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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
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.
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.
Tradition has it that a "true Scotsman" should wear nothing under his
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Text courtesy Wikipedia
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|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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