The kilt

Kilt and tartans

Stewart Royal tartan

5 yard made-to-measure kilt, 16 oz. wool, Stewart Royal tartan.

What makes a kilt?

A lot of fabric

If you open up the kilt and place it flat on the floor you’ll see a lot of fabric and that it consists of three parts. To the right you have the under apron, to the left the over apron, and in the centre the pleated section which is to be at your rear.
Each of the aprons is half your waist size, or better just a little bit more than half. The rest, the pleated section, will vary with the yardage of your kilt.
You can have 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8-yard kilts. One vendor even has a 2-yard kilt to offer. 8 yards used to be the norm, and very cheap imported PV-kilts, as well as most expensive wool kilts, are still 8 yarders. But most fine wool kilts today might be 5 yard kilts, making a good compromise between cost, authenticity, and comfort.

Kilt construction


Kilt construction

A kilt seen from inside.

The fabric is often referred to as the tartan, meaning both cloth and pattern.

According to Oxford Living Dictionaries:


A woollen cloth woven in one of several patterns of coloured checks and intersecting lines, especially of a design associated with a particular Scottish clan.

Nowadays the tartan can also be PV/acrylic. Cheap kilts always are.

Tartan weight

The tartan 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 today.

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.

Ultra light weight is 8 oz.
Should you want a kilt that light weight, you might take a look at Californian based 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.

Tartan mills
Reputable tartan mills are Lochcarron, House of Edgar, Strathmore, Marton Mills, D.C. Dalgliesh ( owned), and a few 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 wool kilts.


Frst of all, tartans are synonymous with the traditional kilt and more than 3.000 tartans are registered. There are

Clan (family) tartans for members of Scottish clans,
District tartans for men with an affinition to a certain geographical area.
Commemorative tartans to celebrate/remember something.
Universal tartans (fashion tartans) for men without clan affiliation.
Coorporate tartans, designed for and registered by some companies.

Every man is free to wear any universal, commemorative, or district tartan. And no law forbids you to wear a clan tartan. 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 anyone 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 and universal) tartans are cheaper than district tartans.

A few examples


Non-restricted tartans

Tartans you are absolutely free to use.

Restricted tartans

Clan tartans. If you like them, buy them, wear them, but show respect.

Straps and buckles

Technically a kilt is a wrap skirt. It is held together by a strap and a buckle above each of your hips. At your right hip you sometimes have an extra buckle and a strap. But three are not better than two and two not better than three.

Kilt construction

The strap which fastens the under apron to the buckle on your left.


At the top of your kilt you have the rise. To make sure the kilt is covered by a waist coat or a Prince Charlie jacket, some kiltmakers will add two inches, measured from the the top of the fasteners (straps) or the centre of them. On military style kilts it may be three inches. For more casual wear, about one inch from the top of the straps is common - and better. When ordering be careful with the kiltmaker's instructions. If rise is not mentioned you might neglect it.


On a real kilt the pleats don’t flare out from the waist but are sewn down till where you are at the broadest, usually at your hips. This part is called the fell. A kilt without a fell is no kilt and should be avoided. Ideally you should be asked about length of fell when ordering a kilt. You seldom are. Because not only within photography you talk about rules of thirds. They also exist with kilts. As a matter of fact, on most men the correct height of the fell is one third of the kilt length, when fastened at natural waist and reaching to the knees. Accordingly, you should expect the fell on a 24" kilt to be 8", on a 21" kilt 7". But if you want your kilt to sit lower or be shorter or both the rule leads to wrong results.

Say you want a kilt worn at jeans waist, but still have it end at the top of your knees. Instead of ordering a 24" kilt (with an 8" fell) you order it 22". The fell should, in your case, have been reduced by two inches as well, but probably you get it 7", being approx. 1/3 of 22". The fell is one inch too long.

If you want your kilt to be above your knees and therefore order a 22" long kilt to sit at your natural waist, you can again expect the fell being 7", which is one inch too short.

If you want your kilt shorter and sit at your jeans waist and therefore order it 20", the fell should have been 6", but it shall probably be 7" or one inch too long.

How serious is this? If you ask a kiltmaker, who is going to take your measures and make you an exquisite kilt he shall say that it is extremely important to have fell correct. If you ask a vendor, having the kilt made to your measures, he shall tell you, that it is without importance. If you ask me, I'll say that a difference of one inch plus or minus is absolutely to live with, in a world being in many other respects far from perfect.


Pleats must be sewn down like on the red kilt, and not start at the waist.

The length

The part of the kilt, below the rise, is called the drop. Many kilt vendors, however, are calling the length of the kilt the drop, which is wrong and can lead to mistakes. The length of a kilt is drop plus rise.

Kilt construction

The relation between rise, drop, fell, and length.

To avoid mistakes, carefully read the instructions when ordering a kilt to be custom made. If rise is not mentioned drop and length should be the saem. When in doubt, ask the vendor to be sure he and you are talking same language.
When ordering a ready-made kilt, claimed to be 24" it is 24" long, no matter if called length or drop.


Regarding the pleats, standard is knife pleated to the sett, meaning all the pleats go in the same direction, and that they are arranged in a way that the tartan looks approximately the same whether you are looking at the kilt from behind or from the front. The pleating is difficult part of kiltmaking, and the more precisely the pleating, the better your kilt shall look – and the more expensive it shall be.
Instead of having your kilt pleated to the sett, you may have it knife pleated to the stripe, also called military pleating. When pleated to the stripe, each of the pleats is arranged according to a chosen colour, rather than to the entire sett. Therefore the kilt shall look quite different when looked at from behind and from the front. Hardly to order on the internet.
A third option is box pleated, meaning that the kilt shall have rather broad, flat panels on the back. Only by few kilt vendors you can order a box pleated kilt.

Apron Fringes

On a traditional kilt the outer apron will normally have fringes. Can be two or three, but also none may be a possibility. When you order a kilt on the internet it is rather unlikely that you shall be asked what you prefer.


Apron fringe.


Your kilt can be hand stitched for utmost precision or it can be sewn on the machine. It can be made to your measures by a skilled kilt maker in Scotland or other parts of the UK, or in the US or Canada. Or it can be made in a factory in Pakistan or another low labour cost country – like practically all the clothes we otherwise buy, being they cheap or expensive brands.

What about prices?

I think above description gives you a picture of something costing a fortune and something perhaps pretty affordable. And you are right. You can have a kilt setting you back £800 or £25. And everything in between.

cheap or expensive

Both are kilts.

The kilt to the left is £50, the one to the right five times as much. Both are kilts. Like cheap jeans and expensive jeans are jeans. Like both cheap and expensive cars are cars.

Next page


Which kilt and how and where to buy it?

Purists will say that no less than a 16 oz. 8 yard wool kilt, sewn by hand by a skilled kilt maker in Scotland or equivalent place will do. But that’s a bad advice, at least unconsidered. What YOU and others need must always be reflected by the intended use. If you are going to wear your kilt at weddings and anniversaries only, they might be right. And if all of your business suits are labelled Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna or the like, and your jeans Hugo Boss, they are probably too. But, talking casual wear in your spare time, they are not. It is overkill. So what do you really need and how and where to get it?

What to find on the Dress2kilt site


How about a kilt?

Have you ever been thinking of wearing a kilt, but have given up, because you were not Scottish? You must not be Scottish. You can be any nationality, any colour, and any belief. Only you must be man enough. The objective of the Dress2Kilt site is making you wear a kilt whenever YOU feel like it and appropriate. Without needing a special event. It is about kilt causal-first.


Men and kilts

Who will wear a kilt? Don’t I have to be Scottish? Why wear a kilt? Where and when to wear it? What’s the difference between being Scottish and not? What shall other people say? Is it true? How did the webmaster start wearing kilts? These and many more questions are answered.


Kilt definitions

Is the kilt a skirt? Scotsmen will say NO. To them and very many kilt wearers the kilt is a kilt, and not a skirt. And exclusively a man's garment. Calling the kilt a skirt is accordingly considered an almost unforgivable insult. But is it nevertheless a skirt?


Kilt and tartans

What makes a kilt? How much fabric? Are 8 yards of fabric a must? Or will less do? How about tartans? How is a kilt constructed? Straps and buckles, fell, rise, pleats, length, drop. Are you allowed to wear a clan tartan, if you have no connection to it?


Which kilt?

Purists will say that no less than a 16 oz. 8 yard wool kilt, sewn by hand by a skilled kilt maker in Scotland or equivalent place will do. But that’s a bad advice, at least unconsidered. Read why. And get suggestions for where to find which kilt.


How to buy a kilt?

The buying process itself is quite simple and almost the same by all vendors. But what might look a bit complicated, is getting size and measures right. Especially the length. It isn't difficult at all. Read on, and you'll know how to do.



Don't get ripped off on things you don't need. Find out, which accessories are must-haves, which are nice to have, and which you shouldn't consider at all for casual and smart casual wear, and not even for dress-up events.


Get dressed

Let’s assume you have just received and unpacked your first kilt, and the accessories you ordered. How to handle all the unfamiliar things, the sporran, the belt & buckle, and kilt socks etc.? And what else to wear with your kilt.


To mind

Now being ready for taking your kilt out into public for the first time, is there anything you should mind? Something to be afraid of? After all a kilt is something very different, just the way it looks and how it feels, wearing it.



Let’s be realistic; most likely, you cannot wear a kilt 24/7, even if you should want to. Probably your job is an obstacle. Due to conventions or dress code. But you have 52 weekends a year plus vacations and other holydays...


Non-traditional kilts

Not all men, tired of always wearing trousers, are finding the traditional kilt the best skirted garment. They might prefer a garment less Scottish and with fewer rules to follow. Or they simply consider non-traditional kilts an addition.


Man skirts

Could you as a man wear a skirt? Instead of a kilt or on some days kilt, on others a skirt? Well, the existence of utility kilts with their non-defined designs are part of the answer, so YES, you can. Skirts on men make sense. And skirts for men are to have.


Manly (enough) skirts

Skirts designed for women, but manly enough for men to wear. Could you, by still maintaining a manly appearance wear a skirt from the women's section? Well, it depends. But let's see.


Closing remarks

Show to the world that you are man enough to pull that 'skirt', whether a traditional tartan kilt, a solid-coloured kilt, a utility kilt, a skirt designed for men, a unisex skirt or one simply looking manly enough to also be worn by men.



Kilts in 31 different tartans, listed alphabetically, plus solid-coloured kilts, utility kilts, man skirts, 'manly' skirts, and pages with a mix of kilts and different skirts - The Braveheart Way'. Altogether more than 50 pages and over 900 pictures. With the only purpose to convince YOU to wear a kilt - or another skirted garment - on a regular basis, without you having a special reason.


Links #1

Vendors of traditional kilts, from cheap, typically imported Pakistani kilts, whether off-the-peg or custom-made, to more expensive kilts, sewn to-your-measures in Europe or in America.
Vendors of accessories.
Tartan-mills and tartan-finders.


Links #2

Vendors of non-traditional kilts, utility kilts, sarongs, man skirts, unisex-skirts, "manly" skirts, and some shorts.


Links #3

Kilt and skirt forums, non-commercial home pages, blogs, picture galleries, videos, articles in print media and on the internet, men in kilts and skirts on stage and on the cat walk.


What's new?

At a glance, find out what is new, has been changed or has been deleted on the D2K site since your last visit.


Reflections in a kilt

A blog outside the website