All About Kilts

It’s fair to say I love a good kilt – in fact last year I had to do a self-intervention when I had three kilts in my winter wardrobe and was seriously considering buying a fourth.  It all started with this black and cream number, which I found way back when at the SaveMart in Levin (for $14.99!).  My working theory is that kilts are popular with elderly women, since I never see anyone else wearing them (except you Theresa!), but team – I’m here to tell you, kilts are the future of your wardrobe.  


First up, let’s cover off what I mean when I say “kilt”.  A kilt is made of woven worsted wool, obviously in a tartan pattern, and wraps around the body in what I think of as “left to right, then right to left”.  The front is a flat apron style and then the sides and back are all pleated.  It should hit you right on the middle of your knee, and the waistband should fit comfortably on your true waist.  Since I dig my kilts out of second hand shops, they aren’t made to measure, so the rules for how the straps at the waist should fit don’t really apply here.

Suffice to say, it’s a great idea to buy a kilt where you can do it up fairly tight on the body without any rippling in the fabric, so that you can tuck a massive pink jumper into the waistband and just let the straps out a few notches.   Something I didn’t know is that you don’t fasten the kilt apron to the layer underneath with the pin – the pin is just there to add some weight to the outer layer.  Sometimes I cheat on this one, depending on the wind situation in Wellington.


I think kilts can get a bad rap because they seem a little costume-y, or like something you might wear if you also like a blue rinse and play bowls at 11am on a Wednesday.  But no! Kilts have a strong fashion history, mostly thanks to Vivienne Westwood.  They underwent a trend renaissance a few years back, but frankly I don’t care if kilts are on trend or not (in fact, I’d rather they weren’t, because some of the interpretations of kilts are (a) woeful and (b) insulting).

I’ve decided there are three ways to wear a kilt that work really well:

Treat it as a patterned skirt: in this approach, you wear modern items (like a jumper with statement sleeves and lilac heels) with your kilt, just like you would with any other patterned skirt.  While I’m blessed with an easy-breezy monochrome kilt, even more traditional kilt colours work well here – it’s mostly about the shapes and cuts of your other items that matters here.


Just accept you are wearing a kilt: when I’m doing this I like to wear something that I imagine would work well if I was a Nice Lady living on the land in Scotland.  Think black turtleneck jumpers, with pearls and carefully polished black boots.  We’re going understated, we’re going country village.  Excellent on weekends if you can borrow a friend’s dog.

The Vivienne/Full Fashion:  my dream is to find a midi-length black and red kilt to wear with a voluminous black jumper and my lace up knee high boots – yasssssss.  In this look, you lean into the tartan but unlike our second look, your goal is to make it weird and oversized and a bit grungy.  I want to say punk, but if there is a human alive who is less punk than me then I would very much like to meet them. 


Kilts are also, obviously, exceptionally warm because they are made entirely of wool.  The adjustable fit is handy not only for tucking in cosy jumpers, but also in the event that you eat entirely too much Sunday roast and need some breathing space.  Plus, by buying a preloved kilt you’re not only keeping something out of a landfill, you’re protecting a piece of beautiful workmanship.  There are plenty of kilts available online (especially on Etsy), and they crop up frequently in the second hand and vintage stores I visit…so get out there, and give a kilt a whirl!


This kilt is a preloved Laird-Portch design made in Scotland.  The jumper is from Mineral, stocked at Farmers and available now.  I recommend it – it’s very similar to the (much more expensive) jumper I bought from Lonely last year.  Shoes are Steve Madden, available in New Zealand via The Iconic, and the earrings are from Trade Aid (always worth checking out for jewellery).