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What is a kilt?

A kilt is often described as a ’skirt-type garment’ and we suppose that that’s one definition. However, that’s not how the kilt was conceived and so any skirt-like similarity is purely coincidental.

The national dress of Scotland started life as a heavy cloth or plaid that was simply thrown around the shoulder and fastened around the waist with a wide belt. Sometime a leather pouch attached to the belt for carrying stuff. It was worn by men in the Scottish highlands and was sometimes woven in a tartan-like check to indicate where the man was from.

Around the early to middle 18th century, the plaid - in Gaelic, filleadh mhòr or great kilt - was cut to rid the wearer of the top part, leaving only the lower part hanging from the waist, creating the filleadh bheag or little kilt. The filleadh bheag became the kilt we wear today.

When and where should it be worn?

Although today the kilt is most associated with formal and semi-formal occasions like weddings, many Scots choose to wear it at national sports tournaments when the Scottish rugby or football teams are playing, or at other sporting occasions, most notably at Highland Games or Gatherings all over the world.

How to wear it.


Dress it down or dress it up. It really is a very versatile garment. For sporting occasions, wear it casually, with a warm jacket or heavy jumper and stout shoes or boots. Wear it while stalking in the mountains.

Day Wedding

Wear with a white turn-down collar shirt and tie (not tartan) and an Argyll or Crail jacket or similar. Black or brown brogues may be worn and a brown or black leather day sporran should be worn with your kilt. Choose your colour of kilt hose (socks) - except white - and wear plain or tartan garters. You will also need kilt pin.For a day-time wedding with a more formal look, wear a black Argyll jacket and waistcoat with a silver tie, and a semi-formal sporran.

Evening Wear

For an evening wedding or dinner, where you might wear a tuxedo, wear your kilt with a Prince Charlie jacket (‘coatee’) with waistcoat and a wing collar white shirt with black tie. Wear a full dress or fur sporran with your kilt but follow the usual guidelines for hose. Ghillie brogues should be worn.

Accessories are a full dress sporran with fur front and silver cantle, kilt pin and cuff links, kilt hose and garter flashes to harmonise with the colours in the kilt and jacket, or tartan or diced hose that match the kilt and black brogues or buckle brogues. 

The white evening shirt (tuxedo shirt) worn with a black bow tie can have a wing-collar or turn-down collar. Following day-time weddings, it is normal for kilted grooms and guests to go on to evening receptions in the highland day wear or morning dress that they wore for the wedding itself.

Although rarely worn these days, formal evening dress could include a fly plaid, worn over the left shoulder and secured to your jacket or doublet by a large plaid brooch. 

Finally, don’t forget your sgian dubh. Wear a real one within a sheath or a safety one without a blade (great for boys) and wear it tucked into the top your hose. Although this is more a utility knife than a real weapon, make sure it is legal in the country or state where you will be married!.