ABERDEEN-L ArchivesArchiver > ABERDEEN > 2006-02 > 1140169668
From: Gavin Bell <>
Subject: Re:[ABERDEEN] 19th Century Dress
Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2006 09:48:01 +0000
> I've been trying to imagine my 19th century Aberdeenshire ancestors'
> daily lives, and I think I need to know more about what they wore.
The first thing that needs to be said is that the 19th Century covered a
lot of ground, and that any generalisation is almost guaranteed to be
> As these were Lowland people, I will assume that the men wore trews
> rather than kilts.
If by 'trews' you mean 'trousers made of tartan cloth', then I very much
doubt it. Trews do figure in the dress uniforms of some of the Lowland
Regiments, but I am not aware they were ever a common item of wear by
ordinary people. And the implication that, if they hadn't been
Lowlanders, they would have been wearing kilts is probably also
inaccurate. Highland Dress was banned by one of the punitive Acts
passed after 1746, and the only people allowed to wear it were serving
soldiers in Highland Regiments. The prohibition was subsequently
repealed (sorry, can't remember the date) but I don't think the
Highlands then breathed a corporate sigh of relief and all put on their
In fact, 'highland dress' was in effect re-invented, as a deliberate act
of historical whimsy, by Sir Walter Scott and his antiquarian chums for
the visit of George IV to Scotland in 1822 (read John Prebble's
entertaining account of this, 'The King's Jaunt').
> Although Ray tells me ... his wife's
> grandfather's family were tailors in Newburgh, who specialized in
> making kilts and they made many of them for the local farmers.
I don't know Sheena's grandfather's precise dates, but she is about my
age, so I reckon we're looking at late 19th, early 20th Century
> So, I will ask a follow-up question: Would kilts have been 'everyday'
> work-wear for farmers and farm servants in the 19th century,
I think that is very unlikely
> or were kilts reserved for 'dress' wear.)
I would think so - and I would also reckon it would still have been only
among a minority. A modern kilt is a notoriously labour-intensive piece
of work, so I think that then, as now, it would have been a luxury item.
> But what did the male farm servants wear?
Such photographs as I have of family members in a work setting (probably
around 1880-1900) shows them all in trousers, with 'grandad shirts' (ie,
shirts with separate collars, but for work purposes worn without the
collar), often with a waistcoat, and invariably with a hat. There was a
strict hierarchy in hats: ordinary workmen would wear a flat bonnet,
but more senior figures might have a bowler hat.
One traditional feature among farm workers was that they tied their
trousers with cords just below the knee, in a style referred to a 'nicky
> And the women?
I have no 'outdoor' pictures of any of my female ancestors, only posed
> Did they have separate outfits for "good" (i.e. church clothes) that
> were different in style from their workaday clothes?
They would definitely have had 'Sunday best', but how 'different' its
style was would be a matter of point of view. The men would have put on
a collar and tie, and a jacket, but I suspect that, after it had served
its term as a 'best' suit, the same clothes would have been re-cycled as
|Re:[ABERDEEN] 19th Century Dress by Gavin Bell <>|