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Scottish Kilts

National Dress of Scotland

The kilt is a knee-length garment with pleats at the rear, originating in the traditional dress of men and boys in the Scottish Highlands of the 16th century. Since the 19th century it has become associated with the wider culture of Scotland in general, or with Celtic (and more specifically Gaelic) heritage even more broadly. It is most often made of woollen cloth in a tartan pattern.

Although the kilt is most often worn on formal occasions and at Highland games and sports events, it has also been adapted as an item of fashionable informal male clothing in recent years, returning to its roots as an everyday garment.

Young Scottish girl in kilt - highland dancing

young scottish girl in kilt highland dancing


The kilt first appeared as the great kilt in the 16th century, a full-length garment whose upper half could be worn as a cloak draped over the shoulder, or brought up over head as a cloak. The small kilt or walking kilt (similar to the "modern" kilt) did not develop until the late 17th or early 18th century, and is essentially the bottom half of the great kilt.

The nationalism of the kilt is relatively recent. It was only with the Romantic Revival of the early 19th century that the highland kilt was adopted by Lowlanders and the Scottish diaspora as a symbol of national identity. People from other countries with Celtic connections, some Irish, Cornish, Welsh and Manx, have also adopted tartan kilts in recent times, although to a lesser degree.

Full Scottish Kilt Outfit

Scottish Kilt

The Scottish kilt displays uniqueness of design, construction, and convention which differentiate it from other garments fitting the general description. It is a tailored garment that is wrapped around the wearer's body at the natural waist (between the lowest rib and the hip) starting from one side (usually the wearer's left), around the front and back and across the front again to the opposite side. The fastenings consist of straps and buckles on both ends, the strap on the inside end usually passing through a slit in the waistband to be buckled on the outside; alternatively it may remain inside the waistband and be buckled inside.

A kilt covers the body from the waist down to the centre of the knees. The overlapping layers in front are called "aprons" and are flat; the single layer of fabric around the sides and back is pleated. A kilt pin is fastened to the front apron on the free corner (but is not passed through the layer below, as its function is to add weight). Underwear may or may not be worn, as the wearer prefers, but in some circumstances underwear is prohibited by military regulations.[citation needed] Tradition has it that a "true Scotsman" should wear nothing under his kilt.

Organizations that sanction and grade the competitions in Highland dancing and bagpiping all have rules governing acceptable attire for the competitors. These rules specify that kilts are to be worn (except that in the national dances, the female competitors will be wearing the Aboyne dress).


Design and construction - Fabrics

The typical kilt as seen at modern Highland games events is made of twill woven worsted wool. The twill weave used for kilts is a "2–2 type", meaning that each weft thread passes over and under two warp threads at a time. The result is a distinctive diagonal-weave pattern in the fabric which is called the twill line. This kind of twill, when woven according to a given sett or written colour pattern, (see below), is called tartan. In contrast, the Irish kilt traditionally was made from solid-colour cloth, with saffron or green being the most widely used colours.

Kilting fabric weights are given in ounces per yard and run from the very-heavy, regimental worsted of approximately 18–22 ounces down to a light worsted of about 10–11 ounces. The most common weights for kilts are 13 ounces and 16 ounces. The heavier weights are more appropriate for cooler weather, while the lighter weights would tend to be selected for warmer weather or for active use, such as Highland dancing. Some patterns are available in only a few weights.

A modern kilt for a typical adult uses about 6–8 yards of single-width (about 26–30 inches) or about 3–4 yards of double-width (about 54–60 inches) tartan fabric. Double-width fabric is woven so that the pattern exactly matches on the selvage. Kilts are usually made without a hem because a hem would make the garment too bulky and cause it to hang incorrectly. The exact amount of fabric needed depends upon several factors including the size of the sett, the number of pleats put into the garment, and the size of the person. For a full kilt, 8 yards of fabric would be used regardless of size and the number of pleats and depth of pleat would be adjusted according to their size. For a very large waist, it may be necessary to use 9 yards of cloth.

Girl in Mini Kilt

Girl in Mini Kilt

Pleating and stitching

Pleating to the stripe (2005)[clarification needed]A kilt can be pleated with either box or knife pleats. A knife pleat is a simple fold, while the box pleat is bulkier, consisting of two knife pleats back-to-back. Knife pleats are the most common in modern civilian kilts. Regimental traditions vary. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders use box pleats, while the Black Watch make their kilts of the same tartan with knife pleats. These traditions were also passed on to affiliated regiments in the Commonwealth, and were retained in successor battalions to these regiments in the amalgamated Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Pleats can be arranged relative to the pattern in two ways. In pleating to the stripe, one of the vertical stripes in the tartan is selected and the fabric is then folded so that this stripe runs down the centre of each pleat. The result is that along the pleated section of the kilt (the back and sides) the pattern appears different from the unpleated front, often emphasising the horizontal bands rather than creating a balance between horizontal and vertical. This is often called military pleating because it is the style adopted by many military regiments. It is also widely used by pipe bands.

In pleating to the sett the fabric is folded so that the pattern of the sett is maintained and is repeated all around the kilt. This is done by taking up one full sett in each pleat, or two full setts if they are small. This causes the pleated sections to have the same pattern as the unpleated front.

Any pleat is characterized by depth and width. The portion of the pleat that protrudes under the overlying pleat is the size or width. The pleat width is selected based on the size of the sett and the amount of fabric to be used in constructing the kilt, and will generally vary from about 1/2" to about 3/4".

The depth is the part of the pleat which is folded under the overlying pleat. It depends solely on the size of the tartan sett even when pleating to the stripe, since the sett determines the spacing of the stripes.

The number of pleats used in making kilts depends upon how much material is to be used in constructing the garment and upon the size of the sett.

The pleats across the fell are tapered slightly since the wearer's waist is usually narrower than the hips and the pleats are usually stitched down either by machine or by hand.

In Highland dancing, it is easy to see the effect of the stitching on the action of a kilt. The kilt hugs the dancer's body from the waist down to the hipline and, from there, in response to the dancer's movements, it breaks sharply out. The way the kilt moves in response to the dance steps is an important part of the dance. If the pleats were not stitched down in this portion of the kilt, the action, or movement, would be quite different.

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Text courtesy Wikipedia
Kilt Pictures

Casual Kilts at Ceilidh

Scottish Highland Dancer and Piper

Little Girl Big Kilt

The bridegroom seems a wee bit upset

Men in kilts oooh and a Bride too

Scottish Woman in kilt throwing the hammer

Whatever you do do not tell this guy that he is wearing a skirt

Scottish Girl in Kilt Highland dancing

In Scotland it is almost compulsary to wear kilts at a wedding

Baby in Kilt starting the habit young

Scottish drummers in kilts

Short Kilt and Red Tights you can wear anything to a Ceilidh

Young Highland Dancer in Kilt

Tartan Tattoo

Wedding all in Tartan Kilts

It is not easy tossing the caber while wearing a kilt

Do not get drunk while wearing a short kilt

Young Boy in Traditional Scottish Clothing

Highland Dancing Edinburgh Scotland

Girls in short pleated tartan kilts working in a Highland Theme Bar

Scottish Terriers wearing KILTS

Dancing with swords

Scottish Highland Dance Competition at Fort Malden

You need to be carefull when wearing a kilt

Girls in Kilts at Highland Dancing Competition Dornoch Highland Gathering 2007

Scottish Highland Dance in Toronto Canada

Scottish Highland Games Girls Dancing

Two girls in kilts compete in dance competition at Fort Malden

Some people should NOT wear a kilt

Scottish Highland Games Tossing the Caber

Girls in mini kilts

Pipers wearing tartan kilts Inverness Highland Tattoo

What DOES a Scotsman wear under his kilt

Highland Dance Competition Argyll

Scottish dolls in kilts

Young Boy and Girl in Scottish Parade

Dancing Girls at Highland Games Scone Perth

Swinging Kilt

Piper and Girl wearing kilt at Highland Dance Competition at Fort Malden Canada

Shortest min kilt in the world

Young girls in kilts taking part in Highland Dance Festival Inverness Scotland

Girl in Kilt at Highland Dancing Competition

Young Dancing Girls in Kilts Inverness Highland Tattoo 2007

Old man in kilt

Young Girl in Traditional Scottish Clothing

Scottish Lasses in Kilts Dancing

Little Girl in Kilts waiting to do Highland Dance

Kilted Girls doing the Sword Dance

Is this the shortest kilt in the world

What do Scotsmen wear under their kilts ALL is revealed

Girl in tartan kilt and bra

Piper in Kilt

Girls in short kilts Everyone should be wearing Tartan

Kilts Bagpipes and Drums at the Inverness Highland Tattoo

Highland Dancin Competition

Young Boy in Scottish Tartan Kilt

Murelle camp at the Omo River African herdsman in tartan kilt

Girls in Kilts Highland Dancing Competition

Girl Highland Dancer

Young Canadian Highland dancers from Cape Breton Island

Warning men in kilts at a Ceilidh can be a bit dangerous


Kilt Poems


The Prinkin' Leddie by Elinor Wylie

Pennies by Joyce Kilmer

The Dream Of Wearing Shorts Forever by Les Murray

Goody for Our Side and Your Side Too by Ogden Nash

The Author’s Earnest Cry and Prayer by Robert Burns

The Bour-Tree Den by Robert Louis Stevenson

Shirt by Robert Pinsky

A Song For Kilts by Robert William Service

Accordion by Robert William Service

Missis Moriarty's Boy by Robert William Service

Resignation by Robert William Service

The Ballad Of How Macpherson Held The Floor by Robert William Service

The Man From Eldorado by Robert William Service

The Old Armchair by Robert William Service

The Whistle Of Sandy McGraw by Robert William Service

The Road by Siegfried Sassoon

Disabled by Wilfred Owen

An Irish Airman Forsees His Death by William Butler Yeats

The Haystack in the Floods by William Morris

The Battle of Alma by William Topaz McGonagall

The Battle of El-Teb by William Topaz McGonagall


If you found "Scottish Kilts" interesting then check out our other :

More Scottish

A Gordon for Me by Robert Wilson

I'm Geordie MacKay of the H. L. I.
I'm fond of the lassies and a drappie forbye,
One day when out walking I chanced to see,
A bonnie wee lass wi' a glint in her ee'
Says I to the lassie "Will you walk foe a while?
I'll buy you a bonnet and we'll do it in style,
My kilt is Mackenzie o' the H. L.I."
She look'd at me shyly and said wi' a sigh.
A Gordon for me, a Gordon for me,
If ye're no a Gordon ye're no use to me.
The Black Watch are braw, the Seaforths and a'
But the cocky wee Gordon's the pride o' them a'.

I courted that girl on the banks of the Dee,
I made up my mind she was fashioned for me,
Soon I was a' thinking how nice it would be
If she would consent to get married to me.
The day we were wed, the grass was so green,
The sun was as bright as the light in her 'een,
Now we've two bonnie lassies who sit on her knee,
While she sings the song she once sang to me.


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