This week’s Genius Idea Friday is a bit on the dated side, so take a second and prepare to put yourself in the mind space of someone in 1740’s Scotland.
A measure by the British to crush Scottish rebellion, the Act of Proscription (essentially a blanket ban of arms and all things Highlander), followed the Culloden defeat of the Jacobites (those supporting Prince Charles Edward Stuart) by the Red Coats in 1745.
The Dress Act of 1746 being part of the Act of Proscription made the wearing of Highland garments a prison-able offense.
Specifically, the Dress Act of 1746 is as follows: That from and after the first day of August, 1746, no man or boy, within that part of Great Briton called Scotland, other than shall be employed as officers and soldiers in his Majesty’s forces, shall on any pretense whatsoever, wear or put on the clothes commonly called Highland Clothes. The plaid, philibeg, or little kilt, trowse, shoulder belts, or any part whatsoever of what peculiarly belongs to the highland garb; and that no tartan, or partly-colored plaid or stuff shall be used for great coats, or for upper coats.
Side note: Philibeg being another word for kilt, and trowse being trousers.
Yes, generations-long, clansmen’ tartans were seen as a threat to British civility.
The Dress Act of 1746 also outlines potential punishments : For the first offense, shall be liable to be imprisoned for 6 months, and on the second offense to be transported to any of His Majesty’s plantations beyond the seas, there to remain for the space of seven years.
7 years of slavery for donning a kilt? Yup, the punishments really fit the crime back then, didn’t they?
Ultimately, the Dress Act of 1746 would be repealed decades later (July 1st, 1782), but not before many tartan designs were lost to history.