Do you know how to wear your kilt? you may be surprised

So, you’ve now bought yourself a traditionally hand sewn kilt and you love it.  But now what, how do you wear it?

‘What do you mean, isn’t it obvious’  I hear you say?  Well no, its a bit trickier than you think.

Its time to learn how to wear the kilt correctly.  A traditional kilt is made to your exact measurements and if not worn in the correct position it can look a wee bit silly.  You don’t want that, I mean, you’ve just paid a fortune for this piece of art.

Unfortunately, there are some people who will think that because it does not sit or fit right then it is the kiltmakers fault and will be on the phone shouting about how bad the kilt is even calling it shoddy work, obviously this can be very upsetting to someone who has put their heart and soul into their work.  Don’t get me wrong, yes maybe if measurements aren’t taken correctly, this can be the case, however, more often than not, it is the way the kilt is being worn.  This is why I have decided to write this blog on how to wear the kilt.

This should only be needed for those who have had their kilt made and sent to them and by kilt I mean a traditionally hand sewn kilt, the sports kilt, utilikilt, modern kilts and even machine sewn kilts are made differently.  If you have bought it from an actual kiltmaker, and if they are anything like myself, they will make sure you do not leave them without you knowing how to make it look great on you,. After all, you’re an advert for their work.

If you have purchased the kilt from a Kilt Outfitting High Street store,  even though they are not actual kiltmakers they should know enough to make sure you look great.  But remember just because they have the word ‘Kiltmaker’ in their title it doesn’t mean that it is what they are, at the end of the day these are sales people who use freelance kiltmakers, and pay them pittance, by the way, but that’s another story.  Think I’m getting off topic a bit oops.


So here it is how and why you need to wear the kilt properly

We’ve all seen badly worn kilts, on larger gentleman they are worn under the belly, because of this the pleats at the back kick out, the hip on the kilt looks too big, there’s folds at the front where the kilt has been pushed down  and the length is too long.   This is a shame because I think a kilt looks so flattering on a larger gent.

Then we have the skinny malinkys wearing them to loose and the kilt sitting on the hip, which makes the kilt sit below the knee and quite frankly looks like a ladies skirt.

And then there are those sexy highlander pictures with the kilts hanging off them, showing them sitting too low at the waist.

Mmmmmm hang on, where was I, I have completely lost my train of thought………….

Oh aye, before I forget, any photographers out there I am available to help dress the models  😉

Anyhoo back to topic, how a kilt should sit?

When you are measured for a kilt the waist is taken around your natural waist, this is generally where the belly button is but not always.  It is just underneath the rib cage, on some people this is quite obvious other times you need a bit of poking.

Now this is not where the top of the kilt will sit this is where the middle of the prong on the buckle should be.  What is above is called a rise, nowadays this is between 1 – 1 ½ inches  on dancers or military kilts this can be 2 inches.

There is always a difference between waist and hips, no matter the shape, the hip measurement  should be taken quite loosely.  When the pleats are sewn this gives the shaping into the small of the back.

As you can see from the picture the kilt sits perfectly and if was to sit any lower the shape would not work.

When you first put your kilt on a wee trick is to start to buckle it quite high and then naturally let it fall to the waist, then tighten, remember the prong of the buckle should be sitting on your natural waist (under the rib cage) don’t be afraid to pull very tight as it will loosen off a bit (kinda like jeans).

Now for the length, there is a bit of discussion that goes on about this.  Today the kilt should sit over the top 1/3rd of the knee, not quite at the middle.

This has changed over the years, from function to fashion.  In the old days of the belted plaid, it would’ve been worn high above the knee, this was because it was a functional garment for outdoor work.  When walking through wet heather, in the wilds if the woollen cloth got wet and hard if it was any lower would cut the back of their legs.

In the beginning of the 20th century kilts were worn just above the knee but started to get a bit longer in the 1980s to the length we have today which is just above middle of the knee.

Although I’ve noticed at Scottish Games in the US a lot of people are wearing their kilts above the knee, this could just be a fashion.  But a traditional kilt made here in Scotland would be made to cover the top 1/3rd of the knee.  As for those numpties wearing below the knee *shaking head in hands* it just looks like a ladies skirt and if I catch any of you wearing a kilt like this I will pull it up.

 Not a good look

The length of your hose is also quite important to the look of your kilt, worn too high they can make your kilt look too long.  Again the length has changed over the years from middle of the calf to nowadays 3 finger widths below the knee, this shows enough knee to give the kilt a great look.

 I’ll give you extra points if you can guess the celebrity 😉

Of course there is also the casual look, hose down at ankles with a pair of boots, I don’t mind this on a look but wear it with a formal look I will find you and chase you down.

Well reader I hope this has helped or at least entertained you.




About Nikki Laird

I am a daft kilt maker who loves finding out about new interesting information about Scotland and work here at ScotClans

View all posts by Nikki Laird →

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14 thoughts on “Do you know how to wear your kilt? you may be surprised

  1. Peter MacDonald

    Nikki, good article, I have one point of disagreement however and that’s on the length of the kilt. As you say, it’s the area of greatest contention. I’m not so sure that wearing to the mid-knee is a fashion thing, it’s more likely the embedded bad advice from some kilt makers that have resulted in this being seen as the norm.

    Some 30 years ago I was measured for a kilt by a well known kilt maker who asked me to knel of the floor and then proposed measuring from hip to floor. That absurd ‘tradition’ will always result in a kilt that it too long. Top of the knee for me every time.

    • Nikki Laird Post author

      I know what you mean Peter. When I first started in the early 90s It seemed to be the norm to measure just above the knee cap and this was what we were taught, however, every older gentlemen I came across at the time were wearing the kilt above the knee. I personally think it may have come from when the kiltmaking houses started closing the workrooms and using out workers, when this happened, the kiltmaker was no longer measuring, it was the sales people and as you say it has now become the norm. Dancers kilts are always measured above the knee but that has been because of the strict rules enforced.

      And don’t get me started on the kneeling down to be measured, the amount of arguments I have with folk. It certainly is absurd.

  2. James Bassett

    The waist can be adjusted with the buckles, but not the hips (on a 2-buckle kilt). Obviously a kilt that’s too small in the hips (or anywhere, really) is a Very Bad Idea, but will it look bad if a kilt is 3 or 4 inches too large in the hips (but with the correct waist)?

  3. Martin Marlborough

    Most people have their socks too high they should be halfway on the calf muscle, My Dad was a kilt make for the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders they use the box pleat.

  4. Don Bennett

    Thank you very much for posting this article. I found it incredibly informative, and a wee bit cheeky on the humour side, which suits me to a tee. Unfortunately I was never taught the proper way to wear a kilt even though I am over half Scott who’s family origins are from the Isle of Skye. You have definitely put me straight, and I am so grateful that you have done so. Please continue to educate us ignorant heathens so we don’t look like a complete embarrassment when wearing our beloved kilts in public. My wife would appreciate that lol

  5. Jeff Watt

    I’ve always gone with the “kneeling on the floor” method, when you stand up, the knee cap is 1/3 to 1/2 covered.. for a formal occasion, the hose should be a hand-width below the kilt.

  6. Wayne of the Farquharson Clan

    I’m looking at buying a kilt soon. So I really appreciate the advice given, and highlights the need to ensure the fit is correct and the method of wearing it is of equal importance in order wear it with the proper respect and honour.

  7. kilts for men

    An important point is that the Kilt is worn at the natural waist, which is higher than the hip line where the pants are worn. This is a common mistake made by men who are not used to wearing the kilt Outfit, especially outside of Scotland


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