Where to buy my first kilt? What kilt? What about sizes for a kilt?he correcy length of a kilt. What tartan?

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Now and then I'm asked how and where to buy a kilt.
   Here is my advice. It is based upon the assumption that you probably have no Scottish roots, meaning the kilt shall primarily be for casual wear and not part of a national dress.


 

How do I get my first kilt?

Take a flight to Edinburgh. It is a beautiful city. There are so many options. More likely it is, however, that you'll be ordering it on the internet, especially if you are going to have it made to measure.

 

What about shipment cost, taxes and VAT?

If you are an EU-resident and your vendor is inside EU too, you’ll simply pay the VAT of the exporting country (should be included in the price, but it is not always the case, USA and Canada being big markets for many Scottish kilt makers). In UK it is 20%. No other taxes apply. In most cases you have to add shipment cost.

If you are an EU-resident and your vendor is outside EU (for example USA and Canada) is it different and less favourable.

To the price of the kilt you have to add shipment cost. If the sum of kilt and shipment exceeds the equal of approx. 150 EUR you'll have to pay 12% import tax of this total.
   VAT always applies (the rate of the importing country, calculated on kilt price plus shipment plus import tax, if applicable). Finally a customs clearance fee is added. Could be about 20 EUR.

 

What do I need to know prior to ordering a traditional kilt

 

Wool or PV?

A traditional kilt is made of plaid, a cloth with a pattern of different coloured straight lines crossing each other at 90 degree angles, also called a tartan.
The plaid should be woolen, but pure new wool being expensive, off-the-peg kilts and some custom made kilts are made of a PV/acrylic fabric. Wool feels better than PV, the pleats are sharper, and it is less prone to peel, but PV doesn’t have to be a bad choice. Marton Mills, a reputable British mill makes some excellent tartans in PV and some Pakistani PV fabrics are good too. The Pakistani (I suppose) off-the-peg kilt I’m going to recommend you is a fine kilt that won’t fall apart. To some extent PV kilts are washable whereas woolen kilts must be dry cleaned.


Eight yard or less?

The more plaid, the more expensive, at least for the same sort of kilt. For traditionalists no less than eight yards (7.3 m) will do, and that's a lot of fabric. No wonder that such kilt is often called a tank. You really feel much protected wearing one (and often warm).
Five yard kilts seem to be a good compromise regarding comfort, look and cost. On the market are also four yard, six yard, and even a two yard kilt to get.

Most of my kilts are five yards.

 

What tartan?

There are more than 3.000 registered tartans. There are clan (family) tartans for members of Scottish clans; there are district and universal tartans (fashion tartans) for men without clan affiliation. And there are corporate tartans, designed and registered for some companies.
No law forbids you to wear a certain tartan, however. Provided you wear your kilt in a proper way hardly anyone should object, should you be seen wearing "his" tartan.
And even when, how could he prove that you had no “right” to wear it? He himself would probably be wearing trousers, so where was his own proof?

Some tartans are more expensive than others. In general popular and wide spread (clan) tartans are cheaper than district tartans. 



A few examples:

 

Black Watch*

Caledonia Ancient*

Campbell Ancient

Colquhoun Ancient

Douglas Green Modern

Graham of Menteith Modern

Gunn Ancient

Gunn Weathered

Holyrood*

MacDonald of the Isles Hunting Old Colours

MacGredor Red Ancient

McLeod of Harris Ancien

Stewart Black*

Stewart Hunting*

Stewart Royal*

A kilt doesn't need to be in a tartan. You can have it in black, blue, green, red; or - like shown here - in an almost invisible tartan, Grey Heritage.

*) Universal tartan without any clan connection.

 

What tartan weight?

The plaid can be thick, thin, and in between, heavy, light weight or medium weight. The plaid is defined by its weight in ounces (1 oz. = 28.35 g) for one yard of double width cloth (about 60 inch = 140 cm).
An 8 yard kilt can in most cases be made of 4 yard double width or 8 yard single width tartan (about 30 inch wide).


Heavy weight = 16 oz.
 might not be the optimal choice on a hot summer day. To most purists 16 oz. (or more) is a must, however.

Medium Weigt = 13 oz.
is probably the most universal and popular weight for kilts.

Light weight = 10-11 oz. 
is primarily for kilts to be used in a hot climate. Purists will say that a light weight kilt does not have the right swing and that it needs a lot of ironing. It is not what I have experienced myself. 

Really light weight = 8 oz.
Should you want a kilt which is really light weight, you might have a look on the Californian Sport Kilt. 

 
In general, a heavy weight tartan is more expensive than a light weight one, but the price is also affected by the mill that delivers the tartan. Reputable tartan mills are Lochcarron, House of Edgar, Strathmore, Marton Mills, and D.C. Dalgliesh (Scotweb owned), and some more.   
Given an 8 yard kilt takes 4 yards double width cloth the weight should in 16 oz. be over 1.8 kg plus lining, straps and buckles.

Reducing it to 5 yard 13 oz. means going down to about half the weight. And a 4 yard 8 oz. Velcro closed Sport Kilt is about 500 grams only.  
   
Most of my kilts are 13 oz. 5 yard kilts.

 

 

How to get the size right?

This of course is the crucial factor, but in no way too difficult to be handled. Measures comprise the length of your kilt, your waist size, your hip size (and sometimes your own height).

The meter-system has long ago become standard in the UK, but when it comes to kilts etc., yards and inches are still used – like with many jeans brands. Recalculation is simple, however:

1 inch (1 in or 1") = 2.54 cm
1 yard (1 yd.) = 36 in = 91.4 cm

 

1. Waist size

A traditional kilt is supposed to sit about navel (your “natural” waist), i.e. higher than most trousers. A casual kilt can be worn lower, however. Take your measure where you want your kilt to sit. Don’t rely on your trouser size! The clothing industry is pleasing their customers by lying about facts. My Tommy Hilfiger jeans waist size is 32” but my kilt waist is 36”!

One single size of off-the-peg kilts is often to cover four inches difference in waist = 10 cm, for example 34-38 in.

A kilt being fastened by means of straps and buckles means that even on a kilt made to measure there is some flexibility.  

 

2. Hip or seat size

Where you are at the broadest. Take a lose measurement. When buying a readymade kilt you are never asked; and not always when ordering a (rather affordable) kilt made to your measures. Then the seat size is a compromise between your waist size and the kilt lenght.


3. Kilt length

The kilt should at the longest end at the middle of your knee cap. By no means should it cover your knees – even if that not uncommon. At the very shortest it should be one inch above the knee. That means a give and take of about five cm or two inches.

A few examples:

Too long

In no way longer than this

The correct length

Fine but hardly much shorter

Somewhat too short

Far too short, even if  ignorant people might still regard it a kilt

 

As mentioned earlier off-the-peg kilts are 'standardized' 24” or 61 cm long. Shall that length fit you or not? How to find out?
I have never been able to use the "kneeling" method" often referred to.


My advice: 
Use a towel and a belt. Stand upright in front of a tall vertical mounted mirror. Not too close, 2-3 meters should be fine. By means of the towel folded over the belt at your navel (or where you like the kilt to be fastened) start out to see if 24” could be appropriate, otherwise adjust the length of the towel and measure what is the ideal length. 
Remember that you shall probably use a belt one inch wider than you are used to. That adds to the length.

Instead of a mirror have your wife or girlfriend take a picture of you from a good distance – the way people shall see you - and judge from that. The camera on a tripod and using the self timer or remote release is also a good solution.

But why not just order a cheap 24” kilt to see whether the length fits you or not. If not, you can return it and have your money back. Or, if too long, a seamstress can shorten it.
It is a good and cheap way also to feel more assure when you order your next and probably more expensive kilt. And for a lot of tasks that cheap kilt is just right.

 

4. Your height

Some vendors will ask. And you are supposed to give your height in feet and inches. It is just to give an impression whether the length you have ordered seems correct. It is not a very precise indicator, but if you order it 20” (51 cm) short and your height is 6’9” (206 cm) you might be asked whether you really want it to be a micro kilt? 

1 foot (1 ft. or 1’) = 12 in. = 30.48 cm.

Being 176 cm tall I am 5 feet tall (176/30.48 = 152.4 cm plus remaining 23.6 cm). They again equal approx. 9 inches (23.6/2.54). Meaning my height is 5’9” = 175.3 cm, which is more correct than 5’10” which is 177.8 cm.

Placed at navel a 24” kilt goes to the middle of my knee cap. In my case this length is the absolute maximum. A 21” kilt resting on my hips comes to about one inch above my knee cap, thereby still just acceptable. Fastened at navel it should look more like a mini kilt, however. The perfect kilt length is for me 22.5"-23”. This just to indicate that there is some flexibility – and come in mind we are talking casual kilt wearing, not national dress.


For me, better too short a kilt than too long.

 

With a few kiltmakers on the internet you might two more choices:

Pleating

Pleating refers to the way the pleats of the kilt are constructed. Standard is knife pleated to the sett, meaning the pleats are turning to the same side, and they are aranged in a way that makes front and back of the kilt look very much the same.

A few kilt makers offer pleated to the stripe instead of to the sett, or box pleated instead of knife pleated.

Pleated to the stripe is also called military pleating. Instead of displaying the tartan like when pleated to the sett, it hides it. Only when you are moving it can be seen folding out; otherwise repeating stripes in a certain colour is the dominationg element. It can look extremely good, but it can be difficult to imagine, how the kilt is going to look. It depends of the tartan and the stripe chosen. If you have the choice, but are not in personal contact with the kilt maker, who can visualize it, I should suggest you to choose pleated to the sett.

Some kilt weares will prefer box pleats over knife pleats and a few kilt makers are known for making this type of kilts. Good examples are Lady Chrystel (France), and Paul Henry (UK). You'll find links to both of them at the bottom of this page and on the links page. Especially on Lady Chrystel's homepage you'll learn more about this technique.

 

Pleated to the sett. The Graham of Mentieth tartan looks approx. the same on front and back of the kilt.


Apron Fringes


On a traditional kilt the apron will normally have fringes. Can be two or three, but also none may be a possibility. On the kilts I'm going to suggest you, you only in one case have a choice.

The USA Kilt Casual has no fringes

The Graham of Mentieth has

 

 



 

What kilt and where to get it?

I suggest your first kilt be a rather cheap one which you can really wear without taking too much care.
   Later it is likely that you might go up the ladder and should invest in more expensive kilts. But the money you spend on your first budget kilt is never wasted.

 

Casual off-the-peg kilts. A lot of value for money


Kilt Society

Edinburgh, UK.

KILT SOCIETY Essential 8 yard PV kilt, £50 plus £12 freight to EU

As your first kilt I should recommend a casual kilt which you might buy from Kilt Society. Their 8 yard Kilt Society Essential comes in 12 tartans and five waist sizes and the price £50 seems favourable. Shipping to the European continent is £12.
If you can use the standard 24” length it might make a perfect and most versatile starter kilt. And you have 60 days to regret your purchase, should it not fit you. Kilt Society also has some nice accessories, meaning you can have it all from one vendor.   

https://kiltsociety.com/collections/kilts/products/8-yard-kilt

All you have to do is choosing the tartan and waist size, pay and wait for your kilt to come.

Such kilt does not quite feel like wool and no wonder because it is made of acrylic poly viscose. Some will say it is a bad fabric and that a kilt like this shall in a short time fell apart. It is not, and it shall not. I suspect those telling that have never themselves seen or worn one of these kilts. I can tell you it is not true.

Off-the-peg kilt in the £50 range

It won’t last a life time but long. Before that it will stand up to a lot of battering and you don’t have to care much about it. It keeps its pleats extremely well. It is not for very formal events but neither is a pair of Hugo Boss or Tommy Hilfiger jeans.
  It is not made in Scotland but in Pakistan, I suppose. But so it is with most of the clothing industry. Even high priced brands are today mass manufactured in countries where labor cost is low - like it or not.
   To purists a kilt manufactured outside Scotland might seem an almost mortal sin. But perhaps they should think twice. The gap between the price of a kilt and that of other fine men's garments shall otherwise become too big with the risk of eventually killing the kilt.  

For walking along the coast, in the hills or mountains, in the woods, when driving to the DIY market on a Saturday morning, going to the mall with your wife, going sightseeing in a European capital or when mewing the lawn in your garden this type of kilt is just perfect. Believe me.

Should it be ruined it is good to know that it is cheap and fast to replace. I shouldn’t be without one.
   Another reason the cheap kilt is a good starting point is the sizing. How far is the kilt from being optimal in waist and length? A good and cheap way to feel more assure when you order your next and probably more expensive kilt.

You can have kilts cheaper than that. But ... they are often made of a thin flimsy fabric and they come without sewn down pleats at the rear, making them look more of a skirt than a kilt.

 

Hector Russell Kiltmaker
Edinburgh, UK.

James Pringle Veawers Gent's Weekend Kilt, £85 plus freight

You might also have a look at Hector Russell Kiltmaker. Hector Russell is an old company with a lot of experience. Online they only offer one type of kilt, a PV "James Pringle Weavers Gent’s Weekend Kilt”. You have four colours or tartans to chooseand the price is £85.

Hector Russell has outlets in several Scottish and English cities.

 


Moderate priced custom made kilts

When did you last have something sewn to your measures? Chances are you never had. But with kilts it is still not than uncommon.  And that of course must reflect prices.
Sewn-to-measure-kilts are most often made from wool and they are available in a lot of different tartans. The big advantage over off-the-peg kilts is that you can have them any length you want. And, of course, they are sewn with a much higher degree of precision, especially when it comes to the pleats.

Despite coming from USA, meaning high freight cost and taxes, two vendors might be interesting for EU-Citizens, Sport Kilt and USA Kilts.

Sportkilt.com
Signal Hill (L.A) California, USA

4 yard super lightweight PV around £150 including estimated freight, VAT and customs clearance fee.

Sport Kilts are something very special.  I have just (February 2018) got me a Sport Kilt. My wife and I will every year spend weeks in hot Spain or Italy and every year I have been regretting not having a Sport Kilt. Now I have. Being really light weight, only 8 oz. – and that is it that makes this kilt outstanding - it must be a dream to wear in a hot climate. That I still have to find out, but so far I can say that wearing it feels great, even if quite different to a traditional heavy weight kilt.   

In the standard version the Sport Kilt Original comes in six different waist sizes and is 22.5” (57 cm) long which for me is the perfect length. The pleats aren’t sewn down but that you can have for $12 (highly recommended). In size Large it is $81.50 including sewn down pleats.

It is closed by means of Velcro and that is fine with me. Want buckle closure, belt loops, fringes, two hidden side pockets, and another length? Everything is possible, but shall cost you. Mine has sewn down pleats, belt loops, fringes, and invisible pockets. And even if I was at first a bit skeptical, I have come to like these pockets. They are what should be found in a kilt 2018.
For informal occasions where you might otherwise feel comfortable in shorts, it is great – provided you don’t expect it to be a traditional kilt. It’s an unpretentious kilted garment of its own and for the mentioned purposes I can highly recommend it, even if the price at your doorstep is by far not as favorable as the $81.50 indicates. Freight is about $65 and add to that VAT (of kilt plus freight) plus customs clearance fee and you end up close to £150.

70 tartans are to choose.   

 

Sport Kilt Original Loch Ness Tartan

 

 

USA Kilts.com
Spring City PA, USA

4 yard PV USA Kilt Casual around £200 including estimated freight, VAT and customs clearance fee.

USA Kilts.com makes a very nice 4 yard kilt according to your measures, called USA Kilts Casual. You can have it in over 90 different tartans and the fabric is a fine 12 oz. washable PV quality from a mill in UK. It is closed by means of Velcro which has some advantages over straps and buckles. It is more flexible regarding waist size, and when a kilt is worn together with a wide belt no one can see that the buckles and straps are missing. The lack of metal parts also means that it shall set no alarms at airports. As something special the pleats are “top-stitched”, meaning stitched all way down. You hardly see it but it makes the pleats of the kilt much easier to maintain.

The basic price for the USA Kilt Casual is $100 – in theory. In practice, unless you are a boy, you’ll have to pay (at least) $20 on top for your hip size. 

The only drawback of this kilt is that freight and the various taxes bring up the price close to £200.
But still I can highly recommend the USA Kilts Casual. I really like this kilt and wear it a lot. It is extremely durable. 

 


USA Kilts Casual, American Heritage tartan

 

Scotweb
Edinburgh, UK.

5 yard PV Essential Scotweb Casual kilt, £135

ScotWeb – a major Scottish kilt vendor – is offering a 5 yard "Essential Scotweb Casual Kilt. It is not a woolen kilt, but being custom made from UK-made, machine washable poly viscose in no less than 120 different tartans and costing no more than £135 it seems to give high value for money. Even if it is a “from” price all tartans seem to sell at the same price. Positive.

At that price this five yard Scotweb “Essential” PV kilt might be a better choice for Europeans than the USA Kilts Casual. And Scotweb offers free freight to Europe.

 


 


Further up the scale, custom made wool kilts

MacGregor & MacDuff
Glasgow, UK.

5 yard made to measure 'starter' kilt in pure new wool selling at £206 including £17.50 freight to EU.

MacGregor and MacDuff have in their range a 5 yard “Starter kilt”. Depending on the tartan, of which you have 100 to choose, it is made from either 13 oz. or 16 oz. pure new wool, and the price is the same regardless the tartan. The pictures of the tartans could have been better. 

 

Kilt Society
Edinburgh, UK.

KILT SOCIETY 5 yard custom made kilt, £225-£350, depending on tartan plus freight, approx. £10.

Kilt Society is rather new enterprise on the market, owned by a younger couple, obvious having a clear vision of making the kilt everyday attire for men wherever they live; an attitude which to my opinion should be highly appreciated.

On their blog on casual kilt wearing they say

"Over at Kilt Society™, we think there's no such thing as a bad time to wear a kilt. While we always respect and honour tradition, we don't believe in die-hard rules. If it's comfortable and makes you feel great, we say go for it. ...

We think kilts have a place in just about any situation. They're particularly great for occasions when you need a little extra freedom of movement, like when hiking or driving long distances.

Both within and outside of Scotland, you'll find men in kilts on the street, in the pub, and even at work. We've heard from lorry drivers to university professors who make the kilt part of their daily uniform. We say it can be worn at any job except mountaineers or firemen because - after all - the higher you climb, the better the view!

Our best tip is that you can dress down your kilt and wear it wherever you would wear a nice pair of jeans."

Kilt Society might have one of the best designed web pages, making it incredibly easy to order a kilt to measure or other items. 
On most tartans you’ll have to pay an additional fee, but actually it is not difficult to find tartans which shall not cost you extra. It should be a natural thing, but unfortunately, on the kilt market basic prices are sometimes pure theory. Therefore thumbs up for Kilt Society.

I have not yet bought a kilt from them, but two sporrans and a kilt belt. Their dedication to customer service is extremely good.

You can have the same kilt in 8 yard. Prices start at £350.

 

 


 

5 yard made to measure kilt, Campbell Ancient tartan, 11 oz. pure new wool.

5 yard made to measure kilt, Stewart Royal tartan, 16 oz. pure new wool. Knife pleated to the sett.

 

 


The luxury kilt - £500, £600, £700 ....

If your business suits are all labeled Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna or the like there are kilt makers suitable for you, of course.

Kilts hand-sewn and with the greatest sense for detail. But do you really need it? From a logical point of view hardly. We primarily talk smart casual wear. But... like art collecting, you know...

Prices easily exceed £500.

Geoffrey Tailor
Edinburgh, Scotland

Kinloch Anderson
Edinburgh, Scotland




Wanting something special




Lady Chrystel (France)
makes double box pleated kilts.

Paul Henry Kilts (England)
From Paul Henry you can not only have a hand-sewn traditional tartan kilt, made to the highest standards but also kilts in tweed, linen, denim and cotton.  



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