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Cutting a dash through time

1st Mar 2016
Cutting a dash through time

Winter is that point of the year when it can be hard to feel fashionable. In Edinburgh’s windy streets we often dress more for warmth than to impress, and especially for our Mercat guides under those cloaks are often more layers of thermals than you would care to imagine! But with spring in the air it’s almost time to rediscover dressing for pleasure rather than warmth, and where better to start looking for some fresh ideas than Edinburgh’s Fashion Week (March 7-15th). The Mound will play host to the Fashion Hub, a buzzing epicentre of fashion shows and pop up shops, revealing all which is new and innovative for the upcoming seasons. But we in Edinburgh have always been dedicated followers of fashion, so let’s look back at some of the trends of the town from the 18th century. Thanks to Robert Chambers classic book Traditions of Edinburgh, here’s a snapshot of what you would need to fit in with the smart set.

Pong Pong

Do you remember Deely Boppers, the curious combination of a headband and two coiled springs with objects affixed to the ends? The 18th century had its own variant, the pong pong. A pong pong was a coiled long wire attached to hat with an ornamental attachment, which would bounce alluringly when the wearer. How else would you possibly attract a dandy around town?

 Rumple Knot

Want to accentuate your derriere whilst wearing a dress that completely disguises your lower half? Rumple knots were elaborate bunches of ribbons worn at the base of the spine. If your ‘rumple’ wasn’t your best area, there were also breast knots, haunch knots, and shoe knots, available from all good haberdashers.


Fancy a retractable pram cover for your head? Then try a calash. It was an outer protective bonnet usually made from silk but containing a cane inner frame that could be lowered or raised depending on the weather.

We may not have a hoard of pong pongs or rumple knots, but Mercat Tours has an incredible wardrobe department. Here’s some of our guides, taking a step back in time from 2016, into our extravagant past. 

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