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Creating your Kilt Outfit from Scratch

Posted by Griffin Hall on

Ordering your new uniform is always a thrill! We at J. Higgins are pleased to be able to help you choose your kilt ensemble so that you look your best for your next event. Here are some tips on how you can order your outfit so that it looks both smart and unique. 

1. The Kilt:

This is definitely the most important part of the dress ensemble. The wearing of the kilt is a unique way to show your heritage as well as your style. One question we frequently receive is "Do I have to wear my own family's tartan?". The simple answer is no. While wearing your family colors is a great way to honor your ancestry, there is no law or rule that says that you have to wear your family's tartan. Just pick one you like! On our website, you can use the Tartan Finder and browse our available tartans in alphabetical order. We have two options available in pleating of the back of the kilt:

To the Sett: This is the more common of the two patterns. This simply means that the pattern on the front apron of the kilt will be repeated all the way around the length of the kilt. The tartan pattern will stretch the entire piece. 

To the Line: This option means that you can choose a line of the tartan and have it repeated in the back of the kilt. This also means that the back will not match the front apron's pattern. This is still a smart choice when building your kilt. 

The weight of the fabric also makes a difference in how well your kilt will lay. We offer our kilts in 3 weights: 12oz 13oz and 16oz. The heavier the weight, the better the kilt will lay flat against itself. 

Another popular choice is a Value Kilt. These kilts are made from either a poly/viscous material or from a traditional wool. These kilts have wider pleats and use less fabric. The change in price will depend on the yardage needed for larger kilts.

We highly encourage you to view our measurement guide on our website. ( ). A kilt is a custom order and we want to be sure we get your correct and accurate measurements. 

If you place your kilt order over the phone, you'll want to be ready with the measurements listed in our guide. 

We encourage anyone who is uncertain about measurements to take advantage of our free kilt measurement video service when they order. You can skype or zoom with us and we'll show you how to properly measure yourself for a kilt. Check it out here:

Take a look at our other blog about "Caring for your J. Higgins Kilt":

2. Kilt Hose:

This is the area of the uniform where a decision could "make or break" a smart looking kilt wearer. The color is obviously the most important as it should match your kilt. But how well should it match? A mistake that I see is someone wearing a sock color that is the most prevalent color in their kilt. Unless it is well executed, this can sometimes make your outfit look like an overload on one particular color. Here is a way you can pick a sock color that will match and compliment your tartan rather than overpower the rest of the pattern:

Pictured above is the Sinclair Tartan. This is a relatively simple tartan with not too many colors going on but is still an attractive pattern. Clearly, a red sock would match this tartan, but to me, this would be an overload of the red going on in this tartan. We are still left with plenty of options. Notice the light blue outside the white stripe? This could easily be an option as the color is more cold as opposed to the red. Another smart choice could be the bigger green stripe. While it is almost as thick as the red stripe, the green is much easier on the eyes and is a very mellow earthy color. Black socks will match almost anything but I would choose to highlight the unique colors of the tartan. White socks might also be a good idea but their color is very bright and flashy. If you're considering wearing a white dress shirt, I might shy away from plain white socks. Brighter tartans usually require darker socks and vice versa. It all depends on the individual's tartan and the colors in it. 

Different styles: We currently carry 4 styles of standard kilt hose. They are Lewis, Piper's Hose, Acrylic and, Wool. The style really only depends on the look you're wanting to go for. We also carry different Argyle and diced styles but these should only be looked at if your kilt has the exact colors that are shown in the hose. It is always safer to invest in standard hose. 

Check out our kilt hose page on our website: ( )

3. Flashes:

With the socks decided, the flashes should be easier to choose. Lets look at the Sinclair Tartan again. If I had chosen to go with the light blue socks, then I'd probably want to do something darker for the flashes. In this case, I would choose black which would highlight the little stripe in this tartan. On the other hand, if I had chosen black socks, then I'd go with a lighter color for the flashes. This color could be light blue, or even the green that appears in the pattern. While you could go with red flashes on a black sock, I'd find it smarter to play off of the different colors in this kilt. We also offer tartan flashes that'd match your kilt as a great way to further highlight the tartan.

4. Sgian Dubh:

This part of your ensemble is left mostly to your personal preference. If you're thinking about a certain style, it'd be smart to match any engraving with a belt buckle or sporran chain. Many of our Sgian Dubhs have a gemstone set in the handle. Avoid a stone that does not match your tartan. With this item, you'll want to try and match the most prevalent color in your tartan. It's okay if it is matching a smaller stripe, but it really does come down to personal preference. 

5. The Sporran:

This is also another key part in your kilt outfit. While the sporran has a normal function, it is smart to be thinking about how this piece can additionally compliment your uniform. Again, it is important to consider the metalwork on your sporran as you'll want it to match either a belt, sporran chain, or other metal pieces. The most important thing to consider is this: "What style of sporran should I get?". Our sporrans are broken down into these categories:

Budget Sporrans: This inexpensive style is both classy and functional. Most of these sporrans are made of leather so it is important that you are matching your belt, sporran chain, and brogues. 

Daywear Sporrans: The daywear sporran is meant to be worn when the sun is out. These sporrans are more decorative than the budget models as they involve metalwork. This is a very handsome option and will suit most tartans well. Again, it is important that your leather matches your belt, sporran chain, and shoes. 

Semi-Dress Sporrans: This is a very popular option as this sporran not only offers more room, but it slightly more decorative than the daywear sporran. This sporran finds it's way into all kinds of events from Burn's Dinners to Piping contests. This model also offers metalwork that gives it that shiny look. Both the metalwork and leather color should match other parts of your kilt outfit. 

Eveningwear Sporrans: This is a very sleek and elegant looking style. Eveningwear sporrans are usually made of fur and should be worn indoors as to preserve the fur. This style also sports beautiful hand-formed metal work. The fur types and colors will impact how your kilt looks. If you have a brighter tartan, you should opt for a darker sporran and vice versa. Either (or both) a black or white stripe is usually involved in the pattern of the tartan as well so it'd be a good idea to look at that and see which of these is best to contrast with your sporran. Grey and brown fur sporrans are also available to brighten or darken your outfit in a more subtle way. 

Sporrans that have metalwork should match the chain that will hold it up. Silver should match silver and black should match black etc. Again, this is something that is contrasting the overall tone of the kilt. Putting a bright white sporran on a tartan that has only bright blue and green could be nice but maybe a black sporran could be better. It all depends on the tartan and the rest of the outfit. Giving a look at our sporran page on our website will give you a better idea of the range and styles we have available. ( ).

6. Belts: 

A waist belt can be a very smart addition to your outfit. While you don't want to wear a belt with a Prince Charlie vest and jacket, this is a smart way to add to your look in a daywear or semi-dress situation. Again, you'll want to be sure that your leather color and buckle match the rest of your outfit. You want it to look well put-together when you're finished. Check out our belt selection ( ). 

7. Jacket and Vest:

This is where you can now decide on some upper body wear! At J Higgins, we have 2 styles of jackets. We carry Argyle and Prince Charlie. Argyle jackets are more for daywear and semi-dress. These jackets are very popular as they can be worn at many different events. Our Argyle jackets also come in tweed which have staghorn buttons on them. This is a great look for a daywear outfit. 

The color choice of your jacket will depend on what kind of colors are in your tartan. Black goes with almost everything, but see if a navy or dark green jacket would work too. You'll want to highlight the most dominant color in your tartan. Red tartans usually require black jackets but cooler colors might beg for a blue or green jacket. It just depends on the tartan. Prince Charlie jackets are the kilted equivalent to a tuxedo and black tie. These jackets and vests should be worn with a tuxedo shirt with studs and a bow tie. This look is a fantastic way to arrive to a Burn's Dinner, Wedding, or other indoor event. These jackets only come in black but will look appropriate with any tartan. Both an Argyle or a Prince Charlie should have a vest that matches the material and color. We also offer custom vests made of your kilt's tartan. They are availiable in two different syles where the tartan can be cut straight up and down or slightly slanted to the side. Any vest can also be complimented by a simple pocket watch chain between the buttons and pockets. Look at our jacket and vest page for more in-depth information: ( )

8. Headwear:

A hat will compliment the overall look of your outfit in any situation. The two kinds of hats we offer are called the  Glengarry and Balmoral. The Glengarry is a very militaristic piece of headwear. This is a favorite among the pipe band world. The Glengarry has a crested shape that sports fabric ties in the back. The Balmoral is more of a Beret style piece that also has ties in the back. This style of hat suits indoor events and goes well with a Prince Charlie outfit. Both of these hats are available in diced and regular patterns. The Balmorals are available in many different colors while the Glengarry only comes in black. If you're interested in a Balmoral, you'll want to be sure the color matches your outfit, but black will match anything. Both hats have a small pom on the top of the piece that can be selected in many different colors. The standard is red but it might be smart to try and match this color with your flashes on your hose. It is a nice way to tie the uniform together. Both hats also have the option to don a cap badge which is another metal design that fits on the side of the hat. Like before, you'll want to make sure the style and color match your existing designs on your sporran, belt, and sgian dubh. Check out our headwear page for more information: ( )

9. Ties:

A neck tie is another great way to compliment your uniform. We offer tartan ties as well as plain silk ties that can match and heighten your uniform's look. Just confirm the correct tartan when you're ordering. It is not recommended to mismatch differing tartans between your tie and kilt, make sure the tartan and mill are the same. Bow ties are meant to be worn with a Prince Charlie jacket and tuxedo shirt while the regular long ties can be worn with an Argyle jacket and vest. Long ties look excellent with fashionable tie pins or clips. Visit our webpage for more information: ( )

10. Plaids:

The fly plaid is another way to add more tartan into your outfit. The fly plaid is worn with a jacket over the left shoulder and is usually held in place by a brooch. If your selected brooch has a gemstone, try and match it with that of your sgian dubh. The plaid measures 36'' by 36'' and is fringed around the edges of the tartan. Like the ties, your tartan must match your kilt both in pattern and mill specifications. This piece of the uniform is great for Prince Charlie and Argyle jackets and is a wonderful way to keep your tartan in the central focus of your ensemble. 

Tasteful Combinations:

Here are some interesting combinations of different outfits that we've put together. This may give you some ideas of the looks that are available to try.

Weathered Gunn

MacDonald Lord of the Isles

Solid Irish Green

Red Sinclair

Highland Granite

McLeod of Harris


Ancient Red MacPherson

Buchanan Modern

Red Cameron

Red MacGregor

Isle of Skye

Final Words:

These pieces of your kilt outfit each play a part in tying the look together. By correctly matching colors and using the tartan to make some decisions, you will develop a look that compliments your taste and is unique to you. You can always call or email us to talk about matching, sizing or customization. We're happy to be your kilt tailors who can help in giving you a custom look. 

Feel free to get in touch with us about any questions or comments!

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