Did you Know…?
… The kilt isn’t the only Scottish item in the traditional Scottish national attire? The ladies used to wear an Arisaid over an under dress, the men a leine and a Feileadh Mor (great kilt or belted plaid.)
Did you know that the Feileadh Mor or Great Kilt was used as a blanket as well as a garment! And did you know that examples of real great kilts from before the banning of the kilt after the 1745 Rebellion have belt loops on the INSIDE of the kilt? Yes! The inside. That way a rope or soft cloth belt could be threaded through the loops set at the distance the pleats were to be. The material was quickly gathered to the correct pleat and tied on at the waist! None of this spreading out material and gathering and laying down on it and on and on! Who had time or room for that! Especially if you were in the regiment wrapped up in your kilt for the night and you had to get dressed quickly because your unit was under attack! Kilts worn today are called the feileadh beg or small kilt.
A good example of a Great Kilt is this painting of Sir William Gordon of Fyvie (above left) painted by Batoni in 1766. Sir William is in full military attire in Red Gordon Tartan splendor! The portrait still hangs at Fyvie Castle.
For everyday men wore a leine under the kilt. The leine is a long saffron (yellow) shirt. Sometimes they were off white or white too! The leine did not lace up the front, some had a plain neck opening, and some had a drawstring opening. Today you will see men in something similar called a Jacobite shirt which does lace up the front (above right) and they come in many colors.
Modern Day Highland Dress
Morris Gordon and Aaron Todd (above) show off formal Highland attire for a civilian and a military piper.
Ginny Gordan (left) is wearing a traditional arisaid over a skirt and blouse.
An arisaid is a plaid in silk or fine wool (and in the south USA sometimes cotton) belted around the waist and then either up over the shoulder or over the head as a veil.
Today you will find women wearing kilted skirts in tartan, pleated or gathered skirts in tartan, plain dresses with a tartan scarf or shawl, and even sometimes the kilt itself!
(Above left Aaron Todd pipes the dancers on stage. Above right an example of the Aboyne Dress in Gordon Modern tartan.)
Highland dancers will wear either the kilt and waistcoat, or the Aboyne Dress. The Aboyne Dress was developed by the Aboyne Highland Games, which is the annual Gordon Gathering, to give the dancers an updated shorter version of the arisaid. It is a full gathered tartan skirt 4.5 yards around the hem, worn over a full white petticoat. It is worn with a chemise style blouse with full elbow sleeves tied with tartan ribbons. Over the blouse is worn a tight- fitting sleeveless corsage (vest), flagged round the base, sloping well to the front and coming well down below the waist. A plaid is 40 x 60 inches and here is the fun part! According to the Aboyne Games Committee is worn such:
The plaid is fringed on one of the forty-inch edges; on the other are sewn loops or keepers, through which is passed a belt of similar material, an inch wide, by which the plaid is fastened to the waist under the corsage. The right hand brooched to the wearer’s right shoulder so that the fringed edge hangs down vertically and the plaid itself hangs diagonally across the back. The corners of the lower edge should be brought round the waist as far to the front as possible.
Kilts can be pleated to the stripe or to the sett. The military kilts are pleated to the stripe meaning that the pleats across the back match to the vertical lines in the tartan pattern and you see a series of stripes. Pleating to the sett means that the pattern of the tartan is matched across the back when pleated so that you see the entire pattern across the back. On the right you can see an example of pleated to the stripe and pleated to the sett.
You can find people wearing many different types of outfits at the highland games from more formal attire including military uniforms and kilts with
jackets to the very casual jeans and clan tee-shirt, to the historical representations, to the fantasy outfits. It is all an expression of our pride in our genealogical, cultural, and artistic heritage.