How to Wear a Kilt

With the traditional kilt jacket and brogues, the classic kilt can go formal.
With the traditional kilt jacket and brogues, the classic kilt can go formal. (Image: susandaniels/iStock/Getty Images)

What do you wear under a kilt -- or so you'll be asked if you wear one. While they may be the traditional garb of Scotland, kilts today are worn by men of all nationalities. They come in both classic woven wool plaids and in modern fabrics, like hard-wearing canvas. Kilts can be worn for both casual and formal occasions by men, and women may wear kilted skirts, in pleated plaid fabric, for less formal occasions.

Great and Classic Kilts

The traditional kilt is made of plaid, often in a family tartan. The great kilt is the least popular of all modern kilts -- and the hardest to wear. It is not a constructed or sewn garment, but rather a long length of woven fabric -- sometimes as long as 9 yards -- that must be expertly pleated and wrapped around your body. Most men favor a pre-made kilt, with the pleats sewn into place. The kilt is worn with the pleats in the back. The front of the kilt buckles at the right side, typically with two to three buckles, and is worn relatively high, above the belly button. Traditionally, the kilt is worn with kilt hose; a pouch called a sporran; and an open-necked shirt or shirt, tie and kilt jacket.

The Modern Kilt

Modern kilts have the same cut as classic kilts, fastening on the right side with pleats in the back. The differences come in the fabric and styling. Some may fasten with snaps, rather than traditional buckles. In place of the traditional belt and sporran, the modern kilt is made for function. They are typically solid-colored and most often made from heavy cotton for everyday or casual wear, sometimes with cargo pockets. Actor Ashton Kutcher has been seen in a gray camo version. You'll even find modern kilts made for hiking. Wear a kilt with your favorite T-shirt or sweater.

Tips and Tricks

A few basic steps can help make your first foray into kilt-wearing comfortable. Kilts work well on nearly all male frames, whether you're slender or heavy. Because they're worn high on the body, they suit nearly every frame, and are forgiving of weight gain and loss. Underneath, skip bulky boxers in favor of something more streamlined, like a boxer brief. For classic kilt wearers, the sporran takes the place of your usual pockets, and can hold your wallet, phone and essentials. Finally, expect attention from admiring and curious passers-by.

The Kilted Skirt

Women who want the look of a kilt may wear a kilted skirt or a more traditional kilt. The skirt retains the pleated back, but most often is sewn closed in front, rather than having a buckle closure. It may feature decorative buckles on the left-hand side. Women can, if they prefer, wear a traditional kilt, but fitting can be a bit more challenging. Women can wear kilted skirts with a sweater or blouse, or for a more traditionally Scottish look, with a shirt and kilt jacket. Women do not typically wear a sporran, but may wear kilt hose.

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