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What is Kilt?

Kilt is an knee-length but not-bifurcated skirt-like garment that has pleats in the back, which originated in the traditional attire of males and boys from the Scottish Highlands of the 16th century.

From the late 19th century onwards, it’s been associated with the overall society of Scotland generally as well as associated with Celtic (and in particular Gaelic) traditions even more widely. It is typically comprised of woolen fabric in the tartan pattern.

While it is true that the kilt is typically worn for formal occasions as well as during Highland games and sporting events, However, it has been made into an item of casual male attire in recent times, reverting to its original purpose as a normal clothing item.

In particular, in North America kilts are now designed for casual wear and are made of various fabrics. Alternative fasteners are available and pockets can be inserted to reduce the requirement for the use of a sporran.


The kilt first came to prominence as the great kilt or the breacan (also known as belted plaid) during the 16th century which is Gaelic in its origin. The filleadh or great kilt was an all-length piece of clothing that could be used as a cloak that was worn over the shoulder or hung above the head. A variant of the filleadh (philibeg) or small kilt (also called the walking kilt) identical to the contemporary kilt was created in the hands of one of the English Quakers of Lancashire known as Thomas Rawlinson some time in the 1720s. He believed that the plaid he belted appeared “cumbrous and unwieldy”, and so he decided to cut off the skirt, and transform it into a separate garment that had pleats already sewn which he started wearing. His friend, Iain MacDonnell, chief of the clan of MacDonnells of Inverness was also wearing it. When the clansmen, who were employed in the fields of logging, charcoal production and iron smelting were able to see their chief in the new outfit and sported the new attire, they quickly followed. The use of the philibeg was spread “in the shortest space” between the Highlanders and even certain Northern Lowlanders. It is believed that there is evidence to suggest that the philibeg, with pleats that were not sewn, was worn in the 1690s.


The term “kilt” is applied to various types of clothing:

  • The traditional dress whether in its original version, or the modern-day version now popular in Scotland (see the history of the kilt), generally in tartan.
  • The kilts are worn in Irish pipes are modelled off the traditional Scottish dress, but are now available in one (solid) color.
  • Different versions of the Scottish Kilt are also used by other Celtic nations, like the Welsh cilt as well as the Cornish Cilt

Based on the Oxford English Dictionary, the noun comes from the verb to kilt which initially is a reference to “to gird up; to tuck up (the skirts) around the body”, which is thought to be of Scandinavian origin.

Design and construction

The Scottish kilt has a unique style, design, and style that distinguish it from other clothes that fit with the standard description. The kilt is an elegant piece that is wrapped around the body of the wearer around the body’s natural waist (between the lower rib and hip) beginning from an end (usually the left side of the wearer) in the front, then across the back and front, and then back across the front and then to the other side. The fastenings comprise buckles and straps on both ends, with the strap on the inside typically passing through a cut in the waistband, allowing it to buckle to the outside. Alternatively, it could be kept within the waistband and fastened inside.

A kilt is a garment that covers the body from the waist all the way to the center in the knees. The layers that overlap on the front are referred to as “aprons” and are flat and the one layer that runs around the back and sides is pleated. A kilt pin is attached to the apron in front on the free side (but it is not placed through the layer beneath since its primary function is to provide weight). The underwear may or might wear, based on what the wearer’s preference, however custom dictates that the “true Scotsman” should wear only a kilt and a t-shirt. According to the Scottish Tartans Authority, however, warns that in certain instances, wearing underwear may cause “childish and unhygienic” and infringing “in the face of decency”


The typical kilt it is seen at contemporary Highland games is made of twill weaved worsted wool. The weave used in Kilts is a “2-2 type”, meaning that each weft thread goes between and through two threads of warp at the same time. This creates a distinct diagonal weave pattern on the fabric that is known as”twill. This type of twill when it is woven in accordance with the sett or color patterns (see further below) is known as tartan. The kilts are worn on Irish pipers are constructed from solid-colored cloth with green or saffron being the most popular colors.

Kilting fabric’s weights are measured by ounces/yard. They range from heavy, regimental worsted which is about 18-22 ounces (510-620 grams), and down to lighter worsted which weighs around 10-11 ounces (280-310 grams). The most popular weights used for kilts are 13 ounces (370 grams) as well as 16 ounces (450 grams). These heavier weights would be suitable for cooler temperatures as opposed to lighter weights that are more apt to be used for warmer climates or more vigorous activities, like Highland dancing. Certain designs are available only in the smallest of weights.

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