Can I get some help with kilts?
May 22, 2005 4:42 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone had experience, good or bad, with buying a kilt in the United States? I'm getting married on July 30th and I would really like to wear my fiancee's tartan. I am not Scottish (as far as I know), but she most definitely is - clan Elliott. I've looked at a number of online places, but I'm still kind of in the dark.

I don't think I want the jacket or the tux shirt or anything. It's going to be a decidedly non-traditional affair. Heritage of Scotland has a nice package which includes a 5-yard kilt, a ghillie shirt, and other accessories that I think would work well, but it's about $400. I was hoping to spend less.

I was also thinking about wearing a feileadh-mhor (great kilt), which would require I only buy 6 yards of her tartan and drape it myself, but I still need to find the fabric. Any help?
posted by starvingartist to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total)
Can you rent one (like people rent tuxes)?
posted by elisabeth r at 5:34 PM on May 22, 2005

Even though you're going down the no-tux route, you're still going to need shoes, socks, a skean dhu, a brooch and a sporran, and they don't come cheap. In fact, $400 is *very cheap* for all that, especially including the material. A sporran on its own is about $200, for instance. (My kilt cost $1200, all in, but here they are really in the sort of expensive watch territory: buy one, keep it for your whole life.)

Typically, if Scots don't own a kilt and need for a wedding or similar, they just rent them. I don't think that's going to be common in the States, and you're almost certainly not going to be able to specify the Elliot tartan.

If your heart is still set on it, I can certainly act for you with a kiltmakers here -- I can think of about five shops about ten minutes' walk from my flat. It will be more expensive -- the exchange rate isn't advantageous right now, and there'll be shipping, but it's open as an option. Email's in my profile.

There's a clan Elliot? Coo, I always thought that was an English name. [checks] Oooh, they're lowlanders (he says like he isn't one too)
posted by bonaldi at 6:59 PM on May 22, 2005

My friend was married in a fashion such as this. As groomsmen, we all wore great kilts. I still have it, in his colors of course and I remember it being about a 25 foot piece of cloth. I'm not sure where he got it, or what it cost, but I will ask for you (email is in profile).

I had someone wrap, knot and pin the thing for me. It was about a 2-3 man operation. But, we just wore tall black buckskin boots and plain white "blouse" for lack of a better word. The entire outfit cost less than $80. If you had seamstresses in the clan that number could drop a fair bit.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 8:04 PM on May 22, 2005

Friends of Scottish decent (clan MacEwen; his dad was born is Glasgow) bought kilts from this great shop in North Conway, NH, and were very, very pleased with them. I note they also rent (although in limited tartans). However, their custom kilt (to purchase) is $550 and 8-12 weeks for delivery.

These are "modern" kilts. I'm not sure if they just sell fabric, but you can certainly ask.

Or, its seems that the Elliot Clan Society may have fabric for sale on their website (at £28.00 per yard).
posted by anastasiav at 8:22 PM on May 22, 2005

On a completely random note, July 30th is my birthday. That wouldn't matter except for that my high school homecoming king also wore a kilt to the homecoming dance- he was the only kid in school that could have got away with it and it was a beauty to behold. I have no idea how much it cost him, but I do know he was far from well-off so I highly doubt he spent anywhere close to $400. Then again, this was for homecoming and not a wedding so YMMV.
While I'm thinking, do you know anybody with a kilt or a connection to someone with one? I reckon an authentic kilt which was not made solely for wedding would be a lot more rad than one made otherwise.
posted by jmd82 at 9:55 PM on May 22, 2005

Our cool local kilt shop closed after many (30?) years- the couple who ran it retired, so I'm in the same boat. I'll be the best man in a wedding (for a guy who bought his kilt 3 or 4 years ago) and I don't know where to buy one.

My friend paid $450 by the way, and it's a nice kilt- medium weight and oodles of yards of fabric (actually, 9 or 10 yards, I think). It's a common tartan- Campbell (he used the ancient) -so that helps.

There are a couple other kilt shops, but they're expensive and just not as homey. So I don't have any advice, but if you run into a solution, I hope you'll email me or post it.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:21 PM on May 22, 2005

Just to note... so far as I know, it's considered very bad form to wear a tartan to which one is not entitled. It's a lovely idea, of course, but (again from what I know; I could very well be rong) it's sort of a slap in the face to her Scottish ancestry.

Sort of like wearing a military uniform or medals which one has not earned.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:24 AM on May 23, 2005

Perhaps, dirtynumbangelboy. But there's also this:
Invented Tradition:
The third invented aspect of the Highland tradition of Scotland, Trevor-Roper argues, is that of tartan. Family tartans, as they are now generally conceived, probably never existed. Instead, tartans probably were regionally based with different patterns belonging to different areas of the country. What tartan one wore was mainly a decision based on preference or fashion. The wearing of kilt and tartan became popular in the nineteenth century because of the romantic interest in the idea of the noble savage and the exploits of the Highland regiments in India and America. Thus, following the lifting of the ban of Highland dress that was imposed after the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, Highland noblemen, anglicized Scottish peers, improving gentry, well-educated Edinburgh lawyers and prudent merchants of Aberdeen - "men who were not constrained by poverty and who would never have to skip over rocks and bogs or lie all night in the hills" - took to wearing the modern kilt as a new fashion. In this way, the entire Scottish nation adopted the bogus Highland symbols of kilt and tartan.
If there's any truth to that, it should take some of the edge off any worries you might have about offending anyone in normal circumstances. But these aren't normal circumstances, this is your wedding, and the last thing you want to do is to offend (or look like an idiot to) all of her family on your wedding day. I just saw this on a Clan Mackenzie site:
Excepting the "District", "Caledonia" and "Jacobite" tartans, no one should wear a tartan to which he is not by name or descent entitled. To do so is foolish and ill-mannered, invites scorn, and is contrary to the whole principle of the clan system.
posted by pracowity at 3:16 AM on May 23, 2005

You can definitely rent kilts (and the whole kit) online. I was a groomsman in a good buddy's wedding a few years ago, and we did just that.

We had a fitting session a couple of weeks earlier, where we all got together and followed a set of instructions for measuring arm length, etc., and they all showed up in a bunch of boxes a couple of days before the ceremony. Afterwards, we just packaged everything back up, and UPSed it back. (I'm pretty sure that he got to pick the tartan, too.)

Couple of points we learned...

1) Sgian Dubhs (the small daggers you wear strapped to your calf) make a great groomsman gift--way cooler than another set of cufflinks. (With airport security nowadays, though, anyone flying home is going to need to make provisions getting it home.)

2) At the stag weekend before the wedding, we went back and forth a lot on whether we going to go "all natural" under the kilts. (I don't even know if it's historically accurate to do that, but it _definitely_ comes up as a topic of conversation.) I'm pleased to say that I swung the debate around when I pointed out that there's no way I'm going to be sitting around in 20 years, talking about the wedding, and when one of my kids asks "So, did you guys swing freely, or what?", have to duck my head and say "We chickened out". Sometime you have a duty to posterity, to a good story, you know?

(And as hard-won experience on the same topic, let me just offer a piece of advice from my friend the groom--_don't_ make the choice to go all natural, and then make a toast from a small balcony looking over the hall. Just don't.)
posted by LairBob at 6:44 AM on May 23, 2005

As per pracowity, this link tells you a fair bit about the history and mythology of the kilt.

IIRC ancient celts used to wear trousers, not kilts which are an English affection from the 18th Century. I would however, still consider wearing a kilt when not actually from Scotland to be an extremely huge faux pas. Don't let that stop you however.

I still want a leather Utilikilt though...
posted by longbaugh at 6:49 AM on May 23, 2005

You might consider Cornish tartan, which looks like this. It doesn't even traditionally have to go with the stuff that Scottish kilts are supposed to go with, so you can go a bit freeform, plus there's no clan attachments.
posted by biffa at 7:02 AM on May 23, 2005

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