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History Of The Kilt


full-plaid.jpgThe evolution of the Kilt is a little speculative; although it is thought to have its origins in the garment known as the "plaid". There were large and and small versions, both described by the word “Feileadh”, meaning “folded”. The "Small Plaid" was a long piece of rectangular wool cloth worn over the shoulders, and called “Feileadh Beag”, and known to be worn by women too. The “Big Plaid” or “Feileadh Mor” was larger, worn with a belt and more closely resembling the Kilt of today. However, the Big Plaid was much more challenging to adorn then the modern Kilt. The belt and cloth were first laid on the ground, with the cloth spread out and then folded into pleats. The wearer then lay down on the cloth and wrapped himself, such that material around the waist was held with the belt and the excess was thrown over his shoulder and tucked into the belt or fastened with a plaid pin. This attire was common for the Highland Scot, and also served as a warm blanket when spending the night in the Glen. Today, we see Kilts worn with "Full Plaids", often with full military regalia such as the Military Tunic and Feather Bonnet. There is a shorter version too, called a “Fly Plaid”, which fastens at the belt and long enough to come over the shoulder and pin at the breast. This plaid is usually worn for more formal appearances. Although more for looks than functionality, both are surely vestiges of the past and add nicely to the overall appearance of the Kilt.

Today, the word “Plaid” is also synonymous with the word “Tartan”, which describes the patterns of colors and lines created in the weaving process. The word “Sett” is also used to describe the repeating pattern found in the Tartan. There are literally hundreds of Tartans. There are “Dress” Tartans, which often have red shades. There are also “Hunting” Tartans, often having green shades or more earthy tones. And Tartans maybe further described as “Modern”, “Ancient” or “Weathered”, with the colors being brighter, muted or faded, respectively.

It is thought that the Tartan has been used since early A.D., and was likely associated with geographical regions, later becoming affiliated with specific family Clan names. The Tartan became one way by which one could show their affiliation to a particular Clan. Some family names were referred to as a “Sept”, or a branch of a specific Clan. They did not have their own Clan Tartan, and would wear the Tartan of the Clan to which they were affiliated.