History of the Kilt

" It is a limp back indeed that does not straighten as the kilt is buckled on and a poor heart that is not lifted just a little at the sight of the colours of the Clan cloth."

The kilt is the central garment of Highland dress.

The kilt as we know it today is a modern, tailored garment but back in the 16th century the belted plaid , feilidh-mhor (Gaelic for great wrap) or breacan feile (tartan wrap), was a garment consisting of two double width woolen cloth between 4 to 6 yards in length. The cloth was gathered in the middle and belted at the waist whilst the upper part was conveniently used as a cloak, camoflage, travel bag and/or sleeping bag.

The feilidh-beg or little kilt (the modern kilt) evolved from this garment sometime in the 1700's but the exact date is not known with certainty. This early kilt was the botom half of the belted plaid, a 25 inch wide web of tartan averaging 4 yards in length. This material was gathered into pleats or folds and then belted at the waist. It was not until 1790 that the pleats began to be stitched in and the kilt became a tailored garment. Only about a dozen kilts from this era surviv today.

After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the British Government, in the Act of Proscription, forbade the wearing of the tartan in the Highlands in an attempt to supress the rebellious Scottish culture. Despite this, the kilt continued to elvolve into the 19th century. In the early 1800's tartans began to take on specific names as the commercial weaving mills began to mass produce tartan material on industrial looms.

Tartan became all the rage in the Court of Queen Victoria, so much so that the kilt soon became fashionable far outside of the Highlands. Clans and families adopted specific tartans for their use and the science of tartan began to solidify much myth and romanticism.