Where to buy my first kilt? What kilt? What about sizes for a kilt? The 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 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 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 minor handling fee might have to be added. Could be about 20 EUR.

 

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

Wool or PV?

No doubt wool is the best fabric for a kilt. PV does not have to be a bad choice, however. Marton Mills makes an excellent quality.
Cheap kilts are PV/acrylic. The cheapest kilts - prices around £25 - should according to my experiences better be avoided due to mediocre fabric (and sewing), whereas kilts sold at £45-50 in general are much better than purists and makers of expensive kilts claim. They will typically come from Pakistan.

Eight yard or less?

For traditionalists no less than eight yard (7.3 m) will do, and that's a lot of plaid. No wonder that such a kilt is often called a tank. You really feel most protected wearing one.

There are alternatives, however, ranging from four to six yards. Five yard kilts seem to be the best compromise.

Most of my kilts are five yards.

 

What tartan?

There are clan tartans for members of Scottish clans and there are district and universal tartans (fashion tartans) for men without clan affiliation.
   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.

Some tartans are more expensive than others. In general district tartans are more expensive than popular and wide spread (clan) 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 fabric is determined by its weight in ounces 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).

20-22 oz. Used primarily for regimental kilts.

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

13 oz. is medium weight and probably the most universal and popular weight for kilts.

10 oz. is light weight and in general only recommended 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 much more maintaining. It is not what I have experienced myself.
   Ladies’ kilted skirts also come in this fabric weight, but these are still, due to the considerably less yardage, far away visually from a kilt the same fabric.  

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, Strathmore, Marton Mills, and D.C. Dalgliesh (Scotweb owned).   

Most of my kilts are 13 oz.

 

How to get the size right?

This of course is the crucial factor, but in no way too difficult to be handled.

For kilts yards and inches are used. Recalculation is simple:

1 in. = 1 " = 2.54 cm.

1 yard = 1' = 36 in = 91.4 cm

People's height in feet and inches:

1 ft. = 12 in. = 30,48 cm.

 

1. Length
Off the peg kilts are 'standardized' 24” or 61 cm long. Shall that fit you or not? Depending on how high or low you are going to wear your kilt there is some give and take regarding the effective length. Should you like to wear your kilt on the hips 24” might in many cases be too long.

 

 

What is the correct length of a kilt?
From the middle of the knee cap to the top of the knee or even 1 inch above it. By no means should it cover your knees – even if it is not uncommon.

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

For me personnally better too short than too long.

 

How to determine the length of my first kilt?

I have never been able to use the "kneeling" method" often referred to.

My advice:  Use a towel and a belt. Place yourself right up in a good distance (2-3 meters) from a tall vertical mounted mirror. Start out to see if 24” could be appropriate, otherwise adjust the length of the towel from the top of your belt and measure out what is the ideal length.
   Remember that you shall probably use a belt one inch wider than you are accustomed to. That adds to the length.
 

I myself am 176 cm high = 5’9’’. 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. In my case the perfect length is 22.5-23”. This just to indicate that there is some flexibility – and come in mind we talk casual kilt wearing, not national dress.

2. Hip size
Where you are at the broadest. Take a lose measurement. For a readymade kilt you are not asked.

3. Waist size
A traditional kilt is supposed to sit about navel, i.e. higher than trousers. A casual kilt can be worn lower. Take your measure where you want your kilt to sit. Don’t rely on your trouser size!

As a kilt is fastened by means of straps and buckles there is some flexibility.

Pleating
If you order a kilt to be sewn according to measure you’ll in most cases have options regarding pleating:
Pleated to the sett or stripe, and knife- or box pleating.

Pleated to the stripe can look very 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 are not in personal contact with the kilt maker, who can visualize it, I should suggest you to choose pleated to the sett, meaning the kilt looks approx. the same on front and back.

Most kilts are knife pleated, but some kilt wearers seem to like box pleats and some kilt makers are known for making this type of kilts. I myself prefer knife pleats.

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.

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.

 

1. The casual kilt. A lot of value for money - 67 €

As your first kilt I should recommend a casual kilt from Heritage of Scotland (Gold Brothers). For approx. £49 plus £14 for shipping you can in about one week’s time have an 8 yard heavy weight (around 16 oz.) kilt delivered. If you buy for over £75 shipping is free.
   This 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 this kilt. I have. I know. I can tell you it is not true.

Casual £49 8 yard kilt in Heritage of Scotland tartan from Heritage of Scotland.com. .

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. The customer service of Heritage of Scotland is extremely good, too.
   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.

Heritage of Scotland ; Buy-a-kilt.com


 

2. An American casual kilt - $119 = around 150 €
including 20% VAT.

USA Kilts.com is a small enterprise making kilts according to your to your measures, including casual kilts. They are 4 yard kilts, i.e. only half of the casual kilts from Heritage of Scotland, which to me isn’t a big problem, however. Anyhow I prefer 5 yard kilts over 8 yard ones. 

The USA Kilts casuals are closed by means of Velcro. It works well, is most flexible, and when a kilt is used together with a wide belt no one can see the (missing) buckles and straps. You have a choice between around 100 tartans and the fabric is a fine 11 oz. PV quality from Marton Mills in Scotland.

Your size can hardly be a problem, considering waist sizes between 24” and 70” are to get. (61-178 cm), and the length can vary from 19” to 26” (48-66 cm).

When you order a kilt from USA Kilts you are asked about your waist, hips, length of the kilt, and your height – in feet and inches.

You can chose between belt loops for either a men’s’ ordinary belt or a wider kilt belt.

The pleats are sewn all way down, making the kilt much easier to iron should you need to, which is however really seldom necessary.

As already mentioned a traditional kilt is meant to sit high, but USA Kilts explicit state that it could also be worn like jeans, i.e. at the hips. Should you want so they recommend you to order the kilt two inches shorter.

The basis price is $99 – under the condition that you around the hips measure no more than 32”. You better have to calculate with a $20 higher price = $119. Add to that 20% VAT and you are at $143, equalizing 126 € and with the import fee you end up at about 146 € plus of course freight plus VAT of freight cost.


3. Further up the scale - from around 210 €

Here my first choice should be Heritage of Scotland.  Have a look at their John Morrison kilts. They are fine woolen kilts, machine sewn according to your measures and available in a lot of tartans, or you can have them solid coloured.

James Morrison kilt by Heritage of Scotland. Campbell Ancient tartan, 5 yard, 11 oz. wool.

James Morrison kilt by Heritage of Scotland. Stewart Royal tartan, 5 yard, 16 oz. wool.

Basic price level is around £150 for a 5 yard kilt. For a lot of tartans be prepared to pay additional 40-50 pounds or more, however, depending on tartan weight and tartan manufacturer (mill). The same if you prefer an 8 yard kilt.

I have bought most of my kilts from Heritage of Scotland. When dealing with this company I feel I really get a lot of value for my money; their customer service is excellent, they keep their delivery times, and recently they have a web site, which, by means of design and functionality, to my opinion is by far the best on the market.
It has never been easier to order a good kilt.

Heritage of Scotland; Scotweb has a very good reputation and might be a good choice, too. Both vendors offer worldwide free shipping. Buy-a-kilt.com

In the US: USA Kilts


4. The luxury kilt - 600 €, 700 €, 800 € ...

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

Hand-sewn and with the greatest sense for detail. But do you really need it? From a logical point of view hardly, but...like art collecting, you know.
Prices easily exceed £500.

Hector Russell Kiltmaker
Geoffrey Tailor
Kinloch Anderson

In the US:
Hector Russell and Kinloch Anderson have branches in the US.

Wanting something special?
Matthew A.C. Newsome (USA) has specialized in box pleated kilts. He can also design your own tartan, should you wish so.

Lady Chrystel (France) makes double box pleated kilts.

Paul Henry Kilts (England) can not only make you a traditional tartan kilt but also kilts in tweed, linen, denim and cotton. 


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