How to Wear a Kilt

Boys can’t wear skirts? Ha! Think again. The kilt has been worn for hundreds of centuries—and it continues to be a hot topic within haute couture

While it’s synonyms with traditional Scottish attire, this pleated strip of tartan has been reinvented to suit the likes of modern-day society. That’s right, you’re no longer stuck with the classic suit and bow ensemble paired with knee-high socks and loafers. 

We’re sure that some of you are wary of wearing the traditional kilt. But, as we dive deeper into gender-neutral fashion, the idea of all-inclusive skirts is slowly becoming a widespread notion.

There are hundreds of ways to style the tartan skirt, whether it’s a loud-and-proud fashion statement or as a discreet everyday piece. 

If you’re in need of ideas, we’ll share some ways on how to wear a kilt. From runway to regular styling, we’ll feature a mix of outfits for trendsetters to choose from. 

What is a Kilt?

A kilt is a knee-length skirt made up of tartan print. It’s typically pleated and styled with a mini bag on the front. They’re usually worn by men, but they’re considered gender-neutral garments as of today.

In terms of materials, kilts are made out of woven wool with colors ranging from traditional red to forest green. 

History of the Kilt

Derived from traditional Scottish wear, the kilt dates back to the early sixteenth century. Its literal translation means ‘little wrap’ in Gaelic, which made sense given its simple, pleated skirt structure. 

The romanticism of tartan dress didn’t come into fruition until the mid 17th century when Prince Charles Edward Stuart led a rebellion to reclaim the British Throne.

Long story short, the kilt was no longer an ordinary garb of clothing. Instead, it came to symbolize revolution and Highland nationalism. 

During that time, the kilt was reinvented to suit the likes of the Scottish military. In 1822, King George IV donned a pair of pleated tartans—which further cemented its significance to the nobility and the upper class.

Over the years, the kilt continued to serve as a critical part of Highland history, which even reached the likes of the late Queen Victoria. 

Today, the kilt is typically worn as formal wear to weddings, funerals, or nationalistic events. Of course, they’ve undergone a significant style revolution thanks to young adults and teenagers, as kilts are now worn as streetwear.

But, most agree that the traditional tartan skirt will always be synonymous with Scottish heritage. 

When to Wear a Kilt

As we mentioned before, kilts are commonly worn during formal events such as weddings, funerals, memorial days, and other important ceremonies.

They’re also fashioned during the Highland Games, which is an event held to celebrate Scottish heritage. Of course, kilts are also synonymous with the military—but they’re sparingly worn during battle. 

Today, most trendsetters re-style the traditional kilt to symbolize rebellion and counterculture. It’s no longer a sign of strict uniformity—as fashionistas are free to wear them on an everyday basis. 

How to Wear a Kilt

If you’re not sure how to put on a kilt, it’s kind of like wearing a beach wrap. Most kilts come with an added leather buckle on the side, which you can use to adjust the tightness of the skirt. Once on, it’s time to start wondering about accessorizing. 

Traditional kilt fashion entails a double-breasted blazer, a white collared shirt, a bow tie, knee socks, loafers, and a front pouch to help store your things. 

Obviously, there are other variations of the classic military ensemble, but these are typically known as the basics. Today, kilts can be worn with other clothing pieces such as a sweater, a leather jacket, or streetwear-style sneakers if you’re feeling adventurous. 

Of course, styling tips depend on the cut and color of your kilt. Most skirts are knee-length, but some versions are below and above this hemline. In terms of added accessories, trendsetters usually gravitate towards matching bags, hats, and jewelry to help accentuate the look. 

10 Outfit Ideas with Kilts

This runway look is giving me heavy Avril Lavigne vibes—but it’s far from complicated. Considered part of DSquared’s fall 2016 collection, this stunning number marries the classic kilt with a slick black blazer and a denim jacket underneath. 

It also comes with matching knee socks and chunky boots to help give off that punk-rock attitude. Of course, the star of the show is the green tartan skirt embellished with black flowers. 

DSquared goes hard in styling kilts, considering they’re getting a second feature in our fashion guide. Also part of their fall 2016 collection, this streetwear-inspired look showcases the classic kilt in denim instead of tartan. 

It’s further complemented with an oversized bomber jacket, black pants, and a hoodie to top it off. The chunky platform boots are a must if you want to look super intimidating. 

Muted in color and classic in silhouette, this rustic outfit embodies all the glamor found in hiking and log cabin staycations. This outfit is from Etro’s Fall 2017 collection. This stylish number is composed of a cross-over jacket showcasing a gorgeous print of a mountain. 

Paired with espresso-stained accents and a brown tartan skirt, it’s a gorgeous number to wear during the middle of fall. Of course, you can sub out the jacket for a cottage-core embroidered sweater for a more down-to-earth look. 

What’s better than tartan? More print, of course! If you’re in search of how to wear a kilt, opting for an additional pattern is always a good idea. 

Taking inspiration from N.Hoolywood’s 2020 Spring collection, this unique ensemble combines the classic kilt with an oversized plain button-up.

It’s a cool yet downtoned look that’s perfect for everyday styling. We highly suggest adding a pair of black stockings and platform loafers to help complete the outfit. 

Who says you can’t wear kilts to the office? If women can, I’m sure men are allowed. This runway-inspired look features a pinstripe set composed of a pleated kilt, blazer, and a matching cardigan underneath. 

The added red and blue details help in adding more dimension to the fit. It’s a refreshing take on the ordinary striped suit, and it’s definitely a breezier option than resorting to wool trousers. 

Given that kilts are gender-neutral garments, it’s only fitting that we include women’s wear as part of our ‘how to wear a kilt’ ideas lineup. This outfit is straight off of Marcos Luengo’s 2020/21 collection

It features a gorgeous billowing blouse paired with a classic red tartan skirt. You’re certainly welcome to wear a completely sheer top, but we suggest keeping things safe by donning a bralette underneath. 

The blazer kilt combo has been done to death, but fashion designer Antonio Marras reinvents this traditional ensemble in a rather exciting moment.

Decorated with floral embellishments and added print, this show-stopping number plays around with textures and decorations for a more refreshing take. It’s a great outfit to wear if you want to stand out amongst the crowd. 

Tartan is best complemented with more tartan. Case in point, this mesmerizing number features a mix of juxtaposing plaid in varying sizes and colors.

It’s a hodge-podge silhouette of different aesthetics, ranging from beige to ocean blue. Gender-neutral in style, it’s the ideal number to opt for if you’re wondering how to wear a kilt modestly. 

Looking for something more wearable? No worries; this outfit goes back to the basics through the power of color-blocking. Composed of a red plaid skirt paired with a classic black turtleneck, this is definitely one of the ‘safer’ options to go for if you own a kilt.

The addition of the chunky strap bag and the mittens help to emphasize the colors of the tartan print. 

The traditional kilt is made out of woven wool. Due to the thickness of the material, it’s a great wardrobe staple to have during the cold season.

If you’re looking to bulk up during winter, this ultra-warm ensemble showcases a red kilt paired with a slim black blazer, a matching hoodie, an off-shoulder puffer jacket, and Doc Martens for an extra touch of old-school grunge. 

Nothing screams “mom, it’s not a phase” than a vintage band tee. This streetwear-inspired look is composed of a graphic shirt and a green tartan kilt.

Further complemented by thick platform shoes and socks, it’s certainly the look to opt for if you’re feeling ‘alternative.’ We suggest going ham on accessories, such as facial piercings, studs, or a matching belt. 

For those Googling ‘how to wear a kilt casually,’ it’s time to end those fruitless searches. The best way to style tartan print is to go full Scotsman—but minus the blazer and tie.

Instead, you can swap the tuxedo with a comfy suede jacket, an oversized knit scarf, and a driving cap. The colors should match the plaid on your kilt in order to avoid clashing. 

The “how to wear a kilt” question is best answered by adding more patterns. It may seem like too much at first, but trust us—it helps to create a more cohesive fit. We recommend opting for stripes to break up the monotony of plaid. 

The colors don’t all have to match, but it’s required that at least one hue matches up. Here, the red stripes pair well with the burgundy lines of the tartan. The result? A super wearable outfit if you’re feeling especially daring. 

This is considered another great example of adding more pattern. Compared to the previous outfit, this stylish number pairs red tartan print with an oversized plaid shirt, a matching turtleneck, and a French beret on top.

It’s a super bright ensemble, but it’s relatively easy on the eyes. Rouge lipstick is a must if you don’t want your face to fade out. 

So far, we have learned that the most crucial parts of a kilt are the tartan. If you want to stay clear of color clashing, it’s best to match the hues with your top.

Take, for instance, this outfit, where the dark tones of plaid pair well with the black hoodie and leather jacket. The boots and socks help in creating a more uniform fit, as it makes the kilt the outfit’s main statement piece. 

The boxy silhouette of the kilt is often paired with an oversized top. Why? Well, it helps balance out your proportions, especially if you’re wearing a skin-tight shirt underneath. These two outfits are prime examples of XL-on-XL in action. 

The exaggerated shape of the skirt works tremendously well with the puffy shape of the bomber jacket. The colors don’t exactly match, but the linear lines provided by both garments help to marry the whole look together. 

Harry Styles sure knows how to wear a skirt. Here, he’s sporting the best of gender-fluid fashion by donning a stylish wool kilt with a sleeveless knitted vest. 

The hues aren’t cohesive, but the print-on-print makes up for the lack of color symmetry. The oversized gold belt helps unearth the jewel tones of the top, and arguably—it’s the accessory that makes and breaks the outfit. 

The simplest way to answer the ‘how to wear a kilt question’ is through the coveted oversized sweater. You just need to make sure that the colors line up.

Here, the green undertones of the tartan help in highlighting the bright olive hues of the cable knit. Boots and socks are an absolute must if you’re going for that old English horseback riding look. 

If we were to describe the vibe of this outfit, we’d say it’s a mix of hipster coffee boy meets a pretentious guy who collects vintage records. It’s definitely a pretentious look, but the ensemble works.

The nude hues of the tartan blend well with the earthy tones of the jacket and t-shirt. The mullet and glasses are totally optional, but a matching tote bag is an absolute must. 

How to Choose The Best Kilt

So far, we’ve given you 11 ideas on how to wear a kilt. But, for those who haven’t got around to getting one, there are some things you should go out for when shopping. Traditional versions are typically made out of woven wool. 

Nowadays, some designers opt for cotton and polyester as more breathable options. It’s worth noting that price is often dependent on the materials used. Usually, 100% wool garments are more expensive than other select fabrics. 

The best kilts should be adjustable and flexible. Some versions come with an added belt for further loosening or tightening. In addition, it’s always a plus if skirts come with built-in shorts. You never know if a gust of wind is coming your way. 

Of course, length is another point to consider when choosing a kilt. Oftentimes, elongated wraps are more desirable to help mitigate ‘Marilyn Monroe-ing.’

Price-wise, well-made kilts will typically retail for $100. It’s expensive, but you can take care knowing that they’re constructed out of the best materials. 

Fashion Tips to Avoid With a Kilt

So, you know how to wear a kilt. But what are some things you should definitely avoid? Considering the kilt is one of the more versatile garments out there, the amount of ‘fashion rules’ are quite small in number.

With that being said, there are some general no-no’s to consider. Below, you’ll find a numbered list of things to avoid wearing with a kilt. 

  1. The bare-breasted Scotsman: for some reason, designers love pairing the traditional kilt with no shirt. As a result, the outfit becomes more comical than fashionable. Plus, it may not bode well with trendsetters who aren’t hitting the gym as frequently. 
  2. Lack of accessorizing and layering: if you’re wondering how to properly wear a kilt, the answer lies in silhouette re-configuring. The bulky, yet structured shape of the skirt usually requires a baggy top to help balance out proportions. You don’t want to end up like Alan Cummings wearing a mismatched outfit paired with an ill-fitting blue tie. 
  3. Wearing baggy pants underneath: skinny jeans, stockings, socks, and leggings are perfectly fine under a kilt. Wide leg jeans paired with a knee-length tartan skirt is not only an odd outfit, but it takes the attention away from the kilt. 
  4. Unconventional colors: neon kilts are a thing and we hate it. The mish-mash of traditional scottish attire mixed with rave core spells Y2K regret. Let’s save neon for clubbing, guys. 

We’re sure that there are other no-no’s associated with the kilt. Hopefully, you’re a little bit closer to answering the question ‘what to wear with a kilt.’ 

Best Places to Buy a Kilt

For some, the question isn’t so much ‘how to wear a kilt,’ but instead, more of ‘where to buy a kilt.’ There are hundreds of boutiques to support online, including the Highland Kilt Company, William Glen & Son, and the Scottish Kilt Company

If you can afford to spend a little bit more money, kilts are often sold by high-end designers such as DSquared and Burberry

Final Thoughts

As we progress further into gender-neutral fashion, the kilt is slowly becoming a symbol of androgyny. It’s quite fascinating to see how this tartan pleated skirt has changed history. 

From Scottish nationalism to streetwear counterculture, the kilt continues to be a vital part of our lives. By the end of this article, we’re hoping that you gathered some initial inspiration for your wardrobe endeavors. 

Break out from your existing fashion patterns and check out some new prints with a few of our guides:

How To Wear Cologne

What To Wear With Brown Boots

What To Wear To A Fall Wedding

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