|Kilts are one of the great
icons of Scotland. Based on a clothing style that might date back
to Roman togas, kilts were traditionally were worn by Gaelic-speaking
male Highlanders in northern Scotland. In Lowland Scotland, men wore
trousers or "trews."
The modern kilt developed from the feileadh mór or
"great plaid" - a single, non-tailored length of cloth
gathered around the waist by a belt, pinned at the shoulder by a
brooch, and pleated around the thighs. In the 18th century, a less
cumbersome version -- the feileadh beag or "small plaid"
-- gained popularity. Unlike its predecessor, it was cropped at
the waist and considerably more tailored.
The association of tartan patterns with specific families or clans
can be traced back to the early 19th century. Today, there are over
3,500 tartans with family or regional associations, and when ordering
a kilt, a buyer usually specifies a particular tartan. Until recently,
kilts were worn primarily to formal events, but today they are increasingly
worn to football matches, informal parties, and as everyday attire.
The Keith Kilt School
Located in Morayshire in northern Scotland, the Keith Kilt School
was founded in 1994 by master kilt-maker Robert McBain, who trained
as a tailor in the British Army. Established with funding from the
European Union and the Moray Council, the world's first kilt school
will hopefully revitalize the local economy and answer a need for
qualified kilt-makers throughout Scotland. More than 75 craftspeople
have completed the rigorous 12-18 month course. To receive certificates,
students must tailor 15 kilts and master basic business practices.
McBain's former students have established the Keith Kilt Makers
It takes approximately 20-25 hours to make a kilt. Almost all of
the work is still done by hand. A tartan's pattern must remain unbroken
throughout - even in the pleats. This means that each of the 3,500+
tartan designs must be folded in its own way to make it "lay
right" - a process that sometimes requires hours of thought
and trial. In addition to kilts, McBain is also an enthusiastic
maker of Scottish trews - which he believes are overdue for a revival.