parade wearing kilt
COLUMN history of traditional clothes

History of the Kilt, one of the most long-lived “fashion”

the kilt

How many times have the most deeply rooted traditions of one nation originated from another? This is the case of the ceremony in which kilt is worn, a garment that most of us immediately associate with the Scottish region but which was designed by a German. Thomas Rawlinson, an entrepreneur from Germany (owner of iron ore smelting furnaces) moved to the Highlands and having learned the culture of the place, as a true forerunner of the “fashion business”, he made a great business activity and thus invented a tradition. This may slightly weaken the folkloric charm of the kilt, but its history is still interesting. Rawlinson, observing the workers who cut down the trees to supply the wood to his Inverness furnace, thought of simplifying their work clothing to make it less bulky. The men of the less wealthy class, at the time, wore a long plaid that covered the whole body and was tightened at the waist, which made the march on the moors easier than trousers and this is what inspired the entrepreneur.

Traditional clothes: the origin of the Kilt

The kilt, in its original version, therefore consists of a piece of cloth rolled around the waist and tied; in ancient times it was long enough to be placed on the shoulder and the upper part could be adjusted according to the weather, temperature or needs for freedom of movement.

Generally, it is made of tartan, a fabric consisting with horizontal and vertical stripes in different colors called “sett”, drawn on a colored background, whose origin is much older than that of the kilt and was used to distinguish the different tribes (clans) in which the peoples of the Scottish Highlands were divided. Tartan is now found in the best design collections, in household items and in the shops on the main shopping streets – for example, it also appears in the latest creations by Vivienne Westwood.

Kilt and accessories

parade wearing kilt

The kilt was worn without undergarments together with a sporran, a leather handbag used to carry money.

Now it is packaged like a wraparound skirt, with a stretched front part, where the overlap occurs and one with pleated folds. Leather laces with a buckle and a large safety pin (kilt pin) keep it closed.

Over time this skirt became very popular, after being chosen by the Highland regiments that served in the British army and began to be used to distinguish one family from another, thanks to the different color and design. Currently, in Scotland, it is used as a ceremonial dress but it is also seen at the Highlands Games (athletes and spectators wear it) while dancers and musicians wear it during the ceilidhs.

In women’s fashion, by now, we use this term referring to the short pleated skirt, made of wool with the typical Scottish design, improperly called kilt and in Scotland, in shops for tourists, a large amount of souvenirs proposes low-cost versions of this typical iconic garment.

Candy Valentino

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