What tartan may I wear?

You may wear any tartan that suits your fancy! Not all Scots are members of Highland Clans, and not all kilt-wearers are Scots. There are several tartans that are considered Universal, meaning that anyone may wear them. Tartans come in several varieties:

  • Clans and Family Tartans – Highland Clans and Great Houses of Scotland
  • District/Area tartans – many cities, states, provinces, countries and corporations have their own tartans.
  • There are over 6,000 tartans recorded. Please visit the Scottish Tartan Authority’s site (www.tartansauthority.com ) to find more information.
  • There are many Irish and Welsh tartans available for those that wish to celebrate their heritage without worrying about “being all Scottish and stuff”.
  • You may also visit the following mills to have a look at their offerings:

    If you are not sure, please feel free to contact us for help with your decision.

    What about the weight of the tartan?

    The weight of the tartan refers to the thickness of the thread used to weave the fabric.  Tartan is available in several weights, giving a different feel and look to each piece of cloth.

    • Lightweight (11oz) material is general thought to be too light for a traditional kilt. It may be used for making skirts, sashes, and other accessories
    • Medium weight (13 oz) material is acceptable for a traditional kilt and is often preferred by kilt wearers in warm climates, or those kilts that do not get a lot of wear and tear.
    • Heavy weight (16-18 oz) material offers a more durable garment and provides that “swing” to the kilt. Heavy weight tartan is often used by pipe bands and folks that are everyday kilt wearers because of its durability.

    How do I want my kilt to be pleated?

    There are several ways to have a kilt pleated, the most common ways are pleated to the Sett or to the Stripe.

    Pleating to the Sett means that the pleats are made so that the design (sett) of the tartan is reproduced across the back of the kilt.

    Pleating to the Stripe means that the pleats are made so that one particular  vertical line in the tartan is centered on every pleat. Many military groups and pipe bands use this type of pleating.

    What about the color variations between tartans?

    The color shades used in tartans will vary from mill to mill, depending on the dyes used to make the threads.

    A single clan can have more than one tartan associated with it. There are several groups of tartan colorings:

    Ancient colors: These are usually made in more faded colors to represent the vegetable dyes that were once used.

    Weathered colors: These are made to reproduce the effect of tartans that have been weathered by the elements.

    Muted colors: These usually reproduce more earth tones such as olive, slat blue and deep red.

    Modern colors: These feature bright colors available through modern dyeing processes.

    Dress colors: These usually have a white background.

    Hunting colors: These are usually made from neutral colors such as brown or grey.

    What style can I wear? And what goes with what?

    There are several different styles of dress ranging from full formal to casual outfits. Here are some suggestions (only suggestions, let your own fashion sense be your guide…. Or get some help from those that know a wee bit more about it at:  www.Xmarksthescot.com

    Full Formal:  Equivalent to a Black tie outfit. This is perfect for weddings (don’t outshine the bride, though), special functions and other formal events

    Traditional kilt

    Prince Charlie Jacket

    3-button vest

    Fly Plaid



    Full dress sporran

    Kilt shirt – usually a wing collar shirt with French cuffs

    Bow tie

    Kilt hose


    Sgian Dubh

    Kilt pin

    Ghillie Brogues (traditional Scottish shoes)

    Semi-Formal: Can be worn to most events including weddings

    Traditional Kilt

    Argyll Jacket

    5 button vest

    Semi-dress Sporran

    Standard dress shirt

    Neck tie (or ruched or standard neck tie)

    Ghillie brogues or dress shoes

    Kilt hose


    Kilt pin

    Sgian Dubh

    Casual: This outfit can vary according to the intention of the wearer, and can be worn to most daytime events:

    5- 8 yard kilt

    Casual Waistcoat

    Ghillie or jacobite shirt

    Leather Sporran



    Brogues or day shoes



    Casual sgian dubh

    Kilt pin

    Great Kilt: The precursor to the kilt, made with 5 yards of double wide tartan. The bottom half is worn pleated and held in place by a belt forming the kilt. The upper half is draped over the shoulder and fastened with a brooch or pin:

    Great Kilt

    Shirt appropriate to represent the historical time period.


    Kilt hose


    Shoes appropriate to represent the historical time period.

     What should the Ladies wear?

    Generally ladies highland wear is not as extensive as Men’s wear. They usually wear:

    Kilted Skirt (although many women opt to wear the traditional men’s kilt and that’s just fine)

    Tartan sash or tartan shawl

    There is also a longer hostess skirt and mini kilt available for women to wear.

    Ok, I guess I have to address the most frequently asked question about wearing the kilt….. wait for it….

    What is worn under the Kilt?

    There are certain standards that govern fashion and how to wear it. In good taste, one would probably not ask a gentleman what he is wearing under his pants or trousers (but there is no accounting for what would account for good taste).

    Consider these facts:

    Underwear as we understand it was not invented until long after the kilt had been worn for centuries.

    Everyone has their own level of comfort with what they wear (or don’t) wear under the kilt.

    It doesn’t really matter, there are no “Kilt police” and those that purport to be card-carrying members should be regarded with suspicion.

    So, for fun, here are some of the most common responses:

    “Madam, there is nothing worn under the kilt, everything is in perfect working condition.”

    “Aye, when I wear my kilt the Lord looks down with pride, and the Devil looks up with envy.”