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The need for tweed

With autumn in the air, our style blogger Mette’s thoughts are turning to wardrobe updates. And if there’s one item you can fully justify adding to your capsule collection, the tweed jacket is it. Today Mette is delving into the history of this heritage textile, and filling us in on why it continues to captivate designers from Vivienne Westwood to Prada today.

Modern ladies Norfolk jacket in wool with suede details by Freja Designer Dressmaking, photos by First Light Photography

“One of my favourite times of the year is when the festival finishes and Edinburgh is all eerie as the festival goers have all left and the students are not back yet, this is often and crisp and sunny, the bluest skies ever and with the first bite of autumn in the air. This and then, hurrah! We can start to think about the autumn wardrobe.

“For the Scottish climate I feel nothing beats the tweed jacket. Well lets face it, the sheep has worn it here for very long, I LOVE tweed! I know, you have heard me declare my love for Scottish textiles before, but this is the real thing.

“The first known woven Scottish cloth is from 325 AD and my guess is that the technique slowly improved and got more commercial over many years – around 1770 was the first known big shawl for men to wear, which was kind of the forerunner for tweed clothing as we know it today.

“In 1827, tweed clothing was introduced to Cambridge and Oxford, with great success only it wasn’t called tweed yet, this happened around 1830 when a writing error was made and the weave “twill” had been mistakenly written as “tweed”. It was perfect timing, with the story writing of Sir Walter Scott – who had a suit made in the tweed, and the romanticising of Scotland. People started travelling and going to the countryside, and country sports like shooting and golf became popular. The tweed clothing was perfect for this romantic country lifestyle.

“Why is this interesting today? Because we like to mirror the lifestyle of the Victorian aristocracy. We go to work during the week and then we love to go to the countryside and be outdoors at the weekends (although we avoid hunting down endangered species!).

Photo shows Vivienne Westwood Harris Tweed waistcoat in military green (top left), Lola Jacket in Rust Barleycorn Harris Tweed by Walker Slater (bottom left), and tweed ladies wear by Stewart Christie.

“Did you know tweed was the first ever camouflage clothing? Many large estates in Scotland today still have and use their own pattern, the so called Estate Tweed. Traditionally when an estate would chose the cloth they would use for the tweed for the estate, they would contact a mill and ask for a couple of designs of tweed to be wowen up as samples, they would use the natural colours of local area, so in the Grampion region, it would largely be greys to match in with the granite, in the Western Isles a lot of dusky blues and greens, to blend in with the sea and vegetation. The estate would commission two or three designs of cloth, let their Ghillies run into the horizon, and the one who disappeared first, was wearing the best design for this local area, and that design would be chosen for the estate.

“Today lots of designers use tweed in their collections and adore its qualities. One of the best known for this is Vivienne Westwood – her inventive pattern cutting and use of the cloth always takes into account tweed’s heritage and how the cloth was originally used.

“Prada has often used lovely tweed with leather edges in an interpretation of the Norfolk jacket. And local designers, from Walker Slater to Stewart Christie, are doing it well too.

“Scottish tweed is made by wool grown on sheep living off the land, it is one of the very least environmental problematic types of clothing there is, its local and its soooo durable. It’s great in rain, (and we tend to get a bit here in Scotland) and the tweed just lasts forever and ever…

“Invest in a tweed jacket, ask for it for your birthday or Christmas or have a look in your local charity shop, most likely there will be some tweed and it probably looks brand new. Buy it and make it your own, dress it up or down, and use it in some funky combinations with leather and suede, patent, and smooth silks.

“Buy tweed, you will not regret it, it will last forever, both design wise and in actual durability.”

Wool/tweed wedding dress by Freja Designer Dressmaking, Photo by Photos by Zoe. See full wedding here.

A legitimate excuse for an autumn wardrobe update – yay! Anyone thinking of wearing tweed on their wedding day? Christina x

Originally hailing from Denmark but having now made Edinburgh her home (it was love at first sight!), multi award-winning designer dressmaker Mette Baillie is the incredible talent behind Freja Designer Dressmaking.