Measuring for a Kilt

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December 15, 2016 By Heather MacCain

Kilt measuring guide

As we get closer to the Christmas period, many Scots will be thinking of investing in a wool kilt for their loved ones, or for themselves. This traditional garment makes an ideal gift, versatile enough to wear for any special occasion or event (with Hogmany just round the corner, many Scotsmen will very much appreciate a new kilt to wear while ringing in the New Year!) but special enough to be appreciated for many years to come.

Read about kilt construction

However, many people – even Scots – nowadays don’t fully understand how to accurately measure themselves for a kilt, or why kilt measurements and trousers measurements are not interchangeable. There’s nothing worse for a person to get excited about this special item which takes so much care and time to have made, than to have it arrive and find that the length is too long and skirt-like, or the waist is pinching and uncomfortable. So let’s take this opportunity to look at the three most necessary measurements for kilt-making, and how to determine your own measurements easily at home, so you can be guaranteed of the perfect fit.

a. Waist

The first and foremost measurement you will need, for any kilt from off-the-peg casual, to high-end made to measure garments as we are focusing on today, is of course the waist size. This is also the measurement which most people are likely to make a mistake on, due to assuming a kilt waist size will be identical to their trouser waist size. That situation is actually very uncommon, for a variety of reasons, and it is very likely that your true kilt waist size will be at least a couple of inches larger.

Learn more about different styles of outfits

To accurately measure your kilt waist size, you first must decide where you want the waistband of the garment to rest. This should be at least at navel level, for most people this is a couple of inches above their normal trouser waistband level, but may be as high as just touching the bottom of your ribs. When taking the measurement stand upright and relaxed and use a soft tape measure to circle firmly around your determined waistband point. Don’t be tempted to overstate your waist measurement for the sake of comfort, as the buckles on a made to measure kilt will be set to equal this firm measurement on the tightest buckle, and allow you to loosen off by up to a couple of inches when required.

Likewise, don’t be shocked if the tape gives you a measurement of a few inches bigger than you expected – the majority of men find that their navel measurement is slightly larger than the upper hip measurement taken for trouser waists, even more so if they are used to wearing trousers from a company who practices so-called “vanity sizing” where the size shown on the label is a bit smaller than the actual measurement of the waistband. This is another reason why it is so important to check your actual waist sizebefore ordering a made to measure kilt.

b. Seat

Kilt pleated to the Saltire flagThis measurement is also very important; the seat should be measured around your hips at the widest point, usually across the fullest part of your rear. This measurement means the kilt maker can ensure your kilt flares out enough at the hips to accommodate your movements when walking, while giving an attractive silhouette. Again, don’t be tempted to understate this measurement; if you do you could end up with a kilt which is too tight, causing stress and tears along the seams and pleats.

c. Length

The length of the kilt is the item men most often get wrong. Again – this measurement is of paramount importance to ensure you get a well-fitting kilt – possibly even more so than the waist and hip measurements, due to how difficult it is to change the length of a kilt. The reason for this difficulty is due to the fact that the vast majority of men’s kilts are un-hemmed, replying on the fabric selvedge to prevent fraying. This means that a too-short kilt cannot be let down, but instead must be picked apart and entirely remade, using the excess fabric rolled into the waistband to add to the length, a very expensive solution. A too-long kilt can either be remade (which, as note, is very expensive), or have a hem added on – though many men don’t like the look of a hemmed kilt so the ideal is to just ensure the length is measured correctly first time!

Men's kiltThe best way to do this is to have someone help. You should stand upright and look ahead, while they measure from the point at which you measured your waistband, to where you want it to fall to. A traditional Scottish kilt should fall no lower than the centre of the kneecap, and no higher than the top of the kneecap. For most people this is a very minor difference, so the measuring needs to be quite precise. The most common issue with kilt length is that they are too long, brushing the base of the knee, or even covering the knee completely and rest at shin level. This is easily avoided by measuring carefully though. If you have to measure your kilt length without help, the easiest way is to kneel on the floor in an upright position, holding the tape measure at waistband level, then allowing it to fall to the floor. This measurement will be roughly the middle of your kneecap, and certainly no lower, due to the way you are positioned.

See: Kilt accessories

Hopefully this short article has been of use to everyone who is considering treating themselves or a loved one to a special new kilt this Christmas time. The holiday season is a wonderful time to share gifts and appreciate family and cultural traditions, and so it is of course so important to keep our Scottish heritage and culture alive at this time also – passing down knowledge throughout the generations, and making sure our kilted gentlemen look just as great now as they always have!