Here the great kilt is worn with a fancy scarlet doublet,
linen cravat, dress sporran, knit Lovat blue hose, and buckle brogues.
The pattern of the tartan has no particular meaning; though there
are examples of clans preferring certain colors and patterns prior to
the revival of Highland dress at the beginning of the 19th century, clan
tartans were not fixed as they are today. This pattern was designed
for the 1995 film Rob Roy
, and it caught my eye.
The period of the outfit is a bit of a hodge-podge, but generally reproduces
a gentleman's costume from the early 19th century. The great kilt
is appropriate for many periods, but the penannular brooch is strictly medieval,
and the toning hose modern. I'll be replacing those with a simple
pin, and tartan hose, respectively. The kilt pin is a Victorian
invention, and so it's anachronistic here. I've chosen an Irish wolf
motif for the pin, with broken collar trampling on a broken crown, to declare
first that I'm no man's servant, and second, that despite my Highland attire,
I'm still mostly Irish!
Though no waistcoat is visible (I didn't have one yet, though it should be
out of linen, for the approximate period of the costume), it should be present
under the doublet. The doublet was based on one shown in a portrait of the last Duke of Gordon,
suggesting that it dates to around 1820 or so. A similar collar is
seen in a portrait of Alasdair MacDonnell of Glengarry from 1815; this portrait
also features the first known appearance of the sgian dubh worn in the hose.
A similar collar also appears on the doublets of the MacGregor honor
guard on a painting celebrating George IV's visit to Scotland in 1822. The
white cockade in the bonnet, on the other hand, would make me a Jacobite,
c. 1745. Perhaps I'm an early romanticist.
The great kilt, bonnet (with cockade), belt, doublet, brooch, shirt,
cravat, hose, and buckle brogues were purchased from Tartanweb
, an excellent
online Scottish clothier specializing in period outfits, run by Douglas
MacGregor. The sporran, sporran strap, and sgian dubh were purchased
at The Scottish Merchant and Tobacconist
, in Old Town, Alexandria
VA. The dirk I picked up at a vendor booth at the 2001 Celtic Classic.
The basket-hilt claymore, scabbard for same, sword belt baldric,
and Irish Wolf kilt pin I purchased from Museum Replicas,
, a specialist in period weaponry and costuming. Instead
of hose flashes, I have tied my hose with 3/8" wide red silk ribbon,
in almost authentic period fashion. I got the ribbon, and the fake eagle
feather in my bonnet, at the craft store chain Michael's
Below is the great kilt outfit as I first wore it. to the
2002 Celtic Classic Festival.
The cockade in the bonnet would again make me a Jacobite, but again, the
outfit is a bit of a hodgepodge. The brogs are approximations (see
below), and once again, the penannular brooch and kilt pin are anachronisms.
The lacing on the shirt is yet another Victorian invention - a true period
shirt would have a single button at the top of the collar, which would
be a short fall collar, or a band collar. The stag-handle
dirk is modern as well. The matching sgian dubh is hidden in
the folds of my great kilt, as was the custom before it became fashionable
to tuck it the hose. The pom on the bonnet appears in a later period, and
I have since removed it (in such a way that I can always tie it back on if
I want). These anachronisms aside,
this costume approximates Highland wear from about 1600 to 1750 for a man
of limited means.
You'll notice the simplicity of my shoes, or brogs
, and lack
of hose; in fact, in the Highlands, it was common to go barefoot
except in the most inclement of weather. When shoes were worn,
often they were simple strips of deerskin, tied around the feet with the
hairy side in. My brogs
are of leather, and have a reinforced soles
on bottom. In fact, the elaborate cut-outs on the brogs make them
closer to a Roman legionary sandal than any Scottish footwear, and I'll probably
retire them and replace it with deerhide. Oh well, at least I have
the first part of my Roman Officer's costume!
Instead of the usual sporran, I have worn a drawstring pouch, also
accurate to the period. Notice the total difference the different accessories
and lack of a doublet make to the overall look - though it doesn't help
that I was 20 lbs heavier in these pictures than I was in the pictures
Below are pictures of me at the 2003 Potomac Celtic festival.
Here I've worn a less formal tweed jacket based on a doublet seen in a
19th century print by R. R. MacIan of a Grant of Glenmoriston playing the stick-and-ball
). The doublet has no collar,
and is longer than necessary for a great kilt, which means it can be worn
with a little kilt as well. The doublet, in one form or another, dates
from the 17th century, so this outfit would be approximately appropriate
for the periods between 1650 and 1780 or so. The laced shirt is again a Victorian
anachronism, and the buckled brogues a modern impression. The hose should
also be a tartan sock either with feet, or a footless hose called called moggans
not solid or knit (though knit
hose are known from Ireland from the 16th century). Once again, the
kilt pin is an anachronism.
And to answer the usual burning question, and at the hazard of inciting
the usual jokes, no, nothing is worn underneath the great kilt. But
that doesn't leave you naked when the kilt is off; like the léine
it's replaced, a correctly-made kilt shirt stretches to mid-thigh,
or even almost to the knee.
The Little Kilt:
Known as the feileadh beg
in Scottish Gaelic, spelled philabeg
in Scots, this is just the lower half of a great kilt, with the pleats sewn
in. The great kilt was usually made from two strips of tartan fabric
stitched together length-wise, and it doesn't take a lot of imagination to
unstitch them and wear the upper and lower parts separately. The usual
legend credits the invention of the philabeg
to an English logging
magnate in around 1728. However, the little kilt is probably older than
most give it credit for. It appears in a drawing from 1672, showing
a short kilt that lacks the folds of fabric that rise over the belt in
the great kilt, and refers to it as "servill habit". A writer from as early
as 1639 wrote that the kilt, and fabric that hung over the shoulder (now
known as a "plaid"), were separate garments. This means that the philabeg
is almost as old as the kilt itself! There is some irony that a garment
that began as a cloak worn only around the shoulders (the brat
evolved into a garment worn only around the waist (the philabeg
were pleated the whole way round, and the pleating
was not even stitched in at first; and the kilt was held in place by pins.
have an unpleated apron in front, and are
held in place by straps and buckles.
I have a modern little kilt drom Tartanweb in the Walker
tartan, along with a pair of plaids (still on order). Here's
what it looks like with each of my doublets, with both dress and daywear sporrans.
The photographer had a case of the shakes when he took these pictures,
so I've had to enhance them somewhat.
And pictures taken from the wedding of J. Thomas Ford and Elizabeth D'arrigo, on August 2, 2003:
In addition to my own kilt, soon I'll be issued a full military-style
pipe costume in the Cameron tartan when I begin to play at performances
with the City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums. Pictures of both soon.
The 21st Century Kilt:
And oh, how I'd like a few Utilikilts
Oh yes, one personal pet peeve: Is the kilt a skirt?
Absolutely, positively, yes
. Doubt me?
Look up the definition and etymology of skirt
; from the Norse
word to encircle (as in skirting an obstacle), it's any garment that
wraps around the waist. Interestingly, it derives from the same
word as shirt
, which wraps around the torso. "But,"
I hear those making the contrary argument claim, "the kilt is a Scottish
garment, so we should use the Scottish word for it, not a Norse word
like 'skirt'. So there!"
Rubbish! The word kilt
Gaelic, but Anglo-Saxon in origin, and means 'to pleat'. The kilt
is a Gaelic/Highland garment, and if we want to call it by its native
name, then we have to call it a philabeg
. So yes, the kilt
is a skirt
. It's a men's pleated skirt. A men's kilted
skirt. To be more specific, a little kilt is a skirt, while a great kilt
has a skirt. Still, any man insecure enough to lose his composure
when accused of wearing a skirt while sporting a kilt shouldn't be wearing
it in the first place. I am simply entertained by the fact that
the most manly of all garments is in fact a skirt; and that kilts of one
form or another were worn by men of most settled cultures. Pants
are the garment of the horse-barbarian. Thus endeth the rant.