A Very Important PSA About Kilts
01.12.18

I retired my skorts mid-fall, when the temperature plummeted and weather-shaming swung into high gear. This happened around the same time that I dug deep into my dresser for my tights, only to find that they all have holes in the toes or snags snaking up the thighs. So I gracelessly transitioned into winter dressing, a process which immediately reminded me that leggings are far more exhilarating to wear on weekends than weekdays, and that nothing takes the wind out of my sails like putting on a pair of proper pants in the morning.

Then, about a month ago, I saw a woman crossing Lafayette Street wearing a puffer jacket with a calf-length kilt in a yellow-streaked tartan. She looked devastatingly chic and by equal measures, warm. Suddenly my entire perception of kilts shifted: Kilts are winter’s skorts!

As a matter of coincidence, I had been following a new brand, Le Kilt, for a while, and had become smitten with its ability to make clothes most commonly associated with bagpipers look feminine, and also with its sustainable practices (the brand uses ethically-sourced wool). Le Kilt has been on the kilt beat since it launched in 2014, and they’ve been in good company with recent collections: Burberry’s Fall 2017 collection leaned into the house’s heritage once more with kilts aplenty, ranging from a high-waist wool number to a plastic interpretation lined with silk. Gucci’s recent cruise collection came out of the gates running with embellished tigers and dogs appliquéd right smack in the middle of its kilts. Meanwhile, J.W. Anderson and Esteban Cortazar remixed tartans like an end-of-year DJ Earworm track in skirt form.

My fondness for skorts, and then kilts, probably stems from the all-girls grammar school uniform I used to wear: a navy blue tunic tailored just so, allowing one to wear their mesh gym shorts underneath every day for P.E. class. I of course grew to think of these mesh shorts as underwear, so I wore them beneath the tunic even on days when we didn’t have P.E. or gymnastics or recess. Similarly, the roominess of a kilt is one of the reasons it appeals.

The kilt works because it can be broken down into an equation: success = vacancy underneath for another layer (more fortification against winter) + the insulating powers of wool + maximalism in the form of a bright tartan, finding its shape with a flattering A-line silhouette. If you’re not on this Scottish bandwagon with me yet, I recommend you binge-watch season 2 of The Crown and then spend a lot of time recreationally researching photos of Prince George.

Additionally, with a title as sticky as Who Wants To Be A Millionaire or What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Joseph Charles Thompson’s 1979 tome So, You’re Going To Wear The Kilt will teach you all the things I can’t about wearing one: like how, historically, kilts don’t have pockets, so the sporran (Scottish Gaelic for purse) is supposed to strap on like a fanny pack and hold your PKW (phone, keys, wallet).

As a recent convert, I can tell you this much: You’ll never lose the key to your apartment if you keep it hanging on your kilt pin.

Illustrations by Edith Young.

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  • Amelia Diamond

    EDITH!!!

  • Eva Skewes

    The Le Kilt kilts are now torturing me. THEY’RE PERFECT but they cost soooo much and I so badly want the mix-and-match ones . . .

  • Thamsa

    For anyone who wore a kilt as part of their school uniform, did you follow the “pin worn facing up” meant you were in a relationship? Just a random memory at the thought of kilts.

    On different note, living in Scotland made me appreciate traditional kilts and tartan more, when I learned of the different Scottish clans. I met a guy who told me i was wearing the tartan pattern of his clan and he got really excited because he was in the process of researching his family history. I realise some patterns are just for fashion, but it’s nice to think of the history and culture behind them too 🙂

    • Julia

      I found that sooo interesting when I visited Scotland! Like the fact that some of these patterns go back hundreds of years in these families is so cool

      • I think it’s so cool too! My grandmother was from Scotland and she always had her clan’s tartan as a decorative accent around Christmas time (think tree skirts, bows on wreaths, etc.) I would love a kilt in that pattern.. =

    • Kiks

      My husband’s lineage includes a MacIntosh great-grandmother who was so stubborn that she caused four different property developers to go bankrupt. She refused to sell her oceanfront home that they wanted to tear down to build condos; she was the only holdout property. They kept waiting for her to become ill or die so the house would go up for sale; she just kept right on living.

  • mapillski

    Uniqlo has super cute and super affordable ($20) plaid wool wrap mini skirts, technically not kilts but pretty close. I wear mine weekly, it’s an issue.

    • Rosemary

      this is dangerous info that may cause me to replace my entire bottom-half wardrobe with one of these per day of the week

    • Lily Li

      Ah!! I opened a new tab right away. Its perfect!!

  • Aleda Johnson

    Anything that brings me closer to Scottish gods like Jamie Fraser.

    • Martha Pietruszewski

      preach

    • Winona

      Came down here to say this exact thing!!! I have trouble looking at my screen when he appears, particularly in rugged kilt attire. Never have I been so interested in Highland culture.

  • Xenita

    I have a lovely A line ankle-length plaid kilt I purchased in a Williamsburg vintage store for <$20. Most of the vintage styles of kilts have a SUPER tiny waist, so I ended up bringing it to the tailor to expand it a bit. Best decision I've ever made. It's warm, comfy, and I always get compliments on it 🙂

  • Marialuisa Mendiola

    Yes yes yes! I wore a kilt yesterday and felt like Sally Draper from MadMen. I got stares, one compliment and one catcall. I overall call that a success!

  • Rosemary

    I love your writing and creative process Edith! Also that header slideshow gif is adorable and I think I’ll be using it to count kilts instead of sheep when trying to sleep for the happy/peaceful vibes

  • mariahg

    They weren’t even part of my school uniform, and I wore kilts all the (winter)time growing up. My ancestors on my mother’s side are Scottish (her maiden name is Bruce – duh), so we frequently buy kilts, scarves, wraps, blankets, etc. in the various Bruce tartans. Love that this trend is coming back!

  • Caroline Christianson

    That JW Anderson!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • My parents were in a kilt shop recently – idk why – and my dad asked the clerk what men wore under their kilts. The clerk responded with, “A wee bit o’ ribbon.”

  • Modupe Oloruntoba

    No joke, saw a man in a band tee and a kilt at my local store this week. So casual, like it’s what he wears all the time.

    • Julia

      Any chance that was in Seattle? The unofficial uniform for forty-something dudes with beards who survived the grunge era is a kilt, band tee and leather jacket. Often accessorized with calf tattoos.

      • Modupe Oloruntoba

        In Cape Town, South Africa, of all places!

      • BuffyAnneSummers97

        Cue montage of taxi door slamming and a plane screaming on takeoff as I hotfoot it to Seattle

  • majajer

    Is there any way to style a plaid mini skirt without looking like a school girl? I bought one in 2011 in my tumblr/pastel dip dye/knee high socks phase (I had just graduated high school and was desperately clinging on to my teenage years) and I whenever I put it on now I just feel like I’m going to drink cheap white wine and listen to The Smiths

    • Jane

      I hear you but if anyone wants to wear kilts, drink cheap wine and listen to The Smiths with me, I’m totally up for that. Baby band t, knee-high socks and barettes optional.

      • majajer

        You know what, you’re right and I have been a fool

  • Jane

    I wore a real wool Scottish kilt as my winter school uniform! With a matching tam o shanter. Loved it and hated it in equal measure. So much tradition, it was special. The two pieces literally lasted me from Year 1-12. My mum just kept moving the buttons and it went from ankle length at the start to hide-from-teachers-on-the-warpath length by the finish!

  • Maple Holistics

    I never seen a person wear a kilt

  • Yes, I could go on and on about the different fashion related ways I use the kilt pin!

  • Gigi

    This trend always shocks me tbh as a girl who wore chunky black Mary Janes to high school every day with knee-highs and a class-denoted kilt… though I guess if I hadn’t been forced to wear one every day (in a world unlike Gossip Girl where uniform violations were par for the course) I might be able to pull my old school skirts out of hiding without a grimace 🐰

  • Jolie

    I hadn’t touched a plaid skirt since Catholic school (thank you SO MUCH for reminding me about mesh gym shorts under kilts btw, I had totally forgotten that fashion statement) but for some reason I was in Topshop this October and I immediately gravitated towards them. I ended up buying like four and they’ve made up some of my serious winter LEWKS ever since. Plaid kilt with holey tights, a knitted turtleneck, and platformy-wedge boots is now my go-to outfit.