Traditional Handsewn Kilts and Accessories
Frequently Asked Questions
What's with all the different prices on the Kilts Page?
Different mills charge different prices for their fabric. Instead of just broadly generalizing and coming up with an average price, I decided to base my prices on the fabric actually used for your kilt. Basically, my price comes down to this simple equation: Fabric + Labour. The difference you pay in price is the difference I pay when ordering your fabric. I do not make a profit on fabric so there is no financial incentive to push the more expensive fabrics on you the customer. (I make the same amount regardless of what you choose.)
Why are your kilts so inexpensive (or expensive)?
When I set out to become a kilt maker, I eventually learned that three things invariably make the price of a kilt what it is:
1) Cost of material. Worsted wool tartan material is very expensive. However, if you have ever gone shopping for upholstery fabric, you will notice there are many expensive fabrics out there. It is, and always will be, a niche market. Tartan mills must stock hundred of different patterns and often receive orders for only small lengths at a time.
2) Labour cost. Quality kilts are hand-made. Always have and probably always will be. This takes a considerable amount of time. (Typically 25 hours or more.) True, one can purchase machine-stitched kilts, but the stitches will usually be visible and thus it will not look the same. This does not mean some machine-stitched kilts are of poor quality or do not look good, they just look different and to many people not what a kilt should look like. As well, there are many "budget" kilts available for under $100 but these are often of very poor quality and produced in Asia under questionable working conditions at best. Beware the label, 'Designed in Scotland'. To read more on that click here.
3) Middlemen. Or should I say middle-people? When one purchases a kilt in a shop one deals with the shopkeeper who then contacts a mill who then contacts a kilt maker (usually in Scotland). Understandably, each person in this loop needs to make money. Unfortunately, for you as the consumer, this adds up to a high price tag.
4) Variety. I offer more variety than the typical 9-yard knife-pleated kilt made in heavy weight wool. This allows customers to select a kilt according to their needs, budget, etc.
How long will it take for my kilt (or other items) to arrive?
Ideally, the process, from time of order to delivery to you, takes two months (eight weeks). This will take longer if a mill runs out of a particular tartan and must weave more. If this happens, I will let you know what the adjusted time frame will be. Since I frequently have several kilts booked, it's a good idea to check the Kilt Queue located at the bottom of the page.
Other items take approximately 4-6 weeks, sometimes sooner, but occasionally later if an item is not in stock at the manufacturer's warehouse.
What shipping do you use, and how much does it cost?
Nobody likes shipping charges. (Unless you are the Post Office.) I use Canada Post for shipping. They offer the most affordable rates and are reasonably efficient. Other courier companies tend to tack on unwelcome 'brokerage' fees and most certainly will collect any duties or taxes owed. Canada Post (and perhaps other local postal services) sometimes doesn't bother with these fees, especially with small items. This means better savings for you! (You didn't hear this advice from me!)
Nobody likes to find out shipping charges after they ordered an item, so here are my rates:
(Note that prices are in Canadian dollars.)
$0.01-$119.99 = $25.00 Shipping *
$120.00-$219.99 = $30.00 Shipping *
$220.00-319.99 = $35.00 Shipping *
$320.00-$999.99 = $40.00 Shipping *
$1000.00 or higher = Free *
* Please note that in all cases there is 15% Shipping Surcharge applied to all orders placed outwith Canada or the United States. You will see this listed on your invoice as a 'tax'.
Is a four or five yard kilt "less formal" than a nine-yard one?
Many will tell you (including most kilt makers) that the nine-yard kilt is the true 'traditional' and the four-yard 'casual' kilt is just a modern concept. The true traditional 'kilt' was the Fèileadh Mhòr; a double width (actually two 25"-30" pieces stitched together length-wise) four-yard piece of fabric which was hand-pleated and draped around oneself in a variety of fashions. The first traditional tailored kilt (appearing in the late 18th Century) was the four-yard box-pleated kilt. Knife pleats, commonly found on most kilts today, did not appear until the Gordon Highlanders adopted them in the mid-19th Century. Later in the 19th Century, the trend of pleating to the sett (maintaining the tartan pattern) became prevalent, thus requiring more fabric (seven to nine yards). This style remains the most popular among kilt-makers even today.
When the Fèileadh Mhòr was first tailored it was cut in half (or rather left unstitched); the bottom half was pleated and sewn, and the top half left to hang from the shoulder, now known as the plaid. It would seem obvious the bottom portion would consist of only half the material: four yards of 30" fabric. Historical re-enactors often bungle this and attempt to wrap eight or more yards (24 feet!) of 60" width tartan around themselves to create the Fèileadh Mhòr. The effect looks rather silly, impractical, and probably very uncomfortable.
Do you make leather or other non-traditional 'contemporary' kilts?
No. I am a traditional kilt maker who makes traditional hand-sewn kilts from wool. If you are only interested in these other styles I could certainly refer you to some companies/individuals who do make them.
Do you pleat to the stripe or sett?
Both. Pleating to the sett (maintaining the tartan pattern throughout the pleats) is usually only done on nine-yard, knife-pleated kilts (thus necessitating the need for more fabric). On a box-pleated or Kingussie kilt one is usually limited to the stripe due to fabric constraints. A small number of tartans can be pleated to the sett in a box or Kingussie pleat with a satisfactory appearance but most cannot. Some tartans have a very small sett and can be pleated using 1 1/2 repeats instead of one. If this is possible I will contact you to ask if you would like this option.
I don't have a tartan. Or, I do, but I don't like it. Can I still wear a kilt?
Of course! Anyone can wear a kilt. That's like saying one must be French to wear a beret! Besides clan names, tartans are named for countries or districts (Scottish National for Scotland or Maple Leaf for Canada, for example) or are simply tartans based on other institutions (Black Watch or Great Scot). Believe it or not, even Scrooge McDuck and Shrek have their own tartans! By looking through the tartans listed in my order forms, you will find there are a great many non-clan affiliated tartans. In addition, you can have your kilt made in a solid colour. Irish kilt-wearers are especially fond of solid-coloured kilts, often in saffron or green.
People sometimes maintain that only those with a clan connection may wear a tartan. Some also believe their ancestors wore this very same tartan whilst traipsing around in blue woad with the likes of Sir William Wallace! (read Mel Gibson!) In fact, most of our known tartans today were taken from fabric sample books in the 18th century. (Most notably those of William Wilson & Son of Bannockburn.) Tartans were assigned clan names instead of serial numbers. Disappointing? Unromantic? Sure, but many things in history have such mundane origins. In fact, when Sir Walter Scott organized a Royal Visit to Scotland in the 1820s, he called upon all clan chiefs to attend in their clan tartan. Unfortunately, most did not know what he was referring to, as they had no specific clan tartans! Highlanders simply wore what their local weavers wove. In this sense, regional tartans could almost be considered more traditional. Nonetheless, a tradition was born and carries on to this very day.
Indeed, the kilt was not even universally worn across Scotland. It was worn only by Highlanders, who were (are) ethnically very different from Lowlanders who often regarded them as barbaric. With the romanticizing of all things Highland in the 19th Century, it became a pan-Scottish garment. The Irish kilt (typically saffron or some other solid colour) is another source of contention among scholars. Most agree that the ancient Irish wore the léine which was a long belted tunic pleated in a vaguely similar fashion. This was later misinterpreted by 18th and 19th Century scholars as a kilt. Yet again (like clan name tartans) another tradition was forged in falsehood.
All said, while based upon much fancy, these traditions now have a two or three century history which must be respected. The concept of the kilt as a pan-Celtic garment is quite recent and is likely due to two reasons: First, Highland dress is really the only traditional Celtic dress to have survived into modern times; people of other Celtic descent feel that this is the closest they can approximate today what their ancestors wore. Second, they wear it simply to show Celtic solidarity; a worthy cause indeed!
Do I need a sporran?
I would say yes. This is the most important accessory to buy. If you don't wear one it will look like you are wearing a skirt! (Not that there is anything wrong with that!) The sporran is also quite useful as the kilt has no pockets. We off three types of sporrans: Day wear, Hunting, and Dress.
Do I need all of the other accessories?
Technically, no (with the exception of the sporran - see above). A kilt is simply a garment and can be accessorised as you choose. Whether this means dressed to the hilt in full Highland regalia or dressed-down with a T-shirt and boots, the choice is up to you. Accessories can be purchased over time to build your outfit and most people find this easier on the wallet. A general rule-of-thumb most people seem to follow is to purchase what is worn below the waist first: kilt, sporran, belt, kilt pin, sgian dubh, kilt hose, garter flashes, and ghillie brogues (shoes). At a later time, they purchase the articles worn above the waist: jacket and vest, fly plaid and brooch, balmoral, glengarry, or tam.
How do I wear a kilt pin?
A common misconception over the years has led people to believe that the kilt pin holds the two aprons together. I'm not sure where this started but it is false. A kilt pin should only be pinned through the top (outer) apron. It is there merely for weight. If you pin it through both aprons, the kilt will not hang properly. You will also run the risk of seriously damaging your kilt should the pin snag on something. As for location of the pin, it is usually placed 3" up from the bottom and 3" in from the edge.
Do you offer a payment plan?
Yes, see here.
Aren't kilts just skirts?
Yes and no. All kilts are skirts, while not all skirts are kilts! Some dislike kilts claiming they are women's clothing. Nothing could be further from the truth. History has shown us that many cultures wore or wear similar garments. Skirt-like garments reaching to the knee were exclusively menswear until the 20th century. It is important to stress that a kilted skirt (such as those worn by schoolgirls) are NOT kilts, they are kilted skirts.
What's worn under the kilt?
Ah, the age-old question! One which you, the kiltie, will likely be asked many times in your life! Various humorous stock phrases abound: "Shoes and socks." "Nothing's worn, ma'am. It's all in perfect working order!" etc. In all seriousness though, wear whatever you like. If you prefer going "regimental" for whatever reason then do so. If not, then don't!