AKA: plaid skirt, tartan skirt

How to say it: as it looks

Traditional Features: 



  • wraparound style
  • plain centre front panel with knife pleats that start at the side front and continue around the body
  • hanging end may be fringed or hemmed
  • can be fastened with a decorative pin or brooch
  • traditionally made from tartan
  • often held up or fastened at the waistline with a belt or side buckle


…of the style: The kilt as we know it began life in the Scottish Highlands, as a long double-wide piece of tartan wool that was folded into pleats, wrapped around the body and held up with a belt, with the end draped over the shoulder to cover the torso. This early incarnation was called the Great kilt and was worn by Highland men as far back as the 16th century. The kilt was a means of keeping warm and dry, somewhere to sleep when out and about, and a means of identification through the colours and patterns on the tartan.

In the late 17th/early 18th century the short or walking kilt, which was essentially the Great kilt without the extra drape, became popular but after the Jacobite Risings in the mid 18th century, kilts (and other highland regalia) were banned in Scotland. The ban was lifted in 1782, and in 1792 the pleats in a kilt began to be sewn in rather than simply folded making it easier to wear; this was the birth of the modern kilt.

In the early 19th century the kilt was being worn throughout Scotland and began to be associated with the country as a whole, rather than just the highlands. It become so popular that it eventually became an integral part of the Scottish identity and has remained  so in the current day. The style crossed over into fashion in the 1860s, when it was copied for women and children, and after Queen Victoria dressed her boys in kilts, the popularity of the style as a fashion garment grew.

In modern Scotland the kilt is mainly reserved for formal occasions, Highland Gatherings, parades and pipe bands, but it is slowly making its way into casual everyday wear, often paired with a t-shirt or polo and boots. Outside of Scotland the kilt features heavily in uniforms, with many schools, bands, armies and sports team adopting a version of the style and making it their own.

In mainstream fashion the kilt makes regular appearances on the catwalk, although the designer offerings are often variations of the original, taking one or two traditional features of the kilt and fitting it into the current trends rather than simply coping the historical style. The kilt was particularly popular with Punks in the 1970s, Grunge in the 1990s and with teenage girls in 1995 thanks to the movie ‘Clueless‘. The style has been revived on the catwalks in the last couple of years and as such the kilt is still readily available in the fashion marketplace.

…of the name: The word kilt, comes from the Scots dialect, meaning ‘to tuck up the clothes around the body’.

For more info on Kilts try Wikipedia, Wikipedia again, HubPages or check out the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

Random Facts

  • traditionally, Highlanders really didn’t wear anything underneath their kilts (underwear wasn’t really worn back then). Nowadays, men and women generally wear some kind of additional coverings under their kilt, although some men do like to keep us guessing and keep to ‘traditions’ in that department.

21st Century Kilts

In the 21st century, the term kilt is often applied to skirts that only loosely resemble their Scottish ancestors, with designers preferring to keep with the trends rather than tradition. But kilts that are more closely linked to the Highland garb are out there, particularly in Fall collections when the tartan wool is appropriate for the season.

Alexander McQueen ASOS

Alexander McQueen, ASOS

J.W Anderson Max Studio

J.W Anderson, Max Studio

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