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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose the right kilt outfit?

Kilt outfits are mainly distinguished by the style of jacket.

The most common choices are the Prince Charlie jacket (i.e. the Prince Charlie outfit) which is a more formal look, worn as evening wear or 'black tie' occasions; or the Argyll jacket or outfit which is semi-formal day or evening wear, and so more the equivalent of a two-piece suit.

The next difference between the outfits is the kind of sporran worn with it. These mostly divide into three categories: Full Dress sporrans, mainly worn with a formal Prince Charlie outfit; Semi-Dress sporrans, suitable for most occasions, perhaps with an Argyll jacket; and Daywear sporrans, which are less formal and could be worn with an Argyll or tweed jacket.

There may also be differences in the style of accessories such as brogues (shoes), hose (socks) or kilt pins worn with different kinds of outfit. And there are other less conventional outfits, such as the Jacobite outfit, which might include a loose Jacobite shirt and pouch sporran for casual daywear; or there are many other ways of wearing a Casual Kilt.

All our kilt package deals are designed so that all the pieces complement each other perfectly. However, please just ask if you have any special requirements or would prefer to change any elements.

Should I buy a Casual Kilt or Traditional 8-yard kilt?

Either style of kilt can be made in almost any material.

You can have a Casual Kilt (a.k.a. Sports Kilt) made in your family tartan, or a traditional 8-yard kilt made in a plain colour or a non-generic tartan such as a tartan from the Pride of Scotland Tartan collection. The difference lies in the waistline, and the amount of material used.  Which you choose really depends on how, and when, you'll be wearing your kilt.

The Traditional 8 yard kilt sits high on the waist, a couple of inches above the waistband of most trousers, and uses about 8 yards of material on average (depending on your waist measurement). This looks more authentic for wear in settings where tradition is all-important; and the full length allows more and deeper pleating at the rear, which results in the impressive 'swing', for example when dancing.

The Casual Kilt sits lower on the waist, like trousers, and uses less material. Some producers make these kilts with a little as 3-4 yards of fabric, but ours use about 5 yards.  The lighter garment is ideal for activities where the weight of a full traditional kilt might be tiring. You won't get quite the same swing when dancing, but to the non-expert eye the Casual kilt can be hard to tell apart from the Traditional 8 yard version and for most casual/sporting occasions it can be a very acceptable alternative.

What is worn beneath the kilt?

The answer to this eternal question is... whatever you like!

Many kilt wearers do like to go 'commando', which is fine if you prefer the feeling of freedom.  Just be considerate to those of sensitive feelings, particularly when dancing. But it is equally traditional to don underwear or shorts, especially in very active or windswept circumstances, or when wearing a hire kilt – for obvious hygiene reasons! More important than what you actually do wear is always to have a good answer ready for when asked what is worn, such as the old standby: 'Nothing, it's all in perfect working order!'

Do you pleat your kilts to the “Sett” or the “Stripe”?

The repeating pattern of a tartan means that two quite distinct appearances can be created to the rear of a kilt, depending on how it is pleated. Kilts can be pleated either to the “Sett”, so that the tartan pattern is preserved in the pleating, or else to the “Stripe”, so that the same vertical line is centered on each pleat. Traditionally civilian kilts were pleated to the Sett, and military to the Stripe, but ultimately it is a matter of taste. McCalls pleat kilts to the sett unless otherwise requested. If you would prefer yours pleated to the stripe, please just specify this (including which colour of vertical stripe to pleat to) when you order from McCalls.

Which kilt outfit is best for a wedding?

Traditionally a wedding has been a very formal occasion at which the Prince Charlie outfit would be the automatic choice. This is probably still so for the groom and best man at most weddings. But with the more relaxed cultural conventions of recent years, it is increasingly normal for wedding guests to choose a more informal day/evening Argyll outfit instead, or even a Tweed jacket for guests.

Just be sure you don't upstage the happy couple!

How do I choose the right tartan?

Selecting a tartan can be bewildering at first sight. But choosing is easy and can be fun.  Firstly, do you want a tartan associated with your family background, or do you care more about the colours?  If the family link is important to you, certain surnames are directly linked to certain clans, which allow the wearer to sport that clan tartan, although there may be a clan association there may not be a large tartan selection available as standard. Alternatively, some Scottish, Irish, and Welsh surnames may not belong to a clan but originate from a district (area) and they can wear the District Tartan.  There is a relatively large selection of these tartans available. 

How do I find my family or clan tartan?

The first thing to know is that there is no law that you must wear a kilt only in your own tartan. Most people prefer a family tartan for reasons of tradition. But if you can't find one you like, there are many alternatives.

Also, Scottish clans have a tradition of 'Septs', which are other families by descent or alliance to whom a clan gave protection. If your family name appears as a Sept or a variant spelling of one of the official clans, it conventionally entitles you to wear their tartan.  Our tartan finder is designed to help you identify such associations, but it might do no harm to try keying in alternative spellings of your family names.

It is also common to choose a tartan derived not with your 'current' surname, but perhaps with your mother's maiden name, or that of another forebear such as a grandparent. Or you might choose to select the tartan from a member of your partner's lineage instead.

If I can't identify a family or district tartan, can I wear a kilt?

Kilts can be worn by anyone in the world, regardless of nationality or descent.

A number of historic tartans are considered universal - ones that anyone can wear, regardless of family traditions. And more recently a considerable number of general tartans have come onto the market, designed for widespread appeal with no particular identity in mind – the Pride of Scotland collection is one example of this.

There are also an increasing number of groups other than families that have their own tartans. These range from organisations such as football clubs, businesses, or Masonic brotherhoods, to localities such as tartans designed for the residents of particular cities, counties, or states. This is particularly true for Irish people, where the tradition has been to wear the tartan for your county of origin rather than for your family as in Scotland.

And of course there is little to stop you choosing almost any tartan you like. We might suggest you think twice if you are expecting to mix socially with highly conservative traditionalists whom you might offend by wearing the 'wrong' tartan. But otherwise, there is little to prevent you picking a pattern simply because you like it!

Finally, why not have your own tartan designed? It might cost less than you expect, particularly if you are not concerned to officially register it. And then you can ensure it reflects your favourite or organisational colours.  Please enquire for details.

Is the exact shade important to you, for example to match another garment? If so, it is best to find out which weaving mill manufactured that other fabric, as the "same" tartan produced by two different mills can vary greatly. The reason is historical, as colours and 'thread counts' were often only loosely defined. Also, just like paints and wallpapers, one batch can be different to the next. And computer monitors seldom display perfectly. So we strongly advise you order a swatch of the tartan/s you like, before having your kilt made, to check the actual colour.

Beyond that, choosing a tartan is largely a matter of taste. Many clan or family tartans are available in a range of colour ways, which are commonly grouped into descriptions such as: Modern Colours; Ancient, Hunting Colours, Dress Colours or Weathered dyes. Which you choose is entirely down to your preference

We would encourage you to look widely, and choose a pattern that is not just historically 'correct' but also pleasing to you!

Otherwise, just explore! There are thousands of choices to browse, so you'll soon see a tartan you like.

What weight of material do I want?

Tartan is woven in 3 main weights of Worsted Wool: Premium, Medium and Light Weight fabric.

Premium Weight  (16oz per linear yard)

This weight of cloth is considered the premium weight of kilting fabric. The extra weight in the cloth allows the pleats on the kilt to appear fuller and the swing on the kilt is shown to its full advantage. The size of the sett is normally the same as medium weight, occasionally slightly larger. The premium weight cloth is also harder wearing; therefore the kilt lasts longer. This cloth does not require as much pressing as the cloth does not crease as easily as the other weights.

Medium Weight  (13.5oz per linear yard)

Medium weight cloth is mainly used for kilts and military trews. The medium weight kilt retains its look and is also light enough to be worn abroad

Light Weight  (11oz per linear yard.

Used for Ladies Skirts, waistcoats, ties, children's kilts etc. The size of the sett is normally much smaller on this weight of material. The overall weight of the material makes it lighter and is therefore a better weight of cloth for the items indicated and accessories.

What are the different kinds of sporrans?

Instead of pockets, as well as to protect the wearer's modesty, (especially with light weight tartans) the sporran is a form of purse and is actually useful. Worn from a chain or strap that extends through the loops at the rear of the kilt strap to fasten at the back, hang the sporran about four fingers below your waistcoat or belt, to sit roughly over the groin area. A sporran can range from very plain to extremely ornate, which in the end is mostly a matter of taste.

Sporrans are generally classed into three types.  These are: the simple and informal "Daywear" sporran; the "Semi-Dress" sporran that is considered suitable for most occasions; and the most ornate "Full Dress" sporran mostly worn only with a formal Prince Charlie evening outfit.

In addition to these three categories are other types, from the 'fun' sporran that has appeared in recent years for wear with casual outfits, through Jacobite pouch styles, all the way up to the ultra-hairy Piper's sporran that is mostly worn only by pipe bands. We suggest you just choose the one you like best!

How and why do I wear the Ghillie Brogue shoes?

Always shiny, ghillie brogues typically have highly decorated leather and can feature metal heels for a loud tap when dancing. Ghillie brogues have no tongue, and have long laces that cross back and forth as they are wrapped up the leg and tied halfway up the calf. To tie the laces, start by crossing the two laces as usual and pull tight. Twist the laces four to six times. Then pull tight again to produce a vertical thong about one inch long. Pass the laces round behind your ankle, and tie at the front with the remaining lace and toggle left to dangle.

How else can I wear a kilt, more informally?

You can wear a kilt any time you'd wear trousers! Kilts are amazingly versatile, and can be used to create countless looks, according to the impact you want to make! This could include a tweed jacket, shirt and tie; or a chunky jersey, rolled-down socks, and hiking boots; or the romantic, loose-fitting Jacobite shirt; or a simple T-shirt and sneakers, with or without socks. In the end, wherever and however you wear your kilt, you'll be on the receiving end of plenty of admiring attention!

Pride Of Scotland Tartan at McCalls Ltd, 15-17 Bridge Street, Aberdeen, Scotland, AB11 6JL - Tel:+44 (0)1224 405300 - Fax:+44 (0)1224 212378