History of the Kilt

Accounts of highland dress date back to the 16th century, and by 1600, the word tartan had come into use.  Generally speaking, men wore what is now known as a “great kilt”, a piece of woolen fabric that was loosely pleated and secured around the waist with a belt, with the long end draped over the shoulder.   This was called a feileadh mor.  This garment could be taken apart and used as a blanket at night, and donned during the day.  The shorter  feileadh beag, or small kilt, came into use later, toward 1800.  This garment was closer to what we think of as a modern kilt, although earlier versions seem to have had box pleats rather than the stitched-down, carefully pressed knife-edge pleats that we see today. It lacked the plaid , the long rectangular end of the length of tartan that was worn over the shoulder. Kilts were the most common form of dress for men in Scotland, and also came into use by the various Highland regiments in the army.

There was a time, from 1746 to approximately 1780, that tartan and kilts could only be worn by the Highland regiments.  It was forbidden for others to wear or display tartan.  The Scottish regiments continued to wear small kilts into battle as late as World War 1.

The kilt has traditionally been strictly a men’s garment.  In the past 40-50 years, however, more and more women have begun to wear kilts and the lighter, less fabric-intensive kilted skirt.  Highland dancers, female members of pipe bands, and many others who participate in Scottish games worldwide now wear the kilt.

Today, a finely tailored, handsewn kilt is an increasingly rare commodity.  In our modern age where “time is money”, many traditional manufacturers are taking more and more shortcuts to produce kilts faster and cheaper than their competitors.  This blog will be dedicated to the art of creating made-to-measure, carefully crafted custom kilts that can be worn with pride on any occasion.

A properly constructed Kilt

A properly constructed kilt will swing during highland dancing.