Dressed to the Kilt

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Yes, you read that right, Kilts are back!!

Personally I love all things tartan so I was delighted to read/watch this week’s ‘How To Wear It’ column in the Guardian in which fashion editor JCM extolls the virtues of kilts. I will be channeling Alexander McQueen and Cher from Clueless with this one! Tartan is so good for autumn and so you can imagine how delighted I was to come across this splendid example of a genuine kilt in my favourite colour for this season – oxblood. This came from the Trinity House Hospice Shop in Streatham and I parted with £8 for this 100% wool ‘Made in Scotland’ number.

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It’s actually somewhere between oxblood and aubergine with bottle green squares and a slight blue/purple stripe. Much research on the website tartan.gov.uk has led me to believe that this is the tartan for ‘Lindsay’, but please correct me if you know better.

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P1120937 P1120938Now, in her Kilts column, JCM recommends following Chanel’s adage about always removing one item from your outfit before you leave the house in order to look chic. For best effect, she suggests choosing two of the following: pleats, buckles and tartan. I’m actually going to remove two Kilt-features from my one – the kilt pin and the frayed blanket edge – but that means I will be left with all three of her criteria, sorry JCM!

After sticky-rollering the whole thing for cat hair, removing the blanket edge was actually rather easy. It’s actually just the edge of the fabric folded under so the frayed edge falls at the fold, then topstitched. I removed the topstitching, cut it off, and redid the topstitching in oxblood rather than green.

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The kilt pin was easy to remove but it did leave big holes in the fabric. Thankfully, the holes were in the bottom third of the length, which I cut off.

The hard part was figuring out a way to hem this thing. When kilts are made, they are sewn up, the hems are sewn and then the whole thing is pleated by machine. If I had tried to turn under a hem and press it up, the folds on the hemmed part would have been the opposite way to the folds on the skirt. The whole thing would have looked ugly, stopping the pleats from closing as they should. My alternative method was to simply overlock the edge of the skirt in a co-ordinating colour and leave it hanging free. I think it looks reasonable like this – you can hardly see it from a few feet away. The pleats fold nicely!

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To complete this outfit I picked up a chunky cable knit sweater in a very similar colour to the kilt at the British Red Cross shop in Lewisham. This is acrylic but it feels lovely and soft, I don’t think it’s been worn much. It’s a H&M size 16, so a little on the big side, so I am wearing it loose. With the roll neck I have to be a little careful – in combination with my glasses I look like Velma from Scooby Doo – but it rounds off the kilt outfit nicely.

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Here are some photos of the outfit in action. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite make it as far as Scotland to take pictures! My home town sits on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors so the pictures were taken there instead. It’s a dead ringer for Scotland (only nicer ;-) ).

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56 comments

  1. yesilikethat

    What lovely pictures, you look stunning! That last one could be a Burberry ad campaign!
    I’ve been on the hunt for tartan wool fabric to make a pleated skirt, never even thought about charity shops, but there must be lots in there. Off to Bournemouth this weekend so will have a hunt.

    (Though I have to disagree that Yorkshire is better than bonnie Scotland!)

    • charityshopchic

      HAHA I am practicing my best ‘catalogue’ poses!!!
      Thanks for the comment Kathryn, we are really trying harder to get better pictures for this blog and although it takes longer I’m delighted with the results.
      Yep, there are kilts to be found but my advice would be to try it on, as the side seams would be difficult to adjust. This one fit well enough round the waist, which was lucky, though I had to have the buckles on the tightest setting.
      We’ll have to argue about Yorkshire vs Scotland when I see you next ;-)

  2. Clare Szabo

    Beautiful job and cracking photos! Loving seeing this in pictures after discussing it with you. I think the hem looks just fine like that and you don’t even notice it in the pictures. Can’t wait to make up some tartan for this season!

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Clare, thanks for being a sounding board! I am satisfied with the hem after a great deal of thought… I don’t think it’s something a non-sewist would pay any attention to. Can’t wait to see what you make out of tartan!

  3. cathynd95

    LOVE the outfit! You cracked me up with the scooby doo comment. great alterations to the skirt! Glad to hear kilts are “in”, I have a version of one in my closet that I have had for YEARS! (though it isn’t in the traditional red/green/blue colors) I will have to get that baby out; though I do need to find a nice sweater like you did to pair with it.

    • charityshopchic

      Yep, kilts are back! As soon as I see a red leaf I always get the urge to buy/make loads of tartan things, it’s so perfect for autumn. Thanks for your support.

    • charityshopchic

      Yeah, fashion from the 90s is now ‘vintage’… boy do I feel old. I love everything about 90s fashion, especially grunge!! (which may surprise you) Thank you for the comment.

  4. Dee

    Beautiful! You made the skirt, er.. kilt look much more on trend now, and I love how you styled it with the sweater and necklace. Oh, and the location of your photo shoot is gorgeous! I hope to travel across the pond some day! Cheers!

  5. Sine Robertson

    You are right it is Lyndsay tartan, it is a lovely tartan and along with Black Watch (dark green / navy) became very popular in 1990s for skirts, trousers and ladies kilts. You have done a good job of shortening it, and of ‘dressing it’ and modelling it. The Yorkshire countryside would easily pass for Scotland! I enjoy your posts very much, thank you. Sine Robertson

    • charityshopchic

      Thank you for the comment Sine, I am so glad you are enjoying reading. You’re right that black watch tartan was/is very popular for ladieswear because of its toned-down colour palette. Vivienne Westwood still loves it and so do I!

  6. Amy

    Aah don’t you look pretty! Good work with your kilt. I agree that the overlocking was the sensible answer. Good work!

  7. Marsha

    I’ve found lots of lovely kilts in thrift stores here in New York state; on average I pay about $4 each. I think people visit Scotland or Ireland and buy them as tourist items, then discard them after a wearing or two back home. I’ve bought some to wear and others just for the tons of lovely fabric. If I remove the waistband and hem and press out the pleats, it’s usually at least 2 yards of beautiful wool. I’ve priced authentic wool tartan–it’s incredibly expensive.

    • charityshopchic

      Hello Marsha, thanks for the comment. Authentic Scottish wool tartan is really expensive as it is a traditional, handmade, heritage product, and rightly so! Such a shame that people don’t feel they can wear their kilts when they get home. I haven’t found a way of successfully getting rid of the pleats despite a lot of ironing/steaming/washing/hanging. But maybe I will give it another go.

  8. diycouture

    Oooh those colours are lovely together – deep delicious jewel tones – glorious! X

  9. Susan Luke

    Great job on the kilt! I used to wear one as a cheerleader in high school since our mascot was a highlander. I have a soft spot for tartans. I love the photos, both you and the scenery look beautiful. My favorite styling is with the sweater…it looks great!

  10. Claire

    Just lovely, both the outfit and the scenery! That looks like the Hole of Horcum behind you, I was there a few weeks ago! Love that oxblood colour, it is divine, so rich and cosy looking!

    • charityshopchic

      HAHA yes this sort of thing isn’t really suitable for Aussie weather ;-) I do love autumn here. It’s just starting to get chilly – crisp, cold mornings are wonderful…

  11. Rach

    Oo, where in Yorkshire is this? It looks like Nidderdale, near where my parents live! Love the kilt conversion by the way, I’m a big fan of tartan.

    • charityshopchic

      Hello, the eagle eyed commenter above got it right – it’s the Hole of Horcum, between Pickering and Whitby. I’m a huge tartan fan too! If only there were more tartan garments in the charity shops…

  12. Fadanista

    You look totally adorable in the jumper and kilt! I have long been a fan of kilts and wore them a lot as a child in England – not so useful in Western Australia ;)

  13. Deanna

    These pictures are beautiful. It does look an awful lot like Scotland. Your kilt looks very nice and I think you’re right, most people who don’t sew don’t even notice things like an overlocked edge.

    I have been reading your blog for a year or so now and really enjoy it. You have so much talent. Your refashioned things are so much more professional and creative than what I usually see.

    • charityshopchic

      Hello Deanna, The heather does make it look a lot like Scotland, it’s beautiful! Thanks for your kind comment, I am so glad you are enjoying reading. Stay tuned for some more autumnal makes coming up.

  14. sewamysew

    The colours in the tartan are beautiful not too traditional which mades it look really modern. I need to find some oxblood fabric stat! Of all the Scooby Doo characters Velma is the best anyway ;)

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Amy! Sometimes the more traditional red tartans can be a bit ‘in your face’ but this dark red one is lovely. Does it get cold enough for autumnal dressing where you are, I wonder? And you’re right, Velma is the smart one, so that’s no bad thing :)

  15. Lex

    The shorter length is an improvement although I’d have been tempted to play with trim on the bottom edge – a little red or green lace perhaps or a slim velvet ribbon. On the subject of pleats, I found something on a historical costuming blog that stuck in my head – apparently if you spritz your fabric with a vinegar/water solution (the ratios vary in the articles I’ve read from 1:2 to 1:10) then press it, the pleats stay in crisp and sharp. I thought it was worth mentioning as you discussed the pleating problem in your post.

    • charityshopchic

      Hello Lex, thanks for commenting. I wanted to keep it simple this time to leave room for some fun with the styling. Any trim would have to have had pleats pressed into it which would have been tricky, especially with something like velvet. Lace might have been possible but that would have taken it too close to the red skirt I posted last week. Also pleated lace, since it would overlap itself, the pattern would be a bit lost, I am not sure how that would work… still it’s an interesting idea. Thank you for the tip on the vinegar/water, I may have to try that!

  16. Amy

    Nicer than Scotland,ha! Lovely kilt makeover tho,I’ve done a few kilt remakes but only using the material for other things tho,never remaking to clothing!

    • charityshopchic

      I will Debi, I will! Though I think wearing tartan while doing my favourite Scottish activities – drinking whisky and eating haggis, neeps and tatties – may be Scotland overkill :)

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