The kilt

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 March, 2010, 12:00am

National dress

The Scots are famous for the kilt. But actually it was also worn by other Celts in Britain and parts of France. The Celts were the people who first lived in Britain. They spoke Gaelic. They now mostly live in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. But it is in Scotland that the kilt is most popular. It is the national costume.

A kilt today is a knee-length article of clothing. It has pleats at the back. Pleats are folds. The kilt is usually made of wool and has a tartan design - stripes of different sizes and colours.

Cloak to kilt

Nobody is really sure when the Scots first started wearing kilts. We do know that before the kilt there was the cloak. Scottish soldiers used it to protect themselves against the cold and the rain. The Scots live in what the English used to call the Highlands. The weather there was harsher than on the Lowlands.

The Highland cloak came to be known as the 'great kilt'. It's not clear when people started to wear the waist-to-knee version of today. But, at least by the 1740s, it had become popular, possibly as Scots started to do modern kinds of work. The great kilt was not convenient for a factory worker, for example.


In 1688, the English Parliament took the throne from King James the II. They were worried about his Catholic faith and closeness to France. The result was a series of uprisings, even wars, in England, Scotland and Ireland. The fighting was between those who supported Parliament and those who wanted King James back. In 1746, King George II banned the kilt in an attempt to control Scottish clans. Anyone caught wearing a kilt could go to jail for up to seven years. The ban lasted for 35 years, but it probably made the kilt more popular. The dress became a mark of Scottish pride.

In the news

Fashion manufacturer Pringle of Scotland, which is owned by Hong Kong's Fang family, introduced a new-look kilt at a fashion show in London last month. The kilts worn by models were made of cashmere wool. They also had leather fittings. The company hopes that its new-look kilts will become a hit with women. Kilts have become much more popular for everyday wear among men in Scotland. But they are still usually only worn at parades, or at events like the Highland Games.

now do this

1 The Celts speak ...

a. Scottish

b. Gaelic

c. Welsh

2 The great kilt was a form of ...

a. cloak

b. armour

c. waterproofing

3 The kilt is usually made of ...

a. cashmere

b. cotton

c. wool