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History of the Kilt

Macgregor kilt Kilt History Macduff Kilt

The kilt the integral part of the world renowned Scottish National Dress, but what makes it unique is that even non-Scots have taken to wearing it as formal dress for special occasions.

Hire shops have become very popular Worldwide and reasonable hire charges have made it the only national dress you may see worn in almost any country in the world.

Historically it was not always as popular as it is today. In August 1747, after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 1745 rebellion, the British government banned the wearing of the kilt (and the bagpipes, which were seen as an instrument of war) in an attempt at suppressing highland identity.

This law remained in force until 1783. During the ban the only people who were legally allowed to wear the kilt were pipers in the military and then only in their regimental tartan.

"... no man or boy within that part of Great Britain called Scotland, other than such as shall be employed as Officers and soldiers in His Majesty's Forces, shall, ... wear or put on the clothes commonly called Highland Clothes ..."

The original kilt was known as the feileadh mhór (philamore) or "big wrap". After the ban and during the 1800s the kilt evolved into something like what we wear today. This is known in Gaelic as the feileadh beag (philabeg) or little wrap.

The top and bottom parts were separated, the top half (the plaid) being worn over the shoulder and detachable for comfort. The bottom part was now tailored with sewn in pleats but no hire companies were on the horizon just yet.

Originally the apron of the garment (the front part) was left unattached but one story, possibly apocryphal, has it that during a visit by Queen Victoria kilt wearers were subjected to strong winds revealing to her majesty what was worn underneath! Perhaps that's why she became so fond of Scotland.

Some say that this event created the demand for the kilt pin, supposedly used to help keep the garment in place, but actually the pin is only a decoration and should not be pinned through the two layers or 'aprons' of the Kilt.

(Often a Scotsman will be asked, "What is worn under the kilt?" . Spike Milligan's response to this was, "Nothing, everything is in perfect working order!")

The original feileadh mhór was a utility, plaid garment worn only by Highlanders. It was not used in central or southern parts of Scotland. It consisted of about 6 yards of wool material about two yards wide. The plaid is not to be confused with the American use of the word plaid to describe tartan or checked material.

In Gaelic a plaid is a blanket, not the distinctive checked pattern. Early versions were not in tartan because the technology to produce tartan was not yet available. Even when weaving techniques were improved tartans were generally dull and limited to the rough browns and greens that could be produced from the natural dyes that were available at the time.

The feileadh mór was worn using a complex folding routine. It was first spread on the ground then the wearer lay on it before folding it round the waist and over the shoulders. It was held in place at the waist using a broad leather belt.

The top part of the material that was worn over one shoulder left the other arm free to use a sword. It could also be used to wrap around oneself to keep out the cold and to carry things like the day's food. In battle it was easy to divest. It only required the belt to be undone for the whole thing to fall away from the body.

The kilt has now become more formal dress wear rather than a practical garment. It is commonly worn in Scotland at occasions like weddings and formal functions and is acceptable on all occasions where one would wear a dinner suit or tuxedo.

It is once more gaining in popularity and most Scottish weddings are now conducted with the groom, best man and lots of the male guests in kilts, whether these are owned or hired. This is in contrast to many other kinds of traditional wear, even lounge suits, which are increasingly seen as old-fashioned by today's trendy young men.

The kilt outfit of your choice is readily available to buy or hire everywhere and the kilt has once again started to evolve, this time into a fashion garment worn at every opportunity by many well known celebrities both Scots and non-Scots.

Many gentlemen can attest to the Kilts ability to make you feel like a million dollars. As soon as it goes on you feel your chest swell, your spine straightens and you feel four inches taller.

In the last few years the kilt has also been making an appearance as casual wear, worn with just a traditional, Ghilllie or Jacobean style shirt, a wool sweater or even a tee shirt. The young men who now wear it this way also wear big socks and hiking boots, which may be frowned upon by traditionalists but it does create an appropriate casual kilt outfit.

At Macgregor MacDuff we cater for the full spectrum of Kilt Wearers. From the more casual Kilt wearer who needs something to wear to Scotland matches to the Gentlemen looking for something a little bit unique that will stand out from the crowds at A-List functions.

Kilt Worn by Scottish Warrior