Everything You Need To Know
Formal Highland Dress
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Once you’ve settled on your perfect tartan, it’s time to create your kilt!
Kilts are typically produced from three different weights of cloth: 10oz, 13oz, and 16oz. The light 10oz cloth is mostly used for ladies’ clothing or for the Italian market. It is far too light to produce the attractive ‘swing’ that is synonymous with the kilt and is therefore not typically used in formal wear.
On the other hand, the heavy 16oz variety is ideal for keeping you warm if you’re patrolling the battlements in an icy wind, but will prove next to impossible to dance in! The 13oz variety is therefore the one that is most commonly used in formal highland dress.
Many people are surprised when they see how much cloth is actually involved in the creation of the kilt. For instance, a kilt for an average-sized gentleman (say, a 24-38” waist) will typically require around eight yards of fabric. This figure increases quite dramatically once you get into larger sizes. Similarly, many people are horrified when they see their measurements for a kilt, as they assume it’s worn like trousers and will therefore be produced in a similar size. A kilt is worn much higher up the body and therefore requires a totally different set of measurements.
A big part of wearing your kilt properly is the belt. All kilts are worn with a broad belt (around 2.5” wide), passed through two belt loops at the back of the kilt. These belts are adjustable, combining Velcro with a buckle and make the whole kilt feel much more comfortable and secure when they are worn properly. The standard material for belts is grained leather, although tooled leather that incorporates different patterns is also an option. There are no hard-and-fast rules, so just choose whatever looks best to you. The same goes for the belt buckle – although some people opt for clan emblems, it is certainly not compulsory so feel free to experiment.
Ideally, the kilt should be worn with all the plies stacked on top of each other evenly, rather than in a haphazard style and then two fingers width should be allowed between the belt and the top of the sporran.
All too often, people neglect to use a proper kilt pin. This small pin (often in the shape of a sword, although different designs are available) goes through the bottom corner of the kilt’s apron (its flat front). What it does is give just enough weight to keep the kilt hanging in the right way and also provide a little extra decoration.
For all these reasons, I recommend you avoid ordering kilts online or buying them ‘off the shelf’, as it is far too easy to misjudge the size you need without a kilt-maker’s expert eye.