Plaid Instructions and other Observations on Scottish Reenacting

These are some notes I made following a request for information on wearing the plaid on the alt.living.history newsgroup. I have kept them as pre-formatted text because of the ascii diagram.



These instructions are from a complete novice having only worn the plaid
 (or philibegs!) on two days fighting as a highlander for Bonnie Prince
 Charlie at the battle of Prestonpans last year. That isnít as bad as it
 sounds because I have had to get it really straight in my own mind what to
 do, so that it comes out OK. 

 It is also translated from the Scottish!

     1-------------------------------------------------------3
     !                                                       !
     !            6 yards of tartan (a plaid)                !
 []  ===========@                                            !
 ^   !     belt                                              !
You  !                                                       !
     2-------------------------------------------------------4

You need 6 yards of tartan for this.  Some of the bigger guys had 8 yards.

1.  Find a space 6 yards long in a sheltered position. Stand at one
    end of the space.

2.  Lay a belt out with the inside facing upwards and the buckle 
    away from you 

3.  Lay the plaid out in a line with the near end on top of the belt.
    on top of the belt.

4.  Kneel down at the end and grasp either edge of the plaid about   
    2 ft 6 in along the plaid.

5.  Pull the two edges fairly taut and move your hands towards you to   
    form a pleat of about 3 inches.  

6.  Continue like that folding the plaid over to form pleats.  The 
    pleats should overlap a lot but not be piled right on top of each
    other.

7.  Continue to make pleats until there is about 2 feet left at the 
    far end which is not pleated. Stop pleating!

8.  You now have a pleated plaid except for 2 feet at either end.
    Lay on plaid with your feet to the right so that the pleats run 
    head to foot.  The bottom (formerly right hand) edge of the plaid 
    should be about knee length.

9.  Wrap over the two unpleated ends (corner 4 over 2) and, whilst 
    lying prone, fasten your belt

10. Stand up!

11. Adjust the *skirt* for length so that your knees are just    
    showing.  

12. Take the top half of the plaid which is hanging down over your   
    belt and find the two corners.  The Scots tend to do this by 
    throwing the top part of the plaid over their head to straighten 
    it out. These will be the two corners from the former left hand 
    side (corners 1 & 3).  Fasten the two corners with a pin or tying 
    around left shoulder.  Tuck any spare bits into belt making folds 
    of fabric round your waist which can be used as pockets etc.  
    There does not seem to be any set pattern for this.

It sounds as unstable as nitro-glycerine in hell but suprisingly it does
 tend to hang together.  

I donít know what period you are re-enacting but, as the Jacobite
 rebellion (1745-6) saw the end of the highlanders as such, these
 comments are probably OK for most periods.

    Sporrans are not authentic.
    Clan tartans are not authentic.  An eye witness who saw the   
    Jacobites in 1745 observed that no two tartans were the same.    
    Clan tartans are a later invention.
    Underwear is not authentic BUT if you have a long shirt then you 
    can fasten (tie?) it between your legs.  After Braveheart I think  
    everyone knows what is worn under the kilt!
      It will give you a chance to tell the old joke:-

      Lady:-      Tell me my man is anything worn under the kilt?
      Scotsman:-  Nae Madam, everything is in perrfect working order!

Trews are authentic & better if its cold.  Trews appear to be cut with 
the tartan on the legs going at the opposite diagonal to the body.  
The fly fastening seems to be an overlap with buttons to the side. 
 Find a good costume book if you intend to go that route!

Hope that this helps.  It has certainly helped me to analyse what
 I did, and was shown, at Prestonpans.