Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Consider The Kilt


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There was a fascinating discussion today on Twitter. (Yes one can have fascinating discussions on Twitter)

It was about the wearing of the kilt, by Jamie, in Season Two. When would he wear it, in France, and why? What did the kilt mean in terms of story??

So, I ask you, to consider the kilt, and it’s history, with a lot of editorializing thrown in by me.

1. The kilt originated as nothing more than a practical garments. An ingenious, multi purpose garment, one that does a million tricks with the push of a button! Many countries have similar garments in their culture, a single piece of cloth that provides all manner of service. But I do not believe it was necessarily anything more than a practical garment that evolved over time. It made no particular meaning or symbolism until…

2. The Jacobite Uprising of 1743. The war between the English and the Scots. As I said, I do not believe the kilt was a symbol of national pride, until the English took it away from the Scottish people, mainly the men, after the uprising had been put down. Why? Why did the English embrue the kilt with power? What was it a symbol of? Was it similar to what happened in Ireland, when the English banned the Gaelic language? There are some who would describe that as cultural genocide. The wiping out of cultural symbols by a conquering force. It is way of absorbing that culture into the conquering one, removing it’s differences, making it all homogenic. We all look the same, wear the same clothes, eat the same food etc. The message is, “You are one of us now”.

3. The wearing of the kilt is reintroduced by the English aristocracy. But it was part of a romantic movement of the period and an endeavor to create tourism. The clan tartans. “What clan are you?” Pick it out off the wall, buy a copy printed on a coffee mug, take it home to whatever country you are from, make a pillow out of it, whatever. The tartan as curio.


4. Wear it as your own. Following the lead of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who had Balmoral Castle in Scotland, the English monarchy and aristocracy of the 19th century, begin wearing the kilt as their own national garment for formal occasions, and not so formal I suppose, given all the pictures of English princes tromping about the heather in Kilts. So the conquering country removes the kilt from the country it comes from, and then adapts it as it’s own.


5. Well, we are all past that now. Long ago history, the 18th and 19th centuries. Then somewhere in there, the kilt becomes a symbol of emasculation. It becomes a man in a skirt. Not sure if that charge is leveled at the Aristocracy who wear it, but certainly it is common to laugh at men in skirts. The Germans in WWI referred to the Scots as the “Ladies from Hell”. That view of the kilt as a feminine garment is still pervasive today. Wear a kilt and there will be a comment about a skirt. Probably not by a Scot, but by anyone else.

The wearing of a skirt makes you a woman, and that, we understand all to well, is an insult.

6. The other pervasive view today is that of a sexual nature. A quick Google search of kilt, will bring no shortage of photos of burly, shirtless young men, their abs glistening under layers of oil and tans they certainly didn’t acquire in Scotland, wearing kilts. Often they are raising their kilts, or an errant breeze is lifting them, allowing us to be tittilated by their nakedness underneath. The kilt becomes an symbol of voyeurism and sexual randiness. And hence the “cheeky” question that is constantly asked by any man in a kilt…””What are you wearing under your kilt????”.


I have lived in Scotland for two years and have yet to see any of what has happened regarding kilts since 1743, embraced by anyone Scottish I have met here. As a matter of fact people here seem to bristle about it all. I am not so sure it is so cool with them. There are no doubt those among the Scottish who see it differently than those I have met, but I have yet to come across one.

Our lead actor Sam Heughan has worn and celebrated the kilt with great pride and dignity, as have all the men in our cast. I have the utmost respect for how he has tried to educate the world about the kilt and what it means. I have considered it an absolute honor to be able to showcase and cerebrate the kilt in the way it was intended. A garment worn by the Scottish People. Not something to make money off, to be laughed at, or to be turned on by. It is a garment that belongs to the people of this country, and it deserves to be honored as such.

I was not really looking forward to kilts, because like most people I only knew them in the ways commonly presented and described here. It has become one of my favorite things about doing this show. Not only is it a genius of a garment, but it has a powerful history, and a story worth telling.

So here is to the kilt and to the Scottish people who are making it their own again.



*edited 14 July

62 thoughts on “Consider The Kilt

  1. Avatarjclasell

    Of all the Twitter conversations to miss! One of the reasons I loved Outlander originally was because I felt like I was learning something about Scottish history. I was fascinated by the many uses of the Kilt and the Plaid. I still get confused from time to time! I must say that I have greatly appreciated the authenticity of the clothing on the television series. Seeing the real deal, or at least as close to the real deal as one can get, on the screen is wonderful. I had only ever seen the kilt when a bagpipe procession was wearing them, when the British royalty had donned one, or when they were being exploited as a sex symbol. (I actually dislike the picture circulating of Sam in the red kilt when he first got the part.) So seeing the muted colors, which are much more realistic, and the ways in which the actors wear them has been a real pleasure. It is a bit like living history. Thanks for this blog entry Terry, I really enjoyed it!


    1. Avatarannalapping

      I agree with other comments. I have learned so much of the history of the times in the most delightful way. I have a new appreciation for Scotland’s struggle to be free of English rule. Thanks, Terry.

    2. AvatarCaleidh

      I hate seeing the picture of Sam in his Kilt from the first Comic Con where someone shot a photo UP the kilt almost to his crotch. It was just such an invasion, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s why we never see him in one anymore unless he’s in costume. Especially after what happened to Graham! And then there was the one released from Starz on set from Episode 2 where his knee was up and the photo shot under the kilt was dark. Someone tried to lighten it enough to see his penis. Unbelievable.

      1. saraelizabethsaraelizabeth

        OMG. My first instinct is “no way, surely you must be joking!?” but sadly I know people can be weird and obsessive. The only reason I like this blog is because it is nice and respectful and no one is writing “SAM + ME = <333" (ugh!!!!!). As someone who grew up in Hollywood…I pretty much ran away at 17 to university because I didn't want to be in this obsessive culture. Sadly it has only gotten worse. I love Social Media because it allows me to connect with people globally…but sadly there is no knobhead filter to avoid the weirdly invasive crazy ones!

        Sometimes I think it is a gift to have severe memory problems like me, I usually can never remember anything about an actor outside the role they are portraying on my screen. I just lack the space in my brain to hold onto it (too busy holding onto song lyrics and cult movie jokes!). I am forever checking IMDB because for the life of me I cannot remember something important about someone.

        I must've read Caitriona's biography a dozen times and today I realised she is Irish. I might've already known…but I honestly cannot remember! It felt like new information! And I am rather sure I will promptly forget by this time next week and it will be brand new all over again!

  2. AvatarCaleidh

    That was a fascinating Twitter discussion and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am so embarrassed by the “journalists” who question Sam about what he wears under his kilt and amazed at the grace with which he continues to field that question. I’d be smacking someone by now, or at least rolling my eyes and expressing my disgust. Thank you for this post. I never thought of calling it a “skirt” as being emasculating, but that makes perfect sense given Scottish history.


    1. saraelizabethsaraelizabeth

      The only people I ask about what they wear under their kilts are my male friends who I’ve known over 5 years. Minimum. And they know I do it in jest and don’t actually EVER want them to lift their kilt and show me. We are FRIENDS. Hah! I’d NEVER ask a stranger! Just because someone is an actor…it doesn’t give you carte blanche to ask them anything you can think of under the sun!!!

  3. Pingback: Consider The Kilt! | Blacklanderz™

  4. AvatarRebecca Hoffman

    Great post, Terry. I can understand Scottish men bristling over the kilt. As you discussed in #2, the banning (?) of the kilt and use of Gaelic language was assimilation. The English commercializing it (really, that’s what happened….yay society…) stripped Scottish identity. In the beginning, the kilt was just a garment. However, I always saw the kilt as something powerful. In my mind (as spacey as it may be), men who wore kilts were survivors, fighters, and “men’s men”.
    I am no historian and all of what I am saying is just fluff from my brain but it seems the kilt is making a come back. I whole-heartedly approve. I think the men of Outlander have reminded us all of the “great pride and dignity” that should be associated with a kilt.

  5. Avatarsouthernlassie

    Terry, thank you so much for the history lesson, I mean that sincerely.
    While I personally have no artistic design skills, I really love and appreciate your blog about your craft.
    The knowledge just adds another dimension to my overall appreciation for the production of the Outlander series. I have tried to inform everyone I know who is even remotely interested in costume design (regardless of their interest in the books or TV series), about your blog! Of course in the discussion they learn about the books & TV series! I talk a lot about it—I am sure my friends think I am obsessed with Outlander! Perhaps I am, but it is the only thing I have read recently (and I read a lot!), that I can indulge my passion in, it’s a healthy diversion, which includes investigating my Scottish ancestors.
    Please keep enlightening us with your research. Peace, SouthernLassie

  6. LoriLori

    Thank you Terry! Very well said! Thank you for your wonderful designs and especially for creating this blog and for sharing your thoughts, etc. here and on twitter. I really hope that this particular entry is widely read. Lori

  7. AvatarJaimesGrannie

    I loved this article that you wrote on the kilt! I found it fasinating learning the history of the kilt in Scotland! Yes, I knew of the kilt before Outlander and knew the why’s and wherefore’s of it, what it’s use was and how it came to be in existence! I love history, period! It is a very sad thing that US History is not being taught in our middle and high school levels anymore! It is hard pressed to find World History (correct world history) being taught either in the middle or high school level’s!! Just my opinion!
    From the viewpoint of your making all the costumes for Outlander the series, the kilt worn by Jamie and the other Scotish men of the Mackenzie Clan and/or Frasier Clan have been really intersting! I love that they are not “new” looking but rather seem very worn as they would have looked back then! I also love that Sam Hueghan and some of the other men have taken to wearing their kilts away from the set including your husband, Ron D Moore! They all look fabulous in their own kilts! It is wonderful to see them each adjust their kilts to suit their own needs or wants! They truly make them their own!
    Ms. Dresbach, your costumes on this program (which is all I have to base my opinion on) are so out of the realm!!! They are simply magnificent! Making them look worn, burned, dirty, but at the same time, fitting the character they were designed for is just incredible! They look so very authentic to the time, place and person! You and your designers, staff and crew all deserve Emmy’s and whatever other awards are open to you to win! I know that you must be so very proud of each of them! I want to personally thank you for your part of making Outlander my number one show to watch! It is my most favorite tv series of all time! I am a 66 year old avid reader with 5 bookcases of books! The books that are most read are my Outlander series of books! The books that I keep are ones that I read and read again over the years! This series that Mr. Moore has developed is truly my most faviorite! I knew that Outlander in and of itself could never be made in a 2 or 2 1/2 hour movie! It had to be a series! Your part of this series is an intergal part and in my eyes, makes the series seem so real! All of the costumes are so authentic! Each one fits the character it is designed for! That is what makes it all for me! I know that the set design works with it too! Of course, the dialog and scene set up is part too but the costume design does it for me!
    Thank you so much!
    With His Blessings,
    T J Herron JaimesGrannie *yes, I know that Jamie is mispelled in my username! It had to be to be accepted as the one with the correct spelling was already taken!

  8. AvatarClair

    I’m actually a female who wears the modern version of a kilt regularly, as I’m a piper in a bagpipe band. We are not talking about the large piece of cloth formed into a garment, such as you see in Outlander, but rather the knife pleated 8 yards of 16 oz per yard fabric garment with 3 leather straps and buckles version. That weighs a TON, I might add, particularly in a hot parade. What surprises my non- kilt – familiar friends, who like to think of this as a skirt, is when I refer to this as MENSWEAR. But this is exactly what it is. Bagpipes, for that matter, are not traditionally played by many women. They were meant to inspire and intimidate, particularly during battle, and were also banned, if I recall my history correctly. The sporran that is worn is something else many people don’t know a lot about. I jokingly refer to it as a “man purse”. I’m not clear on when these came into existence, but they are every bit as practical as a women’s purse, and as a fellow piper recently pointed out, also provided a degree of protection.

    I really hope that the move of Claire and Jamie to France will not mean a lack of Scot attire and history. There is a renewed interest out there, particularly of those with Scot ancestry, to learn. It would be a shame to completely move away from that. I’m hoping to see Jamie wear that kilt in Season 2!

  9. Avatar0utland1sh1

    RE; kilt. You have another HUGE admirer for your lovely thoughtful. articulate-ness as well as your art. –I am a a graphic designer worked for fashion industry for last 30 years. Live in Maine. LOVE this respectful, clear and inspiring post. I had no idea there was a randy, tacky, sly (stupid, insulting?!) aspect to kilt-wearing by some non-Scots. Had gone right over my head.. Keep on inspiring and clarifying your artful intelligent work, craft, art. Thank you for taking time to share!

  10. Avatardancerdf

    Thank you Terry. Interesting and well said. I agree and find it a brilliant item of clothing. Right from the start of the book and as shown in Ep. 1, the way Jamie used his plaid as a blanket and protection from the rain was ingenious and educational to me. I find it fascinating to see all the different ways each man folds and belts it to make a drape or pockets etc. Great topic for discussion and appreciation.

  11. Avatarwoolfarmgal

    My interest in the kilt is in its history, but also…as a shepherd, weaver and dyer…in its construction. The type of wool used, colors and how dyed and who constructed that garments ..all that fascinates me. So, Terry, wondering if you could expand on that. I am sure the muted tones were from natural dye sources. I wonder what breeds of sheep produced the wool? I think the tartans were beautiful in how the colors were so natural and reflective on the landscape.

  12. AvatarAlwaysJaneB

    My husband has several kilts (MacDonald) that he, along with our Scottish Society of Indianapolis members, proudly wears and has worn as a matter of course and during our annual trips to Scotland . He proudly wears his formal and hunting plaids to honor his ancestors who left Scotland post 1746, arrived in the Colonies and set to work building farms. These brave people fought in the American Revolution and Civil Wars as they pushed westward settling land.

    He’s an educated man with a long sense of humor and has a presence about him that is nothing short of a gravitational pull. He’s tolerated all sorts of inappropriate remarks about the kilt and make no mistake his best response is “silence” and a look down his nose. But for all that, the positive responses are many and that’s his focus!

  13. AvatarPhillygirl1807

    After traveling in Scotland for two weeks this past spring, I came to some conclusions about the Scottish people and their unique culture. First, it amazed me that even after 300+ years of English rule, the Scottish culture has remained. The kilts and the tartans are symbols of a proud, friendly, and determined people. Most “natives” we spoke with voted YES for independence. They blamed the “NO”vote on people afraid of losing the National Health Service, and those afraid of losing their pensions. I think the next time there is a vote, Scotland WILL become independent.

    The Outlander series has helped to bring Scottish culture to millions of viewers worldwide. And even though the TV show has had limited viewing in the UK, it has strengthened the determination of the Scottish people to forge their own destiny. But with a population of only 5 million, it will not be an easy road.

    That said, I want to thank you Terry, and your husband, Ron, for bringing Diana’s books to life. You have chosen an incredibly talented and personable group of actors to bring the stories to a much wider audience. The settings, the costumes, and the authenticity of the productions have been outstanding. I look forward to much more!!

  14. Kat SchellaKat Schella

    I enjoyed your article on the kilt. I have always viewed the kilt as a symbol of national pride for the Scots. On the issue of what is worn under the kilt, I liked the comment Ron made during an interview this weekend during Comic Con. He pointed out that no one asks a woman what she is wearing under her “skirt, dress, etc…” So why is it OK to ask a man?
    Way to go Ron !! I am looking forward to season 2 and hoping the “red dress” scene makes it into the show, but then there are so many good scenes I can’t imagine how they decide (glad it’s not me). Take care, Loving all the costumes.

  15. AvatarTerriP

    Have you considered the possibility that it isn’t the kilt per se but the skirt in general that has been sexualized? One need only watch Fox News for a few minutes to see how prevalent and integrated crotch shots afforded by skirts are in our society. I don’t think the gender matters. A skirt is a product and it has been aggressively marketed as a sexual garment to boast sales for quite a while now. In the 18th century that was not the case. Of course, in the 18th century eyes were not directed to breasts like a magnet pointing north every time someone mentioned the word “beer” either. I’m old enough to remember the 1980’s and that very weird phenomenon… which, of course, is the reason we feminists campaigned so aggressively against beer manufacturers using images of boobs to sell their product. It got weird.

    Human bodies are sexualized by marketers in order to sell products and that is wrong. I don’t care if the body is male or female. It’s a socially irresponsible cheap gimmick. In my opinion if a product can’t stand on its own merits it doesn’t deserve to exist. And lets not forget that it is the entertainment industry that is most guilty of selling its projects with titillating intimations… the promise of a glimpse of the private parts of a pretty person. I don’t think it’s right to do that to actors – who are human beings. When media does that it implies that it is perfectly okay to treat people in general like objects. Of course, those same media conglomerates get to send news reporters out into the community to critique and analyze the shamefully prevalent “rape culture” their marketers skillfully manufactured and use like toilet paper to sell everything (including toilet paper) as if the existence of that culture is a damned “who done it” mystery.

    I’m with Bill Hicks, “Kill the marketers.” They are killing healthy culture.

    1. AvatarTerry Dresbach Post author

      Do you follow me on Twitter? You should. We are on the same page. I agree with you 100%. I am speaking about one aspect of the subject, how a particular garment has been manipulated and used to assist an agenda of control. In a bigger arena, that is nothing new for women. Clothing has always been used to control them/us.

  16. MistahbueMistahbue

    I have learned so much about my Scots ancestory just from the Outlander books. Then comes the series and Terry’s pursuit of historically correct garments and my history lessons just continue. I am so very amazed at the work you do. I had no freaking idea the English Victorians and, later, the aristocracy took the kilt for their own purpose.

    All hail Terry D. Enlarging brains one garmet at a time. 🙂

  17. Avatarmmbrock2014

    Thank you Terry for the history and clarification on the Kilt. When I ws in Scotland in 1993 I noticed the same bristling from the Scots when people made “smart” comments regarding the kilts. They didn’t realize the history of the Rising and what the English took away from the Scots, in today’s society it may have been considered “cultural genocide”. I would not be surprised to see Jamie or any of the Scots wearing a kilt anywhere, even in Paris, since it is a garment they are most comfortable with. I saw the Twitter discussion and found it interesting and surprising. Thank you again for summing everything together. x

  18. AvatarAnne H.

    As a second generation Scottish American and one who is proud of my ancestry and heritage, you have brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for this, for understanding, and articulating, and bringing this aspect of Scottish history to light. Thank you for the care that you take, and for everything else as well.

  19. AvatarAnne H.

    As a second generation Scottish American who takes great pride in my ancestry, your words here have brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, Terry!!

  20. AvatarPamela

    I really do appreciate the post, Terry. You know… after reading DG’s book, I researched the Great Kilt and was fascinated by it and how it was traditionally worn. When the show came out, I was very happy to see the (great) kilts worn differently by the various actors. Since the show, the whole idea of preserving of Scottish past — language, clothing, art–seem to become come to the forefront. The world has come to love Scotland through the books, the show, your costumes and so forth. I have to agree with you –Sam has become a greats spokesperson for such things Scottish like the kilt. And yes, it has been so tiring to hear the question –What’s under the kilt? In fact it was just asked this morning on GDLA (really?)

    I love the one photo of the kilts with pockets–I know your design.

    Just random thoughts of this post that I really do love!

  21. Pingback: “Guyliner,” Kilts, and “Foundation for Men” | sexpositiveoutlander

  22. AvatarAlly Marshall

    Hmm, while not entirely disagreeing with many of your conclusions Terri, I have to say that some of them have been repeated without being challenged for years, which always makes me want to question their validity or at least qualify it: I think good old Queen Victoria has been given a little too much credit, Romanticism (and romantic nationalism) was a fashion sweeping the Western World at the time and I think she was responding to fashion rather setting it to a certain extent, Sir Walter Scott’s novels etc.

    My father and his contemporaries, young men in the sixties, never wore the kilt despite voting SNP , it was not “cool”, too establishment, worn by posh people, ex army officer types, boy scouts or comic Scotsmen in films.

    Most Scotsmen now get married wearing the kilt but they hire them rather than own them, I can’t help thinking that kilt wearing was not very common years ago because a proper kilt was far too expensive for the average Scotsmen to buy, my husbands kilt outfit was more than £500 20 years ago, his parents bought it for his 30th birthday, it cost more than our car! And yes, it is annoying being outshone by kilted men at weddings and parties, I am jealous of other countries’ beautiful female national dress!

    Many Scotsmen are just too shy to wear a kilt, unless they are in a crowd of similarly dressed football or rugby fans when Scotland are playing and beer has been drunk.

    Interestingly, the only place my husband has been heckled for wearing a kilt was in a small town in Ireland, but generally I think accusations of skirt-wearing are rare.

    I think a renewed interest in Scottish culture has been gradually building since the 1950’s and has enough momentum to keep going now and while there was formerly a fair amount of diffidence about kilt wearing due to questions about authenticity ( not all Scots have Highland ancestry, I only have a tiny pinch) younger people seem to have decided to ignore it and wear the kilt because it’s fun.

  23. mickie513mickie513

    Very thought provoking, Terry. I’ve always thought that Scotland and the kilt were synonymous. I’ve always wondered why the English Royals wear them. I do have to admit that I find them sexy. They sure aren’t a laughing matter.

  24. Avataradramofoutlander

    Excellent piece. it is a garment ofthe people. I find it wholly disrespectful of Scottish peoples for English born monarchs to wear it as their own.

  25. Avatarjerseygirl52

    Great article Terry. I think the kilt is the only national garment that is worn frequently of all the European ethnic garb. You don’t see many dirndels or lederhosen warn outside of ethnic performances. I credit the strength and pride of the Scottish people for this. You have also contributed to the high profile of the kilt on Outlander. I live in Milwaukee, every summer we have ethnic festivals almost every weekend at Meier Festival Park on Lake Mishigan. There are festivals for Italians, Germans, Polish, Native American, Japanese, etc. But the biggest festival of all is Irish Fest which incorporates everything Celtic with many Scottish bands and dance troops. It is the largest Celtic gathering outside of Ireland and Scotland. This is due to the enduring spirit of the Celts and the Irish and Scots in particular.

    1. Avatarjetric

      I’m a Milwaukeean as well and my brother is a dancer with the Caledonian Scottish Dancers and has had his own kilt for years! Seeing both men and women wearing kilts and/or playing bagpipes is the norm at Irish Fest and other Celtic-related events around town. BTW Irish Fest Milwaukee is the world’s largest (more than 130,000 attendees every August) celebration of Irish music and culture in the world and it showcases Scotland and Nova Scotia as well. On a lighter note–I worked at Irish Fest for 2 years and it was fun seeing people in kilts stop by the office from time to time.

  26. Katiscotch22Katiscotch22

    Thanks for a great article Terry. I’m a genuine Brit. Born in Wales of Scottish/Irish/ English ancestors. Unfortunately, the English used many tactics to psychologically keep the Scots, Irish and Welsh down. Speaking Welsh was also banned by the English. Diana’s books and your extensive research into what was worn has been an education in itself. Can not wait to see Season 2.

  27. Avatarrynawolfe

    aka BethWolfe @WolfeTales on Twitter – confusing I know…sorry.

    Terry, I loved this post (as I do most of yours) and shared a link with my dearest friend who happens to be a Brit married to a Scot. I sent it to him as well and I wanted to share his response to me with you. He sent me a couple of pictures from the wedding to share too, but I can’t seem to do that here.

    I found this interesting as a Scot.

    My experience of the kilt was that I had to wear it when I went to church as a child. I hated it really as it seemed to me to be an extra fancy costume and as a shy child I did not want to stand out.

    When I was 11 or 12 I was given the choice of continuing to go to church or not and I chose not almost as a way of avoiding wearing the kilt but in truth I had lost religion. Not necessarily God more the version presented by the church.

    Anyway I left Scotland when I was 21 and much later when I married Sue I did not want to wear the kilt at our wedding as I saw it as an outdated costume.

    Much later on returning to Scotland to live I was amazed to find that nearly all of my younger colleagues had bought their own kilts, including all of the associated garments, including waistcoat, jacket, ´jacobite´ shirt, socks, shoes, socks, maybe plaid and maybe the knife or pretend knife to wear in their sock. Sorry I forgot the belt and the sporran.

    I was amazed because this outfit could cost 500 to 1,000 pounds and I could not understand what use they could have to make this sort of outlay worthwhile. Asking around I was told that they are often attending friends weddings and ceilidhs and a fair number of parties and events where they would consider the kilt the right thing to wear.

    I could understand the older guys owning kilts but loads of these guys were in their 20s. Given that I considered the kilt to be such an outdated costume, which it was in 1973 when I left Edinburgh to work in London, I found it strange that such younger guys thought it was a mandatory part of their wardrobe in 1987. It still is by the way.

    When Vicky, our daughter, was married all males were asked to wear the kilt and so I hired a kilt and wore it as the father of the bride. Sue has a number of photos including one of my great aunt from Bristol who had , I think, her photo taken with 16 guys wearing kilts.

    The premise, or question, of the Twitter chat about wearing the kilt I would answer by suggesting that most educated scots at that time were fluent in French, Prince Charlie sheltered in France so Scots were fairly comfortable in France and I guess were not considered to be unusual visitors. Scots such as Jamie wore the kilt as a matter of routine, it was normal. So I would turn the question around and ask when would he not consider wearing the kilt, why would he consider not wearing the kilt as it was his normal attire.

    I hope this sheds some light on one Scots experience of the kilt.



  28. AvatarJen in Oz

    My hubby (who has NO Scots blood that we know of!) says the correct answer to the question, “what is worn under the kilt?” is “nothing – it all works very well, thankyou.”

  29. Avatarjetric

    As both a librarian and a lover of history I enjoyed reading this, Terry. It’s interesting how many items of clothing, e.g., kilts, muumuus, hoodies, were designed for practical reasons but their use, misuse or banning can marginalize, stereotype and even punish the people who wear them.

  30. KatrinaKatrina

    Great blog. It is good to understand the real history not just modern day titillation. Very informative.

    I wonder why it became such an object only to be asked what is under it. Maybe it is to do with the whole skirt association as you said.

    I have heard a lot of oh imagine what would happen if you did that to a woman. But really what would and does happen? Nothing as such. It is so common place to objectify woman in some way most of it barely raises an eyebrow. Sometimes it takes something happening to a man for people to notice an issue. Not that I am endorsing it for either sex. Either way it is wrong.

    Anyhow thanks for posting and for Sam and the cast wearing it in a way to teach and honour its history.

  31. peggyvanslppeggyvanslp

    Thanks, Terry, for this very interesting and informative blog post. Clothing is a complicated business: art, fashion, personal statement, pragmatic part of life. As noted by someone on the Twitter feed today, when cultures are absorbed, their language, traditions, and culture are often denigrated and suppressed. This person was talking about Native American culture, but this kind of conquering has been going on since Cave Group A coveted and overran Cave Group B’s territory. The wearing of the tartan initially reminded me of the wearing of buckskin and beads by many during the ’60’s. The former apparently was a way of displaying the garb of part of their kingdom where the latter was an identification with a downtrodden people by the rebellious youth of the day. Either way, clothes were being used to make a statement, and isn’t that a part of their power? It doesn’t surprise me to hear the kilt called a “skirt” by the uninformed, but the way it is said is meant to be insulting. After all, a women is slandered when called a “skirt”. Many thanks for providing opportunities for those of us who read your blog or engage on Twitter for lively discussions on a variety of issues. I have a renewed respect for thinking women and men who share their thoughts and ideas and hope things will change through these interactions. Cheers!

  32. AvatarAlly Marshall

    I have to say that the important thing about the kilts and plaids as designed by Terry is that they are convincing as the characters’ clothes rather than as actors’ costumes IYSWIM.

  33. Avatarawlehmann

    Thank you Terry for sharing your thoughts about the kilt. I think that the show is a great opportunity to let the world know about the Scottish culture and the history of the kilt. The more important as so many posts an social media are being a little bit “out of the line” and if not making fun of it, letting us think that it is a garment to objectify men. Still, not being Scot and not having any ancestor of mine, I fall in love with the country and the people. Taking home some tartan objects and loving them deeply as they are giving me sweet memories. I settles though for modern tartan not belonging to any clan and one that does not make me feel “wrong” when wearing it.. (Isle of Skye one is my favoriite).
    I love the tartan you created for the kilts and will try to get one of these to fancy my Outlander passion.

  34. AvatarClaudia

    I remember when Mel Gibson was on David Letterman’s show to talk about his movie Braveheart. David asked about what was worn under a kilt. Mel said he asked one of the true scotsmen what he was wearing underneath his kilt. The reply was, “Your wife’s lipstick.”

  35. AvatarKiKi

    I’ve grown up seeing the kilt everywhere at important events. I used to work in wedding functions and out of around 1,000 weddings only about 3 wedding parties didn’t wear kilts and that was because one was an Italian family, one English and the other wore their RAF uniforms. If there is a formal event in Scotland you will see the kilt, I find it alien when I don’t see it at these events, it’s part of Scottish life. 🙂 In fact I knew someone who only wore their kilt everyday, though not many do that. 😉

    My point is there is a sense of pride inside of you, of identity, it’s why you see it at sports matches to. It’s not to dissimilar to the pride of a flag. People sexualising it or ridiculing it is firstly boring and overdone, but it also makes some people feel uncomfortable wearing it at non local public events. Kilts were once only worn by highlanders but since being brought back they are now a symbol of Scottish identity. It has come from the Jacobite wars but it now represents a modern Scotland. Scotland is full of possibility and is forward moving, we remember our history but don’t live in the past. The kilt is not an excuse to be so forward, to look under or lift it up- it amazes me when I see this although most guys are good at brushing if off.. I mean you wouldn’t ask a women if she was wearing underwear or pull their top down…
    However I also think people think its smart to act a certain way because of how it is portrayed in the media. I mean ‘when the kilt drops’ is provocative, yes I know it’s a bit of fun. 😉 I think a kilt is a good look and I have no issue with people who say they like a kilt on a guy, my issue is when the line is crossed and it becomes an uncomfortable invasion of privacy. That being said it’s refreshing to see a huge show like Outlander embracing and educating people about the kilt from all angles of production. Nice post! KK

      1. Avatarkrisdavis8

        The dressing of Claire in 18th century traditional Scottish clothing was awe inspiring in many ways. Please say your department’s many talents will lend itself to making sewing patterns that the general public may purchase. There are currently none that are up to date and period accurate.
        Thank you for your birds eye view on helping bring Outlander to life!!!!!

  36. Purl99Purl99

    I don’t twit, but thank you for this post. Every now and then I see someone here (Cleveland, OH) in a kilt and its NOT at the bar Tiled Kilt, LOL! It brings a smile and a giggle when I see a fella wearing one, it does happen around here now and then. My husband and I frequent VW shows and last year was treated to a spontaneous bagpipe serenade at a show. The only thing missing was the young man’s kilt but he played about 5 songs. I was in heaven!!!

  37. Avatartphstables

    Hello from Finland …

    and thank you. It’s a joy to read your blog – and it’s down to the point!

    Basicly it underlines again what Diana Gabaldon’s boooks already do. I wish you a lot of energy and motivation to continue your fabulous work. Through your meticulous research into the historical backround of the story people have a chance to understand a lot more about the basic questions and still existing problems of Skottish and English History and its (grueling) influence on the people.

    As to the absolutely genious ‘garment’, the kilt should be available for those who respect and like using it, reserving the Clan-tartans to those who belong and granting other ‘varieties’ to the ‘general public.

    I personally only use a wonderful shawl, a variety of the Gordon tartan. I inherited it from my Grandmother, who brought it back from Skottland in the late ’50’s, early ’60’s, and I love using it here in our frequently ‘Skottish weather’.

  38. auntiemameauntiemame

    When I toured Scotland last year, our guide wore a kilt everyday, and on our last special dinner together as a group, both he and our bus driver donned the complete outfit. They are both handsome, personable men who provided us with an excellent tour and many “after hours” of informative, fun conversations over a glass of whiskey. It never occurred to me to ask any untoward questions about the kilt, In fact, when Kenny was dressed in his kilt and coat for that last dinner, I asked about his plaid and he said it was Scott. I was so excited because that is my family name. I had no idea that I was traveling with a possible “family” member; I took a photo of him to show my family on my return. The next day, he gave me a replica of the Scott brooch, a souvenir that will always be special to me. I love all things Scots. . .the country, the people, the history,

  39. Avatarcm houghton

    Love the article, but I thought modern English royalty was descended from the Stuarts through James I/VI (and through him descended from the Tudors since one of Henry VIII’s sisters married a Stuart king in the 16th Century), so I always thought that they were harking back to their Scottish roots, even as distant as they are…

  40. AvatarLisaW

    The kilt, to me, is such a strong representation of the heritage of the Scottish people. When I first read Outlander, it was the image of Jamie trying to cover him and Claire with his kilt, when they set out of the cottage, that stuck in my mind. Here was the first time someone who didn’t know much about kilts, me, seeing what this garment was in the most basic sense. Sam, and all the actors in the show, have done a wonderful job of showing how important the kilt was in those times.

    And the Outlander tartan is just lovely, was that your design, Terry?

  41. saraelizabethsaraelizabeth

    Just a note to say I made it! I have now read EVERY entry and EVERY comment. Only took me a few days (had to juggle with my full time job or I would’ve been faster!). Now to settle in for what’s to come in the last 2 episodes of series 1. I really want and don’t want to watch at the same time! Of course then I have to go back and rewatch while listening to Ron’s podcasts and listen to your costume podcast!

  42. AvatarRagbag

    Regarding the wearing of the kilt. For twenty years I worked for a publishing company in Dundee, Scotland and my job was to retouch photographs. Prior to PHOTOSHOP this was done carefully, with a paintbrush. Many times images were presented to me for alteration when some kilt wearer assumed a sitting position disregarding the necessary arrangements to adjust the front panel of the kilt to conceal the ‘equipment’ underneath. I often wondered if this was a deliberate unsubtle attempt to be a flasher. However the instructions given to me were to apply ‘shadows’ to the offending area obliterating the view (which were sometimes fairly spectacular, I have to admit) It was an education for a young innocent girl. A friend who was questioned by a bold a American ‘lady’ as to what was worn beneath his kilt was struck dumb when he asked if she would remove her knickers there and then in public. Doubt if she would be so rude again.

  43. Pingback: Tartans, Kilts, and the Outlander Effect: An interview with Scottish kiltmaker MacGregor and MacDuff – The Urban Outlander

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