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The impact of the changes in attitudes towards, and interest in, the Highlands that took place during the reign of Queen Victoria cannot be underestimated. The growth of the rail network in Scotland, the wealth pouring into the country from the colonial empire and the importance of its cities as centres of concentrated military, industrial and intellectual excellence and power, saw its perception in the eyes of the world altered significantly.

The Highlands during this time became a fashionable place to visit for the old and new wealthy, partly due to Victoria?s fondness for Balmoral, partly due to the romanticisation of the region through the novels first of Walter Scott, then Robert Louis Stevenson and others.

A significant proportion of the West Highland Museum?s collection dates from the late eighteenth to early twentieth century, much of which belong specifically to the Victorian period. Click a picture for some examples.

The Fabric of History

The family who donated this piece tell the story that the piece of material used for the dress came from a soldier family member who took part in the Jacobite risings of 1745. While retreating from Derby, the soldier started to fear that he may be killed in battle. He took a piece of his Highland outfit, had it blessed, and handed it to a courier, who was given instructions to deliver it to the family.

"The soldier told the courier that if all future children of the family were swathed in this material, it would keep them safe and bring them long and successful lives."

Remarkable dress

It is not known exactly when the decision was made to make the material into a dress, but it is recorded that a young male member of the family was the first to wear it.