Who, what, when, where and why?
Established in the 17th Century, Kilts (originally called “little wrap” in Gaelic) were the first steps in a separation of the Celts, as prior to this Irish and Scottish Gaels wore similar fashions. During the Jacobite uprising of 1745 there was a “diskilting” act enacted as they were seen as a symbol of rebellion and primitive savagery, the only exception being for those serving in the military. This is perhaps the lifeline of the modern kilt seen today, as historians have argued that Highland costume would not have survived had there not been Highland regiments raised on and dressed in parts of their traditional dress.
Highland chieftain Lord Mungo Murray wearing belted plaid, around 1680.
Nearly 40 years later, through the efforts of the Highland society of London, the “diskilting” act was revoked. The image of the highlander at this point in time was changing from being seen as other, to an extotic romanticised image which still has an impact in today’s society. This image was also in part response to the industrial revolution; a rejection of the urban and industrial and an embracing of the wild, unpredictable wilderness.
Kilt wearing became national dress after King George IV’s visit to Edinburgh where he walked out on his guests dressed in a kilt, establishing it as national dress for Scotland. This example of a kilt far differs from the traditional Highland wear seen in the previous century.