The most festive fabric around, tartan comes to life this time of year as folks start dressing for holiday parties and getting in the season’s spirit. Long a preppy staple, tartan also played a starring role in fall collections from Saint Laurent and Carven. The toast of the tartan season happens this weekend at the 65th Annual Tartan Ball, hosted by the St. Andrew’s Society of Washington, D.C. at the Mayflower Hotel to benefit their Washington Scots Charity & Education Fund. We did a little investigation on the storied fabric with some help from Ball co-chair J. Ashton McRae. Patterns are specific to a Scottish clan; each clan can have multiple tartans and many tartans have multiple variations based on color/dye–“ancient” and “modern” as well as “hunting” (usually a green base–like camouflage) and “dress” (a Victorian creation inverting the background to show more white, as the Victorians felt it looked better at formal occasions). Brooks Brothers, a sponsor of the Ball, has debuted its own tartan in partnership with Royal Warrant kilt maker Kinloch Anderson. Last year, we enjoyed the Ball as a guest of Brooks, sipping Scotch and appreciating the Highland dancing and bagpipe music. (PS: We’d be remiss in our tartan talks if we failed to mention The Adventures of Tartanscot, designer Scot Meacham Wood’s blog which is a great seasonal inspiration–notably his annual holiday decorating contest.)

BELT: Smathers & Branson // ANTLERS: Early 20th C. Antique // KILT (WHITE): Carven // KILT (RED): Saint Laurent // TOTE BAG: Brooks Brothers // CUMMERBUND & BOW TIE: Brooks Brothers // CHEST: 19th C. English Antique // BRACELET: Kiel James Patrick for Brooks Brothers