I Kilt It!

The Highland Games Heavy Events have one particular, immutable rule: ALL participants must appear and compete in Highland dress. That includes me.

Ohh, yes. Time to consider the kilt, my friends.

First, despite the slightly unfortunate coincidence of it being termed “Highland dress“, vastly the most important thing to grasp if you don’t wish to appear a complete moron: A KILT IS NOT A SKIRT. DON’T, JUST DON’T CALL IT A SKIRT. Not if you value your assets, anyway. It may seem like a funny thing to say (heck, even I, having a puerile sense of humour, am tempted to find it funny occasionally), but most kilt-wearers (unlike me) are male, have heard the joke a bazillion times from lips less charming than yours, and will not feel inclined to chortle along with you. Not even a bit.


Secondly, every kilt wearer you will ever encounter has also heard the question about what he wears UNDER his kilt a bazillion times and finds it, if possible, even less funny than the ‘skirt’ remarks. Some may go on the offensive and offer to show you if you promise to kiss whatever you find under there; the smart ones just wink and say, “Shoes, of course!”


Speaking personally, anybody who tries to investigate what I’m wearing beneath the kilt this summer is going to find themselves in a new world of pain. But hey. What’s a girl to do?


Yes, the Alternate Universe Princess Fiona in “Shrek Forever After” really rocks the kilt! Also the battle-axe and the kick-arse boots. My heroine!

As soon as I had definitely decided to do the Games, I bought myself a secondhand kilt off eBay. Why not new, you ask? Because a decent new kilt would have cost me upwards of £300, that’s why! That’s also why I’m not wearing a clan tartan: if I ordered a kilt from a proper kiltmaker, I could specify a particular clan tartan, even a particular weaver, and get everything exactly how I wanted it. I could stride confidently into their showroom and say, “I’d like an 8-yard kilt in the Ancient Graham of Menteith woven by Lochcarron, with a 16″ drop and black leather straps and buckles, with a fringe end, pretty please.”

Alas for financial reality! My Aunty Doreen (our family’s one and only Scots connection for aeons in any direction) just had to go and marry a bloke whose tartan is scarcer than hens’ teeth. So, reluctantly, because I love the teal-blues of the Graham tartan, I abandoned my shaky claim to Scottish ancestry and settled for a secondhand kilt in a rather nice ‘generic’ tartan called “Heritage of Scotland” (or in my case, “No Heritage of Scotland”). I hung my acquisition carefully in the wardrobe, and forgot about it.

You will have seen my training efforts below. It suddenly occurred to me that, if I was going to wear the kilt with conviction (and without embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions) when the season started, I had better get it out and get used to wearing it now. So when my buddy Robyn called to ask if I wanted to go out for a drink the other night, I said, “Yeah, OK, but I’m wearing my kilt!”

The first thing that dawned when putting it on was that this was nothing – and I do mean NOTHING – like wearing a skirt. It’s more like strapping on armour for battle. Honest. In kilted circles, an 8-yard traditional kilt is known as a ‘tank’, because believe me, it’s built like one. Trust me on this. It feels very secure, and rather bracing. And when you move, it swishes. I think it’s something to do with the six yards of fabric folded into knife-edge pleats behind you! Wowza, does it move! Swing your hips, and you could take out a small child or an elderly aunt without even realising.


Kilts: weapons of mass destruction? Stand well clear until the pleats have come to a halt, ladies and gentlemen.

Robyn captured the event for posterity (yeah, sorry about that, posterity…). Excuse the specs and slightly crazy hair. I had done battle with fibre putty hair-product earlier that day and the outcome still wasn’t decided, so I rammed the lot up in a bun and went forth as is.


Schoolma’am-meets-Kilted-Warrior-Woman. I think.

Or there’s always what I’m calling Attitude: Kilted.


I’ll be keeping this kilt as my reserve/pubbing/ceilidhing kilt, as it’s a tad long for athletical endeavours. I’m ordering one in the same tartan from an eBay shop, it’ll be 8 yards, like this one… just a fair few inches shorter – a girly throwing kilt, inspired by my friends on X Marks the Scot.

As I’m sure I heard someone say on the forums one day, “Swish happens!”

And when it does, I’m going to be wearing bullet-proof Lycra leggings under my kilt. ‘Cos, seriously, nobody’s been quite bad enough to deserve the sight of my nekkid thighs on a summer’s afternoon.


18 thoughts on “I Kilt It!

  1. SUCH an enjoyable read! So funny, so relatable – well, except that I haven’t challenged myself to a 6-month-warrior-princess kind of contest. But that last sentence there…uhh…relatable!

  2. Hell YES! Fab post. Love it! Lovelovelove it!

    I love kilts. Always have, always will. As a proud scottish lass, who spent her formative years as a competitive highland dancer, I bloody well LOVED my kilts. I wore the dress Gillis (my family’s tartan) and I thought I was going to get married in my national (dance) outfit. Also, nothing hotter than a man in a kilt (however, seeing as though my husband is half-Swiss/half-Indian he wasn’t too keen on wearing one for our wedding, despite liking them quite a bit. It was a little hard to come to grips with this, but I made it through!)

    You look fierce and awesome in those photos. Probably because you are fierce and awesome!

    Keep doing your thing! It’s completely brilliant!

    • Half-Swiss, half-Indian is an interesting combo, surely there must be a tartan for that! Or perhaps United Glassblowers have a tartan that could be utilised?

    • At least you’d be a superior, tartan duvet. I know what’cha mean, though. Sometimes wardrobe choices can be dispiritingly limited.

  3. I love wearing my kilt. In fact when worn with brogues and the rest of the ‘full charlie’, you just have stride out and feel the swish! It’s quite empowering for a man to feel that – a suit has never done it for me.

    An English lady asked, “What is worn under the kilt?”
    A Scottish gentleman answered, “Nothing, madam! It’s all in perfect working order.”
    (please imagine the appropriate accents) 😀

  4. Sue. Smashin’ blog. Great initiative. Good cause. I shall follow with interest and chuck some money in your donate tin come pay-day.
    Keep up the good work. My wife and I are hoping to sort a trip to Harpenden this year. If you’re there too I’ll buy you a pint.
    John (English Bloke)

  5. A fantastic humorous look on kilts, ahh this is bringing the giggles already and we’ve barely begun. I’ll help you along as best I can, continue writing Captain Kilter!

  6. Pingback: They Said You Couldn’t Buy Love « The Tiger's Eye

  7. You’re dead right about the ‘swish’ 😆

    I love that sideways swing of it when I walk, Sadly, too much ale, resulting in an expanded waistline mean I can no longer get into my kilt – so now I either have to diet or win the lottery to buy a new one

    • Or there’s the alternative I took – buy secondhand on eBay! I know some people hesitate at the thought of that, but it’s easy enough to get a kilt dry-cleaned.
      Go for it!

  8. You brought back some memories of my daughter’s highland dancing days… ordering those custom-made kilts was definitely a pain in the budget! But they looked so fantastic when she was doing the sword dance…

    • I think the wee Highland dancers are one of the nicest aspects of the Highland Games! They’re so graceful and cute.
      I’m hoping some of the ‘graceful’ bits rub off from wearing a kilt. I just got a mini-ish throwing kilt made (or rather, altered) to my spec for about £40, which is good going with free postage too! And at least I know that I won’t grow out of my kilt in three months’ time, which kids have an annoying habit of doing!

  9. I think we made it through with only two kilts from age 10-18… properly made, there is a LOT of room for expansion built in. Fortunately we have a local business who supplies the dancers and pipe bands with everything they need, so fitting was convenient. We have no Scottish heritage so that gave her lots of choices for the tartan! Good old days (expensive though, traveling to all those games for competitions). I managed to sew all her vests and blouses and skirts for the other dances myself. Got pretty good at it, but I’m glad it’s over!

  10. Thank you so much for the lesson about kilts! Having no Scottish blood in my bones I had no idea what the lovely unisex garments were all about. I appreciate the tutorial, although quite cheeky if I might say (loved the humour)! By the way, you look fabulous. Good Luck!

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