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MATTHEW NEWSOME'S PATENTED ADVICE FOR THE FIRST TIME KILT WEARER

2004

 

This article now available, expanded and illustrated, in booklet form.

 

So you're going to wear the kilt?  Or so reads the title of one of the more popular books on the subject.  My first piece of advice to anyone considering purchasing a kilt for the first time is always to do your homework.  Read about it!  Study it!  A kilt is quite an investment.  Let's face it, to get a good kilt is going to cost you some money (there are cheap kilts out there, but you typically get what you pay for).  Only a fool would spend hundreds of dollars before doing a little bit of research into the topic.  Which is why I tell people, before you spend $500 on a kilt, spend $15 on a book. 

 

So You're Going to Wear the Kilt! by J. Charles Thompson is a standard.  Bob Martin's reference, All About Your Kilt, published by Scotpress, is also one I recommend.  These are certainly not the only two books on the topic.  My second piece of advice (the first being to do your research) is this.  Remember that when it comes to modern fashions of Highland dress, what you will read will simply the opinion of the author and nothing more.  Note, I said "modern fashions of Highland dress."  When it comes to historical matters, we can certainly say what people did and did not wear, as a matter of fact.  But this doesn't need to dictate what you can or cannot wear at present.  When it comes to this, there are no rules, only opinions, and you can choose to give as little or as much weight to them as you wish.

 

Keep this in mind throughout.  Unless you are a member of a military regiment, a pipe band, or some other quasi-military group that has a specific dress code, your kilt is not a uniform.  It is an article of clothing, just like your trousers, and you should feel free to accessorize it however you think best. 

 

So what is there to consider when buying your first kilt?  The first question that is the most essential is what tartan do you want to wear.  Individual tartan patterns today typically have a great deal of significance.  Now, it was not always so.  Up until the industrialization of the tartan weaving industry and the romanticisation of everything Scottish in the nineteenth century, tartans did not have names, for the most part, and those that did were typically worn without much thought as to what it might be called in the tartan shop.  People wore tartans they liked.  Period.  And you can feel free to do the same today.  In fact, it's probably the most traditional thing you can do.

 

That being said, time does not stand still.  Today, the tradition has evolved to the point where tartans are representative and symbolic.  Tartans that represent clans are the most familiar, but tartans can also represent families, cities, states, events, businesses, individuals, occupations, you name it.  When you wear a particular tartan, you are identifying yourself with whatever that tartan represents.  Most people choose to wear a tartan that has some connection with their heritage.  But the choice of which tartan to wear is entirely personal.  There are no "requirements" to wear a tartan, no "authorizations" needed.  You simply pick the tartan you want to wear, whatever your reason.

 

Most people, no doubt, choose to wear a tartan associated with their family.  Typically, if the actual surname you bear has a tartan affiliated with it, this is the first choice.  However, there is nothing wrong with wearing a tartan from your mother's side of the family, or your great-great grandmother, for that matter.  Maybe you like that side of the family better and wish to honor them by wearing their tartan.  Maybe you find your father's tartan unattractive.  Maybe one tartan is simply more easily available than the other.  There could be many reasons to consider, but it is entirely up to you.

 

Let's look in my own closet for an example.  I have a kilt in the Armstrong tartan, which was my grandmother's maiden name.  I have a kilt in the MacQuarrie tartan, and I have to go back about six generations to get to that link.  I have a kilt in the Mull district tartan.  I'm not from Mull, but I went there to visit the MacQuarrie home land, and fell in love with the island.  I also happen to think it is a particularly attractive tartan.  So I wear it.  I have a kilt in the MacGregor tartan.  I have no ties with that clan whatsoever.  But I saw this kilt for sale for $75.  It fit me.  It was a beautifully aged 80 year old kilt.  How could I pass it up?  I also have a kilt in a lovely blue tweed.  Which brings up another point.  Your kilt doesn't have to even be in a tartan.  Any kilt maker can also make you a kilt from a solid color wool or a tweed.  Tweed kilts have been worn since the nineteenth century in Scotland (probably much earlier).  Solid colors have also been worn from an early date.  Solid green or saffron kilts are popular among Irish pipe bands, and we have evidence of solid color kilts being worn in Scotland from the early seventeenth century!

 

If you choose a cloth other than a tartan for your kilt, make sure it is appropriate.  Most reputable kilt makers will be able to advise you on this.  A medium to heavy weight tweed is always going to be fine.  If it's a solid color, make sure it is a good twill weave woolen kilt cloth.  I have seen kilts made from non-woolen materials, with mixed success.  A good heavy weight canvas or denim cloth will still hold a pleat well.  But that's about the only cloth I've seen that has given satisfactory results.  Nothing compares to a good worsted wool.  You'll see a lot of cheap alternatives on the market today.  As I stated earlier, you get what you pay for.

 

Assuming you select a tartan for your kilt, let's say one to represent your clan, you may find yourself faced with a variety of choices.  You find that your clan has an ancient, modern, and weathered tartan, as well as a dress and hunting version.  Which is proper to wear?  The short answer it, they all are.  Just pick the one you like.  Now here's the longer answer.

 

The ancient, modern, and weathered tartans of your clan are not different tartans.  They are the same tartan, woven in various hues.  You can have any tartan in the world woven in the ancient, modern, or weathered color schemes.  The modern colors are dark and bold, and are the standard.  The ancient colors are more faded, and represent what a piece of old, vegetable dyed tartan would look like after years of fading.  Hence the name "ancient."  The weathered colors are the same idea, taken to a further extreme.  What might a tartan look like after being buried in a peat bog for 200 years?  This is what the weathered colors are supposed to suggest.  Think of them the same as "stone washed" jeans.  They are made new to look old.  Many people at first choose the ancient colors because they think they are more "traditional," as if these were the colors their ancestors of old would have worn.  Remember, the ancient colors represent faded cloth.  A piece of new tartan, woven 200 years ago, would look more like our "modern" colors than anything else.

 

Dress tartans and hunting tartans are another matter.  These names don't merely refer to color schemes.  They actually refer to different tartan designs.  The long and short of it is that hunting tartans have more green (or brown, or some other natural tone) and dress tartans have more white.   That's it.  The names do not reflect actual usage or restriction in wear.  You can wear a hunting tartan to a formal occasion, and you can wear a dress tartan while hunting, for that matter.  Dress tartans reflect an eighteenth century fashion for women's tartans to be white or cream based.  But this does not mean that men cannot wear a dress tartan today, any more than they can't wear a white shirt or pants.  Hunting tartans are given as an alternative if your clan tartan is predominantly red (or yellow, or some other bright color).  Green clan tartans don't have hunting versions.  In essence, they already are hunting tartans!

 

The important thing to remember if you find that your clan has six or seven tartans to choose from is that they all represent your clan.  None is "wrong" or "right."  The selection is entirely up to you and your preferences.  Sometimes a clan that is particularly large (like MacDonald) will have various branches within that clan, and specific tartans to represent those branches.  These are usually designation "of" somwhere (MacDonald of Glencoe, for example, or Campbell of Cawdor).  If you are of that clan, but not necessarily from that particular branch, you might not want to wear a branch tartan.  But even if you did, no one would put you in the stocks.  Again, it's entirely up to you.

 

So, now that you've selected your tartan, the hard part is over.  I think the choice of which tartan to wear is the most important.  Now it's time to contact your kilt maker.  This could be someone you know who individually makes kilts, or it could be a retail shop, or a kilt making firm.  You should shop around a little to make sure you are getting a quality product at a fair price.  Again, I will advise you -- you get what you pay for.  If every shop you contact is quoting you a price of $450 to $550, and then you find someone on the internet claiming to have the same type of kilt for $150, let the buyer beware!  I assure you, there is probably a very good reason that kilt is so cheap. 

 

There are many types of kilts that are available.  The typical kilt for a gentleman is knife pleated, and contains about eight yards (on average) of cloth.  However, many companies are now offering options such as "casual kilts" or "hillwalkers kilts" and the like, many of which have reduced yardage.  These are typically less expensive, and well worth considering, especially if you are on a budget.  Many scoff at any kilt that has less than eight yards, but the typical kilt of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century had only about four yards of cloth, on average.  It's a much more balanced and comfortable garment to wear, even if it doesn't have quite the same "swing" when on parade. 

 

If you want something too unusual, like a box pleated kilt, or maybe a tartan that is not commercially available (most mills weave a range of 500 to 700 tartans, while there are over 3000 unique tartans recorded), you may have to steer away from the big firms and retailers and find an individual kilt maker who does custom jobs.  (Of course, being employed by the Scottish Tartans Museum I would be remiss if I didn't encourage you to purchase your kilt and accessories there, as all proceeds go directly to the museum -- and ensure that I continue to have a job!  But if we cannot provide the type of kilt you are looking for, we can refer you to someone who can). 

 

Whomever is making your kilt, they will let you know what weight of wool your tartan is available in.  This is the next important decision to make.  Typically there are three options you will encounter.  Light kilting weight is 10 oz per yard.  Medium kilting weight is about 13 oz per yard.  And heavy kilting weight is 16 oz per yard.  There are regimental kilt weights that are even heavier than this, but these are the options you will typically encounter.  Many people are told to shy away from the light kilt weights, and for the most part this is good advice.  However, I have no problems with a 10 oz kilt, as long as it is a worsted wool and a twill weave (avoid saxony or plain weave).  A light kilt weight is simply the lightest weight that will make a decent kilt.  Don't go any lighter.  Any reputable kilt maker should not offer anything lighter weight anyway. 

 

Some select the weight of their kilt based on climate.  I think this is a secondary consideration.  Yes, a heavy weight kilt is going to be warmer than a light weight kilt.  But that being said, if you are wearing your kilt in 90 degree heat at the Highland Games, you are going to be hot regardless.  And if you are marching in a parade in the snow in December, you are going to be cold regardless.  To me, a more important factor is the cost.  Heavy weight wool is more expensive.  In general, the heavier the wool, the better looking the kilt is going to be.  So I advise people to get the heaviest cloth that they can afford. 

 

Note that not all tartans will be available in all weights.  It may well be that your chosen tartan is only available in the light and heavy weights, but not the medium weight.  Or maybe it is available in the heavy weight only.  All things considered, I believe the choice of tartan is more important to the kilt wearer than the choice of weight.  If the tartan you want is only available in a light weight, that is far better than wearing a heavy weight kilt in a tartan you are not happy with.  (Of course, you can always have your tartan custom woven for you in your desired weight, if you don't mind the added cost).

 

Depending on the type of kilt you select, your kilt maker may ask you how you want it pleated, to stripe or to sett.  (Some reduced yardage kilts are limited in how they can be pleated, so you may not be given an option in these cases).  Pleating to the sett is the most typical nowadays.  "Sett" is short for setting, and it means the pattern of the tartan.  When your kilt is pleated to the sett, the pleats are laid out so that the tartan pattern is preserved.  Pleating to the stripe is common in the military, and for this reason, it is also called "military" or "regimental" pleating.  In this style, a single line in the tartan is chosen, and each pleat is centered on that line.

 

Most of the time the dominant (or brightest colored) line is chosen.  But the thing to remember is that you can specify any line or color on your tartan that you want, and which one you select can make a great difference in the look of your kilt.  Spend some time studying your chosen tartan and thinking about how it might look pleated to different stripes before you make your decision.

 

When it comes time to take your measurements for your kilt, there really are only three to be considered.  The first is your waist measurement.  This is not the same as your trouser size (for most men).  This measurement needs to be taken at your natural waist, which is above your hip bones and below your rib cage -- about even with your belly button.  This measurement should be taken over a shirt and fairly snug (but not too tight).  The next measurement needed will be your hip measurement.  This is taken from the broadest portion of your hips.  It's a loose measurement, taken over your pants.  The third and final measurement needed will be the length of your kilt.  This is also a personal decision.  "Acceptable" kilt length is considered to be anywhere from the middle of your knee cap to an inch or so above the knee. 

 

Typically, when taking this measurement, I will have the gentleman kneel down, both knees on the floor, back straight.  I will kneel before him and measure a straight plum line from just above his belly button (where the top of his kilt will be) to the floor.  If left as is, this measurement will make a long kilt.  Subtract an inch to get it to the middle of the knee cap.  Subtract two inches to get it to the top of the knee cap.  You can subtract as much as three inches from this measurement and still be ok.  I've heard it said that a kilt can be too long, but never too short.  I think this is true up to a point!  I personally like to see the kilt above the knee.  It looks better and feels better.  But standards of decency do, of course, apply. 

 

You should also provide your kilt maker with your height and weight.  This is a good idea, so that it can be compared to your measurements.  If you are too far from the average for someone of your stature, the kilt maker may ask to measure you again to be safe.  As kilts are each custom tailored, in most cases they will be non returnable and non refundable.  Make sure your measurements are right the first time!  (That being said, if the kilt arrives not as you ordered it, i.e. not made to the measurements provided, any respectable kilt maker should of course rectify the situation).

 

On average, you can expect your kilt to take about two months to have made and delivered.  Times may vary.  If your tartan has to be woven for you it could very well take longer.  If you are on a strict deadline and let your kilt maker know in advance, it could be possible to have it sooner.  But don't expect any miracles.  Always allow plenty of time for your kilt to arrive. 

 

What to do while you wait?  Well, now is a great time to start putting together the rest of your outfit.  A lot of places offer stock outfit packages that will include the kilt along with a set of accessories for casual, semi-formal, or formal wear.  Usually they are offered together at a discount.  This is a good idea, if you can afford to get everything at once, and if you like the outfit.  But if you select each of your accessories individually, and purchase them over time, it may be easier on your wallet, and you will end up with a more unique outfit.  No one wants to look like a cookie-cutter Scotsman!

 

So let's start with the bare minimum.  When you buy your kilt, at the very least you will want kilt hose, garter flashes, and a sporran. 

 

"Sporran" is simply the Gaelic word for a pouch or a purse.  You need to wear a sporran, simply because otherwise you won't have anywhere to put your car keys.  You will see a variety of styles being worn today, some formal, some casual, some good for either occasion.  In general, the ones with the fur front and metal cantle are for formal wear.  A nice black leather sporran with or without a fur front is good for both formal and casual occasions.  An all leather sporran in black is ok for formal or casual wear, and an all leather sporran in brown usually for casual wear only.  I prefer the older style bag sporrans (often called "Rob Roy" sporrans) because they tend to have much larger pockets.  I wear a brown leather Rob Roy sporran every day in general, and have a gray fur sporran with silver cantle for formal wear.  If you are just going to get one sporran to start with, get one that can be used for formal occasions, but that is not so fancy looking that it will look out of place when worn with a polo-shirt at the Games.

 

Of course, with a sporran, you will need something to hang the sporran from.  Typically, the sporran is worn from a narrow belt, separate from your kilt belt.  This belt can be either leather or chain.  If you plan on wearing it often, or doing any heavy marching in your kilt, you might seriously consider the leather belt as the chain will rub a raw area in the side of your kilt over time.  If you are just going to wear it on certain occasions, it's not worth worrying over.  I have a brown all leather belt that I wear with my Rob Roy day sporran.  I have a chain belt that I wear with my fur sporran for formal wear.  You'll also see on occasion leather belt loops that affix to your sporran so that it can be hung from your kilt belt.  These are acceptable as well.  Just make sure to match the color of your leather --black belt with black sporran, brown belt with brown sporran, etc.

 

Notice that I did not say a kilt belt was essential to wear with your kilt.  In days of old, before the advent of tapered pleats, leather straps, and metal buckles, a nice wide belt was necessary to keep your kilt from falling off!  Today, a properly fitted kilt will stay on just fine with no help from a belt whatsoever.  I find it much more comfortable to forgo the belt altogether on most occasions, though I do have a brown one for casual wear and a black one for formal wear.  To belt or not is a personal choice -- but if you are wearing a vest (waistcoat) or a cummerbund, leave the belt at home. 

 

I did say that kilt hose were necessary.  While it is not uncommon to see young men today wearing their kilts with Doc Martin boots or Teva sandals, that's not a look for everybody, and the majority of us will want to wear our kilt with knee length hose most of the time.  Here again, you will find a variety available, some with a high wool content, some mostly Acrylic, and some in between.  Most will be available in a solid color.  Any color is fine as long as it goes well with your tartan.  An off-white or cream is most common, simply because it goes with everything.  But I think that colors look better.  Of the colors that are typically available, black and oatmeal (tan) go with just about any tartan.  Navy blue or bottle green go with the darker modern tartans.  Lovat blue or lovat green go better with the ancient tartans.  Occasionally you will see other colors available.  Pick any you like that match your tartan.  I advise people to at least get two pairs.  One of the most common occasions to wear your kilt is at a Highland Games or Scottish festival, most of which are two day affairs.  You don't want to wear the same pair of socks two days in a row.  This is the least expensive part of your outfit, so splurge and get a couple.  Diced hose and argyle hose, though harder to come by, also are a nice look, and add an extra special touch to formal wear.

 

When you get your hose, you also want to pick up a pair of garter flashes.  These are the colored ribbons attached to elastic garters that fasten under your knee.  These help tremendously to keep your socks from falling down, so you'll need at least one pair (though you may want to get a few in different colors if you plan on wearing your kilt often).  It is possible to get your flashes made from the same tartan as your kilt.  If this is what you want, let your kilt maker know when you order the kilt, as these are typically custom made and are much less expensive if they make them while they are making your kilt.  Ordinarily, you will see them in solid colors, which is actually more traditional.  These flashes are the modern remnant of the old fashioned garter ties that people used before the advent of elastic.  They would take a yard or so of cloth ribbon and tie it under their knees.  The ends of the garter would hang down below the knot, and that is what the modern flashes are supposed to mimic. 

 

Again, simply select a color that matches one of the colors in your kilt.  Most of the time you will want a contrast with your kilt hose (scarlet red flashes on dark green hose, for instance), but some people prefer a more subtle look (green flashes on blue hose, or even green on green), and there is nothing wrong with that. 

 

That's really all you need to wear with your kilt.  Wear sensible shoes, and pick out a shirt that goes well with your kilt, just like you'd pick one out to wear with your pants.  (Some people think that you need to wear a "Scottish" shirt with your kilt, like one of the Highland Jacobite shirts, or one with your clan crest embroidered on it.  Nonsense, wear anything you want.)  You can wear a button shirt, a polo or golf style shirt, a t-shirt -- anything!  Just match the shirt to the occasion.  A t-shirt with your kilt may be comfortable and appropriate at the Highland Games, but out of place at the Burns supper.  A solid color shirt to match your kilt is best, though with a good eye for fashion, there is no reason you couldn't wear a patterned shirt as well.  Just make sure the pattern of the shirt looks good with the pattern of your kilt.  Otherwise your wife or girlfriend will not want to be seen in public with you.  Which brings up another good fashion idea.  If you aren't sure if it looks good with your kilt or not, put it on and stand before the woman in your life.  If she approves, you are in good shape.

 

If you want to wear a tie with your kilt, the same rules apply.  A solid color that matches your kilt is never wrong.  If you want to wear a pattern, that's acceptable as long as it goes well with your tartan.  You can wear a tie in the same tartan as your kilt, or even a different one, as long as the patterns go well together.  Stripes, checks, fishes, Santa Claus -- anything is fine as long as it doesn't clash.

 

As far as bonnets or caps go, you can wear any style cap with your kilt that you would wear anywhere else (from a ball cap, to a cowboy hat, as far as I'm concerned).  If it's cold outside, by all means, put on your toboggan.  But there are two styles of cap that are distinctively Scottish and those are the Balmoral and Glengarry.  The Balmoral is the round bonnet with the little ball on top (that little ball is called a "torrie" and ribbons in the back.  It is the modern version of the old Highland broad bonnet.  These were made from knit and felted wool, and the ends of the yard would form a tuft in the center of the hat (the toorie).  It was sized with a drawstring, which was tied off in the back (the ribbons).  For this reason, to look right, the ribbons in the Balmoral should always be tied in a bow, to represent the draw string on the old Highland bonnet. 

 

The Glengarry is the wedge shaped cap, and is more military in style, though there is no reason civilians can't wear them as well.  it also has a toorie and ribbons, though the ribbons on the Glengarry are always left untied (don't ask me why).  Of course if the ribbons or toorie on either cap bother you, you can always cut them off and no one would know the difference. 

 

The most common color these caps come in is black, though other colors are sometimes available.  Black goes great with everything.  They are also usually available with or without a diced band.  I like the dicing for two reasons -- it adds a bit of color, and I find that it gives a little more definition to the band of the cap.  But like everything else, this is personal preference.

 

Each style will also typically come with a ribbon rosette sewn to one side.  This is where you will pin your cap badge (if you choose to wear one).  The cap badge typically contains the crest of your clan chief surrounded by a belt and buckle with your clan motto.  You can wear one of these if you choose.  There are also "non-clan" badges available, that might have a thistle, a Lion Rampant, a piper, or some other symbol on them.  Or you may wear no pin at all.  The choice is up to you. 

 

Behind your badge, you can put a sprig of your clan's plant badge if you like (or a sprig of anything you find attractive looking).  You can also wear hackles or small feathers.  I say small feathers because large eagle feathers are reserved for clan chiefs, and you don't want to be mistaken for one.  So outside of large eagle feathers, wear anything you like in your cap, or nothing at all.

 

Moving on then, let's discuss jackets.  There are two reason to wear a jacket with your kilt -- if you are going to a formal or semi-formal occasion, or if it's cold outside.  Well, three reasons, really.  Also if you are part of a group where a jacket is required as part of the uniform.  But then again, we are not discussing uniforms, but regular civilian clothing.  If you are wearing a jacket for warmth, by all means wear whatever jacket you want.  There is nothing that says you can't wear a long heavy coat with your kilt.  I do every winter!  If you are wearing the jacket more for style than function, then you may want to look into getting a kilt jacket. 

 

There are two basic styles, the Prince Charlie and the Argyle (there are actually more styles than this, but these are the two basic ones you will encounter 99% of the time).  The Prince Charlie jacket is the Scottish equivalent of the tuxedo.  It is for black tie affairs only, and is typically worn with a three-button waist coat and bow tie.  It's available in various colors but is almost always seen in black, with silver buttons.  These are also available for rent from many locations and if you only plan on going to formal occasions rarely, renting may be a smart option for you (how many people own their own tuxedos?).

 

The Argyle jacket is more versatile.  There are many variations of the Argyle jacket.  Some have gauntlet cuffs, so have plain cuffs, some have epaulets, some do not.  If made from a tweed, or light color wool, they make a fine day wear jacket.  If made from black wool, or a dark color like navy blue they make an acceptable formal wear jacket, as well.  Wear it with a neck tie and white button shirt for semi-formal occasions.  Wear it with a bow tie and tux shirt for formal wear.  It can be worn with or without a vest and it looks fine either way.  If you are only going to purchase one jacket, a black Argyle jackets is the most versatile one you can buy.

 

People often ask about plaids.  There are various styles.  Most often when people are asking about wearing a plaid they have in mind a piper's or drummer's plaid. These are rather elaborate, long, pleated lengths of tartan that a pipe major or drum major wears over his doublet, wrapped around his chest and over the shoulder.  Unless you are a pipe major or drum major, you really will have no need for such a thing.  More common is the fly plaid, which is a large square piece of tartan, slightly tailored at one corner into pleats.  That corner is worn pinned with a large brooch to one shoulder and the rest is left hanging down your back.  While it looks splendid worn with a formal jacket for dress events, it's really a bit much for day wear.  And it's really not necessary for formal wear either, though it adds a nice touch.  Buy one if you like.  Don't if you don't like.  If you want a plaid to wear for more casual affairs, get a length of a few yards of your tartan, hem the cut ends, and fold it into a size that you can easily drape over your shoulder, as if you were carrying a blanket to a picnic.  This is the old, traditional, shoulder plaid that men used to wear for added warmth -- the left over upper portion of the old belted plaid.  You hardly ever see people wearing them anymore, but they are quite traditional.

 

Ghillie brouge shoes are the same way.  These are the formal dress shoes with the long laces that wrap around your calf.  Like the fly plaid, they add a nice extra touch to a dress occasion, but are not necessary.  Wear them if you like.  Otherwise, standard black dress shoes will work, and just wear sensible shoes for casual wear.

 

And of course, the list goes one.  There is no end of things that you can wear with your kilt.  Almost all of them are going to come down simply to a matter of personal taste.  The sgian dubh is a prime example.  This is the little knife that is worn in tucked into the top of the kilt hose.  Ask some and it is considered an essential part of the whole outfit.  But if you don't wear one, no one will likely notice.  There are a wide range of styles available, from the very simply wooden or horn handled, to the intricate, silver and gem encrusted formal designs.  The choice is simply yours to make.  The same is true if you want to wear a dirk (a longer knife worn from your belt).  It's entirely up to you.

 

When you get your kilt, you will notice that it probable has a white thread holding the pleats together.  This is called a basting stitch.  This is only there to keep the pleats neatly in place during shipment.  It will need to be taken out before the kilt is worn.  It may seem obvious to some, but also remember that the pleats are worn in the back. 

 

Typically, a kilt pin of some sort is worn in the lower corner of the front apron.  The most common style today is the sword pin with the clan crest displayed on it.  This style is fine, but you certainly shouldn't feel restricted to it.  Kilt pins can look like swords, dirks, crosses, thistles, Celtic knots, or even be as simple as a large diaper pin!  Pretty much any pin you want to wear will work.  The thing to keep in mind is that the pin is a decorative item.  It is not meant to hold the front apron shut, and should not be pinned through both aprons!  Doing so usually causes the kilt to hang funny and may result in damage to your kilt or kilt pin if it gets caught on something.  Just pin it through the top apron and let it be.

 

When you are not wearing your kilt, it should be stored hanging, not folded in a drawer.  There are a few ways to hang your kilt.  I prefer using one of those skirt hangers that have the large clasp.  Any department store or house ware store should have these.  The kilt should be folded and closed as if is was being worn, and then folded in half again, so that the pleats are on the outside (if you fold it pleats in, this may wrinkle your pleats).  Then use the skirt hanger to clasp the top of the kilt securely and hang in your closet. 

 

Many kilts also have small loops sewn inside the waist by each hip.  When you fold the kilt as described above, the two loops should come together.  This is from the Scottish military, when each soldier would hang their kilt from a peg by these loops.  You can use them for the same purpose, hanging the kilt from a peg or a clothes hanger!

 

Keep in mind that the kilt is wool, and if you have a problem with moths in your area, take precautions to keep your kilt from being damaged. So far everyone I have asked prefers the smell of cedar to moth balls.

 

As far as cleaning your kilt goes, it is best to dry clean it, although some people I know have great success washing it by hand in their bath tubs in lukewarm water and Woolite.  The important thing to remember is not to clean it too frequently.  If you have your kilt cleaned each time you wear it, you will wear your kilt out much faster, and without any need.  Your kilt is not going to get overly soiled with your body perspiration or oils.  There is not really any part of the kilt that comes into direct contact with your skin for very long.  The lower part of the kilt hangs loosely around your legs.  The upper part around your waist comes into more direct contact, but any shirt you are wearing is going to come between you and the kilt.  So the only reason to get your kilt cleaned is if something should soil the outside.  And depending on what this is, a bit of in-home spot cleaning may be easier for you that hauling to the cleaners.

 

So now you have your kilt, you have everything you are going to wear with you kilt, and the question arises -- what does one wear under his kilt?  Personally, I favor a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.  Traditionally, of course, nothing is worn, but if someone is ever so bold as to check, you have other things to worry about.  But one hazard of wearing a kilt is that people will ask.  Rather than pointing out that if a man were to come up to a strange woman and ask her what she is wearing under her skirt, he'd be arrested, here are some more witty responses.

 

"Nothing is worn under the kilt, it's all in fine working order."

 

"Shoes and socks."

 

"Lipstick."

 

"Are your hands cold?  You can check if you really want to know."

 

I've heard tales of young soldiers in the Highland Regiments, when asked this question by tourists, simply showing them, rather than giving a verbal response.  I wouldn't recommend this tactic in most cases. Usually, when asked this question, I adopt an indignant look and say, "Do you really want to know?"  Usually the answer is negative.

 

Like everything else I've discusses here, this decision is ultimately up to you.  I'll repeat -- unless you are in a military unit, or a pipe band, or some other group that has a uniform requirement, your kilt is not a uniform, but an article of clothing, like your trousers or anything else, that you can wear and accessorize as you see fit.  Wear it.  Wear it where you want, when you want, but wear it often and proudly!

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