Originally published May 31 2001.
Author: Ceilidh Lerwick
Celtic Clothing Part 2
The following is the second article in a series about Celtic clothing. The term “Celtic Clothing” is as broad a statement as “American Clothing” or any other culture for that matter. If you were to look at what you are wearing right now and then compare it to what a person in your situation would have worn 100 years ago or 500 years ago, the differences would most likely out number the similarities. There are also regional variations that can throw a wrench in the works as well (like how a Texas rancher would dress vs. a $500/hour NY City Attorney). Please keep in mind that is published in this newsletter is correct to the best of my knowledge. I try very hard to be accurate and true and to specify when it is my opinion and when it isn’t.
A Comparison With the Historical Greek Mode of Dress
Were going to diverge a bit from the last issue and take a comparative look at the historical Greek mode of dress. It may seem a bit off course at first, but by the end of this series I promise there will be a definitive connection. Take a close look at the pictures and descriptions on the following page http://www.firstnethou.com/annam/costhist.html/ancient.html/index.html
While not exactly a Great kilt or Arisaid, the similarities are definitely there. Wrapping a large amount of cloth around one’s body and then belting it in for one thing. Fastening it together with 1 or more pins or brooches for another. Also take a good look at the neckline on the bronze statue (Doric woman) and compare it to the 15th century leine (Celtic under dress) at left. Anything look familiar?
Now look at the Ionic Chiton a bit further down on the page and compare to this version of the leine at right. Notice the sleeves?
Now take a look at a later period, the Hellenistic and Byzantium period in Greek history seen here: http://www.firstnethou.com/annam/costhist.html/byzantio.html/index.html
Take a good look at the statue of the man and picture it with a breast plate or close fitting short jacket. Then click on over to these pictures of a Celtic Man in the 16th century:
And let’s not miss the description of the Greek dalmatic further down on the page which is also the basic description of the Celtic leine.
Please keep in mind here that these Greek garments were all made of either woven wool or linen which are also the main fabrics for the Celtic leine.
And let’s go one last round, this time with the later period garments. Look at the men’s garments on these pages:
I must admit that the pictures are not as good as I’d like. I’ve seen this mode of dress up close and personal (as they say) and its amazing how much the foustanella looks like a modern kilt. The two major differences are 1.) The foustanella is almost always white, not striped and colorful, and 2.) The pleats go all the way around the garment, not just in the back like the Scot’s kilt.
Ok, so at this point, despite the similarities, you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with anything. Unfortunately I do not currently have any concrete facts to support my theories. However, I will attempt to form a feasible hypothesis.
1-It is known from history that the Celts were fierce warriors of whom the Greeks were afraid. The Celts would go on Raiding Parties to Greece, coming down by the droves to raid and plunder what ever they could.
2-It is very common for a conquering group of people (even if the conquering is just of one battle/raid) to take as their own what ever they want; including clothing styles.
3-It is a common theme throughout history that the fashions of the controlling power or at least of those with great power (in this case the Greeks); those fashions are emulated by those of lessor power (in this case the Celts).
4-There is an amazing similarity between the history of Greek Clothing and the history of Celtic Clothing.
It is my conclusion that there was a very strong connection between the Greek mode of dress and the Celtic and I will expand more on this in the next issue including what the leine has to do with the development of the Kilt. I will also continue on in the discussion of where the Scot’s Kilt came from and the concept of the Irish kilt.
If you would like more information on the topics covered in this issue, please see the following sites: