Traditionally speaking, the kilt was a highland garment made and worn only by men. Highland women would wear an earasaid, which was a draped garment that was either a belted plaid or unbelted wrap. A traditional earasaid would have either been plain, striped or tartan but this would have been dependent on cost. It would have been quite long, stretching down to the wearer's candles and the top edge would have been able to cover their head.
When did women start wearing kilts?
It wasn’t until the 1800’s that the women of Scotland started to wear kilts and this was most popular during highland dances. In the 1900’s the adoption of kilt by women was so widespread (especially for highland dancing) that public conversations were held to discuss the types of kilts women should be allowed to wear, if at all. This resulted in the arrival of the kilted skirt which was similar in length and style to the traditional men's kilt but gave women their own identity separate from the men. The kilted skirt was adopted quite quickly, not only by highland dancers but by all women of Scottish descent.
Today, kilted skirts are still fairly popular, but there is little reason that women shouldn’t opt for a more traditional style kilt if they wish to. Pipe bands are a good example of this, where women members of the bands kilts are visually no different from the men's kilts.
What are the differences between men’s and women's kilts?
There are two general differences between men's and women's kilts these days. Firstly the kilt would be made to accommodate the natural curve of a woman's hips more so than a man's kilt. This would allow the kilt to fit and swing more naturally than if a woman were to wear a kilt made for a man. The second difference (while not a rule) is the seam on a woman’s kilt apron is worn to the left, while the seam is on the right for a men’s kilt. This difference is relatively new as in the past the apron would open on the same side as a man's kilt and some still do.
At MacGregor and MacDuff we are predominantly a men's highlandwear specialist but have always advocated for women who want to wear highlandwear. While we don’t officially offer women's kilts, we are always happy to discuss the option. After all, we are quite good at making made-to-measure kilts.