun alternative to the sash in the form of the rosette and mini-rosette sash. A rosette can be a small, feminine way to display your heritage at a function without dominating your outfit!

Affix a brooch to your rosette for added flair and clan pride.

Women should feel free to wear the tartan of their choice in any form. Tartan can appear on scarves, shawls, and even handbags.

You have options if don’t feel like wearing tartan (hey, maybe your clan tartan isn’t the most flattering for you)! Men and women alike can outfit their homes in the tartan of their choices with blankets and pillows. When it comes to tartan, the options are almost endless.

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The Celtic Croft for Your Tartan Ladieswear Needs

If you are a longtime tartan aficionado or are looking to wear tartan for the first time, we can help. Our ladieswear line has all of the items we covered here (except the traditional head coverings, that’s on you). We also have footwear, sarongs, and jewelry.

If you don’t have a specific clan tartan, but want to rock the look, we’ve got you covered. 

As an officially licensed Outlander merchant, we can provide you with items in tartans from the popular TV series! You can get your Claire replica skirts, arisaids, and tartan accessories from the Celtic Croft.

You know you’ve fantasized about walking through the moors with the wind billowing through your arisaid.

Tartan can make a lovely gift to a family member that will become a beloved heirloom for generations. We want you to think of your tartan purchase from the Celtic Croft as an investment in your family heritage. Visit the Celtic Croft to give the gift of tradition from our family to yours.

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Irish Astronomers
Celtic History In the News — December 2019

3 Comments. Leave new

  • Wear the one you love!
    No one really cares.

  • Stephanie Tipton
    April 19, 2021 12:53 pm

    I have known of my Scottish ancestry all my life and there are many clans in my family.What would be the best way to chose which tartan to wear?

    • There is no one right way to answer this question. Some people choose to go with the matriarchal or patriarchal tartan. Others choose the tartan of the family they are closest to. Many choose the tartan they prefer. Hope this helps.


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