The garment that made Scotland famous all around the world is an integral part of a Scotsman’s formal attire nowadays. The kilt is a skirt-type piece of clothing, made most commonly of wool and with a tartan pattern and reaching the knees in length. It was an everyday garment for Scottish men in the 17th century in the Highlands, but in the 19th century, the kilt grew to be one of the main associations with the Scottish identity and culture and a connection to the Celtic (Gaelic) traditions. Recently, the kilt gained even greater popularity as an informal piece of clothing, worn everyday.
The oldest concept behind the development of the kilt is the belted plaid, also called the great kilt. It was a garment whose upper half was meant to be worn like a cloak, swung over the shoulder or even brought up above and over the head, to act as a hood. First mentions of the great kilt come from the late 16th century. The modern kilt, however, developed from the small or walking kilt, which was introduced in the late 17th century.
The small kilt was, essentially, a way to make the great kilt more practical, because the great kilt was often considered unwieldy, complicated and cumbersome. The skirt was thus separated from the upper part of the great kilt, and the small, pleated kilt was born. This invention is the work of an English Quaker by the name of Thomas Rawlinson. Soon enough, the small kilt spread around Scotland and chiefs of individual clans adopted it, starting with Iain MacDonnell, chief of the Inverness MacDonnells.
There are several unique features which make the Scottish kilt easily recognizable among other similar garments. The kilt wraps around the body of the wearer at the natural waist. This is the line placed between the lowest rib and the hips. The kilt begins on one side of the body, which is most commonly the wearer’s left, the around the front and back and once more across the front to the opposing side. Straps and buckles help keep the kilt stay in place. The strap found on the inside end usually comes out through a slit in the waistband. Then it simply buckles on the outside of the kilt, but some wearers keep it inside the waistband.
A kilt covers up the middle part of the wearer’s body, from the waist to the knees. The front part of the kilt, the one visible when facing the wearer, are the so-called “aprons.” Aprons are overlapping layer, as opposed to the single layer which makes up the sides and the back of the kilt. Kilt pins, placed in the corner of the apron, keep the aprons from blowing over. Also, pins add weight to the kilt. Pins are also a decorative item. Finally, it is important to note that underwear is optional; the belief goes that „a true Scotsman“ should not wear a thing under his kilt.