I, like many people have an ancestor who originates from Scotland. I fall into a subcategory of people with in that statistical grouping however. This subcategory is the one that become fascinated with the life that ancestor must have lived. They become curious about the culture, and wish to do something in their lives to honor that.
Now in the case of Scottish heritage there are a few avenues to this end that you can choose to pursue. You can take up the age old health eating habits of our proud ancestors, with dishes like stewed beats, roast eel, and haggis (I’ll give you a moment to let your stomachs settle.) You can learn to play the bagpipes, and in truth if done properly this endeavor is not nearly as hard, nor are the end results as ear splittingly upsetting as one might expect. The down side is that once you finish your lessons on a chanter, and it’s time to upgrade to learning on a bagged, or bellowed instrument you are easily looking at a minimum of five hundred dollars, or if you are genuinely serious about playing two to three thousand dollars for a quality set of pipes. The next option to pursue is the research of your family. Where were they from, what are the indigenous native plant life that they could make natural dye from, and what are their modern tartan colors. You also research if they ever officially made the switch over to the wee kilt (also known as the military kilt) Or if the clan still predominately wears the great kilt. After you have this information in hand, you go to getting your self a kilt.
A word of advice about kilts. When you hunt for one, though it costs more actually go to the trouble to save up the few hundred dollars and get your self a proper kilt tailored to you. On average it will be a $485.00 investment just for the kilt it’s self. If you wish to wear your kilt at a reenactment or ren-faire and you wish to do it right. If the event that you are attending is a pre 1820 event. Go to a fabric store, or shop on line, find your self a generic plaid that you like of largely earthen tones (dark blues, soft to dark greens, browns, yellows, reds, and so on) and get your self 4 to 8 yards of the stuff. Pleat it, there are scores of how to videos on this subject; and wear it as a great kilt. The reason I mention this is because something a lot of people often acknowledge, but actively take no steps to be accurate to is that the charter of tartans did not exist until the early 1800’s (1814 or 1815) and really clans did not start adhering to the colors at large until the early to mid 1820s. So if you’re going to use the kilt for reenacting, just get your self some material and make your self one.
Then you need to get the proper socks or kilt hose. These can be knit but if you choose to do this please keep in mind that they are traditionally knit from the top down, and it will take a considerable amount of time and effort. While it will save you money do not take knitting a pair of kilt hose lightly. If you choose to embark on such a task I cannot highly enough recommend the book Designs for knitting kilt hose & knickerbocker stockings Collected by Veronica Gainford. The book, which is published by Schoolhouse press has proven invaluable to me in the past. It has insightful hints, and offers options for relatively simplistic stocking patterns. You’ll also want to match your hose to the intended use. The kilt hose you’ll wear to play golf would be different then the hose you would wear to a formal dinner or ball.
Next you have your guile brogues. These shoes range in design from very similar to a simple moccasin if you’re going for the traditional look, to very similar to a wing tip shoe with ridiculously long, tassel ended laces. In fact I have personally used normal wing tipped dress shoes with the guile brogue laces and no one was any the wiser.
You’ll need to get your self a the Sgian-dubh. If you are worried about traipsing about with a real knife stuck in your sock, there are faux Sgian-dubh options out there, which are simply speaking a solid resin sheath, with the handle eternally attached to them. The next item for dress apparel is your dirk. I know this may not sound like a very dressy thing to boast a large knife on your hip but in reality a dirk is more then just a large knife sitting for all the world to see. If done properly it is easily the second most expensive thing in your kit. The dirk is a status symbol as much as it is a very functional and real means of self defense.
Then you’re shirt. Now for the sake of comfort I will caution the reader that you’re Guile shirt should be made out of light weight cotton, muslin, or linen if you intend to wear it in the summer. Avoid dark colors and get used to the baggy nature of the sleeves. They serve the purpose of letting more cool air surround your arms. If you are going to a winter formal you may wish to consider a wool shirt.
Next you have your waistcoat (or vest if you’re unfamiliar with this term.) The waistcoat is another one of those ‘wear it for what you’re doing’ items. You can get away with a simple tweed waistcoat if you’re going out for an informal lunch or golfing excursion with your friends. A clerical style waistcoat if you’re going to classes, work, or wish for a some what ‘military’ look. A ‘Prince Charlie’ waistcoat is the preferred method of insanity when going to formal events, complete with the accompanying jacket.
If the event calls for formal wear you’ll want to wear a bowtie as well as a fly plaid. If you wear a great kilt your fly plaid is built in as a naturally occurring part of putting it on.
You’ll want to get your self a Sporran, if not a few to accompany the various types of things you’ll be doing. A simple informal one is useful for day to day use. A slightly more extensive one with more storage space and perhaps a small side loop and tougher leather, may be desirable for hunting excursions. The fanciest one you can find will be a nice touch for formal events.
Finally you’ll want to get your self a kilt pin. For day to day use this can be something so simplistic as what equates to the mother of all safety pins. If you’re going to a formal ball you’ll want something that is more fanciful for the sake of it looking nice. You’ll also desire a plain, and a dress broach which is used for securing your fly plaid at the shoulder. Though for day to day use if you wish to do so with a great kilt, the fly plaid can be secured with a leather tie, or scrap material.
To complete the ensemble you’ll wish to look at getting a Balmoral or a Glengarry.
There you have them, the parts you’re going to need for your kilt. I find it quite enjoyable to wear my great kilt, now that I have a proper one which is actual sport weight wool. There are some things how ever that are not fun about wearing a kilt. I have learned to get a tough skin in regards to them. People will forget, or actively choose to ignore the fact that you are wearing your kilt in honor of your ancestors. You might get made fun of, or jeered. It is simply a fact of life. I have personally come to accept, and learned to cope with by simply ignoring them. If you deny them the ‘fun’ of a charged reaction, then they are faced with being made to look like an ignorant jerk, who lacks any cultural grace.
It may sound sacrilegious to some of you but I will part with this one piece of very important advice, which was passed onto me from very dear friends who wear their kilts every Sunday over in Scotland. If you are not in the military, and more importantly the kilt is not part of your military uniform, then for the love of all things decent and holy. Wear underpants with your kilt. The weight of the kilt itself, and the kilt pin usually keep things from getting revealed, but occasionally as one famous picture proves a gust of wind will just prove too much.