Scottish Kilts: Garments and Accessories


Figure 1.--The kilt is generally associated with Scottish boys, but is now rarely worn, except for special occasions.

A proper Highland kilt outfit involves much more than a simple kilt and jacket. A reader indicates that a kilt is held up by a belt, but asks is there are belt loops on a kilt or not? HBC reports that kilts are sometimes worn with a leather belt, but often this is worn as an ornament. I have not noted belt loops. Some better made kilts have tabs at the side to tighten the waist. Young children wearing kilts might wear a bodice kilt or wear their kilt with suspenders. Proper kilts were generally worn by older boys. They were worn with a variety of shirts varying from lace trimed blouses to shirts with stiff Eton collars and bow ties. The Victorians chosing Scottish kilts and pleated plaid skirts for their boys, liked to pair them with various styles of caps. The most popular were Scotch bonnets (Balmoral cap) or Glengarry. Queen Victoria's fondness for all things Scottish extended to a proper cap as well as the kilt itself.

Headwear

The Victorians chosing Scottish kilts and pleated plaid skirts for their boys, liked to pair them with Scottish-styled headear. There were two popular Scottish styles. One was the Balmoral bonnet. This was a kind of Scottish tam. Balmoral of course is associated with Queen Victoria's Scottish retreat. Another popular style was the Glengarry bonnet. This was a military cap, in the style of a campaign cap. It had straigt sides, a crease at the top and a streamer at the back. Both had a variety of detailing options. We have one example of an all black Glengarry worn with an actual vintage suit. This one was made in England, apparently for an American boy.

Shirts and Blouses

Noys wear klits with a variety of shirts and blouses varying from lace trimed blouses to shirts with stiff Eton collars.

Ties

Tartan bow ties for formal wear and neckties for day wear or most commonly worn with kilts.

Vest

Highland costumes in the 19th century commonly included a vest (waistcoat). Military styled outtfits might have vests detailed like the jacket. This was a little curious as with military jackets buttoned to the collar you could not see the vest. A good example of a military styled vest can be seen in a vintage Highland outfit that we have archived.

Jacket

Highland costume comes in both military and civilan jackets. A good example of a military-styled jacket is a vintage outfit that we have archived. An archived portrait shows a good example of civilan dress. Two of the most popular jacket styles are Argyll and Prince Charlie jackets. Often private boys's school in Scotland have the boys wear tweed jackets with their kilts. Only rarely are blazers worn with kilts as part of Highland dress.

Shoulder Sash

The dress kilt is worn with a shoulder sash. The sash symbolizes the upper part of the kilt costume that was once worn by the Higland clasman. While not normally worn every day for school uniform and Scottish Scouts, it is worn for formal occasions, dancing competitions, and pipe bands. We also notice formal studio portraits with the boys wearing these sashes. Tartan Sashes are commonly worn draped across the front from left to right with a Sash Brooch pinned at the left shoulder. Some sources suggest girls wear the sashes over the right shoulder, but there is some disagreement about this. We are not sure how strong these conventions were in the 19th century. We see boys wearing the sashes less commonly in the 20th century, especially after World war I, even for dress occassions. And as far as we can tell there is no longer any well-observed convention. The sash is held in place by an ornamental pin. Presumably the shoulder sash plaid should match the kilt plaid, but this was not always the case.

Belt

The belt is essential to keep the kilt in place. They are made in leather with or without patterning. Also specialised kilt buckles for added elegance. A reader indicates that a kilt is held up by a belt, but asks is there are belt loops on a kilt or not? HBC reports that kilts are sometimes worn with a leather belt, but often this is worn as an ornament. I have not noted belt loops. Some better made kilts have tabs at the side to tighten the waist. Young children wearing kilts might wear a bodice kilt or wear their kilt with suspenders.

Kilt

The kilt, the most easily recognisable item of Highland Dress. Choose from heavy or lighter weights to suit preferences and climates.

Sporrans

Sporran is the Scotts Galic term for purse or pouch. The sporran was worn on the belt at the front of a kilt as part of Highland costume. It had a practical purpose in that kilts did not have pockets. The purse was a place where coins and bills as well as other objects normally kept in pants pockets could be carried. The original sporrans were small undecorated leather pouches. There are many different styles for a complete range for dress, semi-formal or day wear. As part of modern decorative Highland costume and Scottish dress military uniforms they can be quire elaborate objects. The more fashionable sporrans might have silver or metal rims, and a heavy long backing of fur or at least horsehair. A sporran strap and chain is needed to hold the sporran in place.

Kilt Pin

A kilt pin is essential to keep the kilt in place and to preserve decorum! The kilt pin became fashionable in the 1800's and has remained in favor ever since. Pins are now universally worn on all kilts or kilted skirts. The kilt pin is pinned to the upper apron only. They are not actually used to secure the upper apron to the lower apron. Queen Victoria's original intent may have been to secure modesty on a windy day, but one HBC conntributor reoprts that, in his albeit limited experience, the kilt pin as worn today is decorative rather than functional. Kilts pins vary ffom a very basic pin to highly styalized and decorated ones.

Sgian Dubh

Sgian Dubh is gaelic for black (dubh) dagger (sgian) as invariably the handle was carved from black bog oak. More subtly the word black means secret or covert as in blackmarket, most appropriate for this weapon of last resort. Usually concealed, only to be exhibited in the presence of a host out of courtesy, it is placed in the hose in an obvious position.

Trews

One of the most often asked question about kilys is what boys wore under them. In fact, boys wore a variety of garments under their kilts. The proper garment to be worn under a Scottish likt were trews. "Trews" or "trouse"was the Scottish variant of the English word "trousers". Trews were close fitting tartan trousers. They were worn by certain Scottish regiments. These were also sometimes worn for dress occasions by Scotts instead of the kilt. They were made in a short pants version out of the same wool plaid material as the kilt. While the plaid long trouser trews were worn, the short pants version was never worn buy itself--even by boys. They were only worn with the kilt.

Hosiery

Authentic kilt hose are usually heavy kneesocks. White or Argyles are the most common color, but light green is also sometines worn. We note a pair of Argyle socks worn as part of a vintage Highland outfit that we have archived. Younger boys might wear dress kilts weith lighter weight white kneescks or anklets.

Brogues

While for day wear standard brogues may be suitable authentic Highland Dress for formal wear requires the traditional brogue, lacing up the hose.

Accessories

While many fashion experts might consider the above items as essential to authentic highland dress there are many pieces that can be added for extra fashion impact. These items include: garter flashes, jabot and cuffs, plaid, and shoulder brooches. Highland outfits were also commonly worn with gloves. A good example is a pair of gloves worn with a vintage Highland outfit that we have archived. We are not sure, however this pair was especially chosen for the Highland outfit.

Additional Information

HBC readers interested in Highland costuming might want to look ar these pages.

  • A 1920s Fashion article: Thoughts on boys' fashions in thev1920s
  • Kilt history: Interesting background on the kilt
  • Boyhood memories
  • My scotish kilt: The 1950s
  • Scottish boy: The 1950s
  • Scottish boy: The 1950s: Me and my sisers
  • American boy in Scotland: The 1980s






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    Created: July 31, 2000
    Last updated: 10:07 PM 6/21/2010