Kilts offer an elegant blend of style and tradition, making them suitable for various events, from the most formal to the utterly casual. Not only do they allow you to make a fashion statement, but they also let you honor the rich Scottish tradition that comes with wearing them. The challenge lies in knowing how to put together the right kilt ensemble to match the vibe of the occasion. By selecting the correct formality level, theme, and dress code, you can make a confident style statement while respecting the longstanding custom of wearing kilts. Here is a complete guide to how to style a kilt:
Common Types of Kilts:
Traditional Tartan Kilt
The traditional tartan kilt is what most people envision when they think of kilts. It is made from wool, usually features about 8 yards of fabric, and is intricately pleated at the back. Each tartan pattern represents a specific clan or region, making this type of kilt steeped in history and cultural significance. Perfect for formal events like weddings or ceremonies, the traditional kilt is often worn with a range of accessories, including sporrans, kilt pins, and ghillie brogues.
Utility kilts are a modern variation designed for everyday wear and practical use. Generally made from more robust materials like cotton or poly-cotton blends, they often feature pockets and compartments for holding tools or everyday items. Utility kilts are suitable for casual outings, work, or even hiking. They offer the comfort of a kilt but add functionality that suits a busy, contemporary lifestyle. They are more like a fashion kilt.
As the name suggests, hybrid kilts combine elements of traditional and utility kilts. Often made with tartan patterns and featuring practical pockets, these kilts offer a mix of style and functionality. This type of kilt is an excellent choice for those who wish to honor their heritage while enjoying the conveniences of modern design. Womens tartan skirt often fall in this category.
Solid Color Kilts
For those who prefer a more understated look, kilts in solid colors are a versatile option. These can be made from various materials, including wool, cotton, or even lighter fabrics like polyester for warmer climates. Solid color kilts work well for less formal events where you still want to sport a kilt without the specific cultural connotations of a tartan pattern. A black kilt, blue, grey, or any other color can be styled in many ways.
Leather kilts are an edgy and modern take on the traditional kilt, usually seen in fashion shows or specific subcultures. They are typically not suited for formal events but can be an exciting choice for those wanting to make a bold fashion statement.
These kilts are designed for physical activity like running or participating in the Highland Games. Made from lightweight, breathable materials, sport kilts offer freedom of movement and are usually shorter in length. They often have Velcro fasteners for quick and easy wearing and removal.
Historical or Specialty Kilts
Certain historical reenactments or themed events may require kilts of a specific style or period. For instance, the Box Pleat Kilt is a variation with different pleating and is sometimes worn for historical accuracy. There are also kilts specific to certain services or professions, like those worn by pipe bands or military regiments. These are popular kilts for men.
Kilts for Every Occasion:
Formal Events: The Epitome of Elegance
Formal occasions call for an ensemble that oozes sophistication, whether a wedding, state dinner, or corporate event. The ultimate go-to choice here is an 8-yard traditional kilt featuring your favorite tartan. Match this with a Prince Charlie jacket, a wing-collared shirt, a bow tie, and a waistcoat. Don't forget to accessorize with a formal kilt hose, flashes, a formal sporran, and ghillie brogues. If the event is less formal, an Argyll jacket also works well.
Dance and Music Events: Swirl in Style
Events like ceilidhs, Highland games, and music festivals offer a more laid-back environment. A casual kilt in solid or tartan colors serves you well in such settings. Pair your kilt with a casual or semi-formal shirt and a tweed or Argyll jacket. Day sporrans are your best bet for these gatherings, rounded off with kilt hose, flashes, and ghillie brogues. If you're headed to an outdoor music festival, a utility kilt with pockets brings style and convenience.
For the Love of Sports: Outdoor and Athletic Occasions
A utility kilt is your best friend when attending sports events like rugby or football matches or embarking on an outdoor adventure like hiking. Pair it with a casual polo or rugby shirt. Choose casual shoes or boots for footwear, and finish the look with a day sporran and kilt hose. A semi-formal kilt paired with a tweed or Argyll jacket is a safe bet if the event is an outdoor wedding.
Social Gatherings: Flexibility is Key
The atmosphere at social gatherings can vary widely. Events like family reunions, Burns Night suppers, and New Year's Eve parties offer ample room for sartorial creativity. You can opt for a traditional kilt, a casual one, or even a utility kilt based on the mood. Pair your choice with a dress shirt, casual shirt, or T-shirt. Day sporrans, kilt hose, and either casual shoes or ghillie brogues make for fitting accessories.
Celebrate Your Roots: Cultural and Heritage Events
Authenticity matters when it comes to events that honor Scottish culture or your heritage, like clan gatherings or historical reenactments. A traditional tartan kilt representing your clan or heritage is ideal. Pair it with a Jacobite or Ghillie shirt and a tweed or Argyll jacket. Choose a day or semi-dress sporran, kilt hose, flashes, and ghillie brogues to accessorize. Adding a fly plaid, sash, or clan crest badge will lend your ensemble an extra layer of authenticity.
Styling Tips and Essential Accessories for Your Kilt
From formal sporrans to casual daywear options, accessories can transform your kilt from a simple garment to a full-fledged outfit. Here are styling tips and essential accessories to elevate your kilt-wearing experience, whether you're a newbie or a seasoned veteran.
Sporrans: The Quintessential Kilt Companion
Often considered the 'pocket' of the kilt (since traditional kilts lack pockets), the sporran serves both a functional and aesthetic role. For formal events, a dress sporran made of fur and featuring a silver cantle offers a sophisticated touch. Semi-dress sporrans, which are a bit less formal but still stylish, are versatile and can suit a variety of occasions. Day sporrans are the most casual and are usually made of leather without much embellishment.
Footwear: From Ghillie Brogues to Boots
The type of shoe you pair with your kilt also depends on the occasion. Ghillie brogues are the traditional choice for formal events. These lace-up shoes offer an authentic look that perfectly complements formal and semi-formal kilts. You may opt for regular boots or casual shoes for casual events or outdoor activities. Just remember, the shoes should not overshadow the kilt but complement it.
Kilt Hose and Flashes: Adding Color and Tradition
Kilt hose are knee-high socks that offer both comfort and style. You can wear cream or off-white hose for formal setups, which is typically recommended. Flashes, the colorful garters peeking out from the top of the hose, can either match the tartan or offer a contrasting color. They serve a functional role in holding up the kilt hose and add a decorative flair.
Belts and Buckles: Functional yet Stylish
Although not always necessary due to the kilt's design, a belt can provide both form and function. Wide leather belts with large, ornate buckles are generally worn with kilts. However, it's worth noting that if you're wearing a dress sporran and a formal jacket, the belt might not be visible and could even disrupt the line of the jacket. These often go well with kilts for women.
Jackets and Shirts: The Upper Half Matters
The type of jacket and shirt you choose depends largely on the event's formality. A Prince Charlie jacket is the most formal and usually reserved for weddings or black-tie affairs. The Argyll jacket is a versatile option suitable for both formal and semi-formal occasions. When it comes to shirts, a wing-collared shirt works well for formal events, whereas a Jacobite or Ghillie shirt offers a casual, relaxed look.
Pins, Plaids, and More: The Final Touches
Don't overlook the smaller details like kilt pins, fly plaids, and clan crest badges. A kilt pin adds weight to its front apron, keeping it in place. It should only be pinned through the front apron, not the underlying fabric. A fly plaid is a larger piece of tartan fabric pinned to the shoulder of your formal jacket and can match or complement your kilt. Clan crest badges, usually pinned to the fly plaid, add an extra layer of personalization and heritage to your outfit.
Quick Styling Tips:
- Matching is Key: Try to coordinate the colors of your accessories with the primary or secondary colors in your tartan.
- Less is More: Over-accessorizing can overshadow the kilt. Choose a few key pieces that enhance rather than overpower.
- Comfort First: Always opt for comfort, especially with footwear and belts. You don't want to be adjusting your outfit throughout the event.
- Quality Over Quantity: Invest in high-quality accessories. They last longer and offer a refined look that cheap alternatives can't match.
The Do's and Don'ts of Styling and Wearing a Kilt
Wearing a kilt is not merely a fashion statement; it's an art steeped in history and tradition. Like any art form, one should adhere to certain do's and don'ts, whether you are a first-time styling a kilt or have been enjoying this stylish attire for years. From proper pleating to the etiquette of accessories, this guide aims to set you on the right path.
Do's: Elevating Your Kilt Experience
Do Know Your Event's Dress Code Always ensure you know the level of formality expected at the event you're attending. Wearing a casual kilt to a formal event, or vice versa, can make you stand out for all the wrong reasons. Do Choose the Right Length A kilt should hang from your natural waist and end around the middle of your knee. It is too long or too short, and it can distort the whole look. When in doubt, it's wise to consult with an experienced tailor. Do Coordinate Your Accessories Ensure that your accessories, such as sporran, belt, and shoes, complement the tartan or fabric of your kilt. For instance, a formal sporran pairs well with a traditional tartan kilt for formal events, while a utility sporran suits a casual kilt at less formal gatherings. Do Wear Appropriate Footwear Ghillie brogues are the traditional choice for formal events. However, if you're going casual, don't be afraid to wear comfortable boots or even sneakers, as long as they match the overall look. Do Take Care of Your Kilt Kilts are usually made from high-quality material that deserves proper care. Always check the cleaning instructions, and when not in use, hang your kilt in a cool, dry place to maintain its shape and longevity.
Don'ts: Pitfalls to Avoid
Don't Neglect Your Upper Half While the kilt is the main attraction, what you wear on top is equally important. An ill-fitting or inappropriate shirt or jacket can ruin the whole look. Whether you opt for a formal Prince Charlie jacket or a casual Jacobite shirt, make sure it fits well and suits the occasion. Don't Over-Accessorize While accessories add a dash of style and authenticity to your kilt, going overboard can create a cluttered look. A sporran, kilt pin, and perhaps a fly plaid or a belt are usually sufficient. Don't Forget the Kilt Hose and Flashes Kilt hose and flashes are not just decorative; they're functional accessories that keep your socks up. Choose a hose that matches or complements your kilt, and ensure the flashes add some contrast. Don't Disrespect Traditions Be aware of the traditions and customs if you're wearing a kilt to a culturally significant event, such as a Scottish wedding or ceremony. For example, wearing a clan tartan, you have no connection to could be considered disrespectful. Don't Ignore Comfort While style is paramount, never sacrifice comfort. Ensure your kilt fits well around the waist and allows freedom of movement. The same goes for accessories: a sporran that's too heavy or shoes that are too tight can ruin your experience. Practical Tips for All Kilt-Wearers
- Check Before Sitting: Always give the kilt a slight tug to ensure it's lying flat before sitting down, especially at the back.
- Pleats at the Back: Traditional kilts have pleats at the back, while the front is flat. Ensure you're wearing it the right way.
- No Peeking: If you're going 'regimental' (i.e., wearing no underwear), remember to keep your legs closed when sitting.
- Walk with Pride: The kilt is a garment that comes with a certain level of gravitas. Walk with pride and let the kilt swing naturally.
1: What type of kilt is best for a formal event like a wedding?
A traditional 8-yard tartan kilt is usually the best choice for formal events such as weddings. Pair it with a Prince Charlie jacket, wing-collared shirt, and formal accessories like a bow tie and formal sporran to complete the look.
2: Can I wear a kilt to a casual event like a barbecue or music festival?
Absolutely! Utility kilts or casual kilts in solid colors work well for casual events. These kilts often come with pockets for added convenience and can be paired with a T-shirt or casual button-down shirt.
3: What shoes should I wear with my kilt?
The type of shoes you should wear depends on the occasion. Ghillie brogues are the traditional choice for formal events. For casual outings, comfortable boots or even sneakers can work as long as they match the kilt's overall style.
4: Is it mandatory to wear specific accessories with a kilt?
While not mandatory, accessories like sporrans, kilt pins, and belts enhance your outfit and add a touch of authenticity. Choose accessories that complement your kilt and are appropriate for the occasion you're attending.
5: What kind of shirt pairs well with a kilt?
The shirt you choose depends on the formality of the event. For formal occasions, a wing-collared shirt is traditional. Jacobite or Ghillie shirts offer a casual yet authentic look, while a polo or T-shirt can pair with a casual kilt.
6: Are there any cultural considerations when choosing a kilt?
If you're attending an event that is culturally significant, like a Scottish wedding, choosing a tartan that represents your clan or heritage is respectful. When in doubt, universal tartans like the Black Watch are generally acceptable.
Conclusion: The Perfect Balance of Style and Tradition
Wearing a kilt is a rewarding experience that connects you to a rich heritage while allowing for personal expression. By adhering to these do's and don'ts, you can confidently wear your kilt in a manner that respects tradition and catches the eyes for all the right reasons. Whether you're headed to a formal gala or a casual day out, these guidelines will ensure you're always at the top of your kilt-wearing game. In summary, respecting both tradition and modern fashion is the key to a successful kilt-wearing experience. Striking this balance allows you to wear your kilt with the flair and style it deserves. So the next time you're about to don this iconic garment, keep these do's and don'ts in mind for an impeccable look. Styling a kilt might be easy, but finding the best one can be challenging. Super Kilts has all the variety you need, whether you want to wear this attire in a casual or formal setting. Head to the store right away!