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Scottish Kilts

A traditional garment worn in Scotland is the kilt which is made from a fabric which is woven from different colors of died wool to form a specific pattern called a tartan. At right is a photo of one my kilts which was hand-sewn from the modern Clan Home tartan.


A good high-quality hand-sewn heavyweight kilt can be very expensive and will set you back several hundred dollars, but it will have a higher quality than the machine-sewn kilts that are commercially available today.


There are several hand-made kilts from World War 1 still around. I personally own a couple of them that were issued as Brittish Military uniforms in World War 2 that I wear quite regularly. Even though they are over 70 years old and have been used in combat, they are in perfect condition and still to this day look almost brand new.


A good quality hand-sewn kilt that is properly cared for will last for many years. Kilts are heirlooms to be passed down to future generations for them to enjoy and be proud of their ancestry.


That does not mean that you need to baby them, remember they were designed to be worn in battle and have been worn by soldiers for hundreds of years. Kilts can take a beating, and still bounce back. Try that with your favorite pair of blue jeans.


One of the worst things that you could ever do to a kilt is to have it dry cleaned. Never, ever have your kilt dry cleaned. The chemicals used in the dry cleaning process are extremely harmful to the wool fibers the tartan is made from as well as the leather straps at the sides of the kilt used to hold the kilt closed and keep it on you.  


Remember, this is not just cloth, it is wool, which means it is the hair of sheep, so treat it like you would your own hair. You wouldn't use harsh dry cleaning chemicals on your own hair, would you? Use a mild shampoo when you clean your kilt and the fibers will stay strong and remain undamaged. Personally, I use Johnson's Baby Shampoo to clean my kilts with, but we will get more into cleaning and caring for kilts later.


Now we have come to another of my pet peeves. Kilts are designed to be worn by MEN and not women. Get over all your "that's sexist" and "discriminating" ideas and realize that men's and women's bodies are not the same. They are not shaped the same way, and the kilt was specifically designed to fit the male body. It does not follow the curves of a woman's frame.


The waist and the seat of the kilt, which is where the hips are at their widest point, has a four-inch difference between them. Women's hips are typically much wider than their waist, which means the kilt can not sit properly on their hips for the pleats in the back of the kilt to fall straight down like they are designed to do.


Throughout history, there are countless photos and illustrations of men wearing kilts. Have you ever wondered why there are no photos or illustrations of women wearing kilts? There are countless photos and illustrations of women wearing tartan dresses, sashes over their shoulders, and other items made with tartan fabric, but never a kilt. Keep the kilt wear it belongs, and where it has been throughout its long history, on the Men.


Now onto another kilt topic. The specific colors and design of tartan that a kilt is made with has meaning. They signify which family or clan a person belongs to or has affiliation with. When choosing a kilt tartan, keep in mind that there are some people who hold very strong feelings about people wearing tartan for a clan that they are not a member of. Also, remember that tartan comes from a feudal time in history. It is not quite "Hatfields & McCoys" but there are still strong feelings between some clans to this date, so keep this in mind.


Using the same tartan design you can also get different looks with a kilt depending on how where the fabric is folded to make the pleats. For instance, the two photos below are of the Home Ancient tartan. The one on the left is "Pleated to the Sett", meaning that the same design from the front matches through the pleats on the back. The one on the right is "Pleated to the Stripe" giving a completely different look to the pleats:

























Here is an example of the Home Modern tartan, pleated both ways:

























When I am wearing a kilt I am often asked if I am Irish, which is another pet peeve of mine (yes I have several). This shows just how uninformed most people are about kilts and their origins.


Yes, there are Irish kilts, but traditionally they look nothing like a Scottish kilt. The kilts that you see with all the colorful patterns are SCOTTISH kilts.


Irish kilts are made from solid color material, and are generally green, black, or saffron in color. Irish kilts are not traditionally made with tartan patterns distinguishing one family from another. Irish families do NOT have family or district tartans, this idea of clan and district tartans was stolen from the Scots. This is a 20th Century marketing ploy by kilt makers to be able to sell more kilts, and it is highly offensive.



So, as the "Social Justice Warriors" love to say when someone from one culture uses something from another culture . . .






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