Kingussie Pleated Kilts

The Kingussie kilt is an historically rare and unusual pleating style incorporating a single box pleat in the center rear of the kilt, with knife pleats fanning out to either side. 

The nineteenth century was a time of great experimentation in kilt tailoring styles.  At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the average kilt was box pleated and made from four yards of cloth.  By the end of the nineteenth century, the average kilt was knife pleated and contained eight yards of tartan material.  In between, Highland fashion saw great change. 

I have had the pleasure of examining many nineteenth century kilts, all of which have been unique.  Some have had buttons for braces (suspenders).  Some have had silk ribbons to tie the apron closed.  Some have been pleated to stripe; some to no pattern at all.  One of the most unusual variations in pleating yet documented has been the so-called "Kingussie pleat."  This pleating style takes its name from a kilt housed in the Highland Folk Museum in Kingussie, Scotland.  It is a Robertson tartan kilt, c. 1820, made with a single box pleat in the center of the kilt, with knife pleats fanning out to either side.  This kilt was examined and photographed by kiltmaker and kilt historian Bob Martin, and documented in his book, All About Your Kilt, (Scotpress, 2001). 

Until very recently, this was the only historic example of this unusual style of pleating, combining both box and knife pleats.  The Scottish Tartans Museum in Franklin, NC, now has on display a kilt belonging to William Muirhead, born in Edinburgh in 1835, and migrated to the United States in 1854.  When he came to the United States, he brought his kilt outfit with him, made sometime likely in the 1840s.  The tartan in this kilt has been recreated as the Muirhead family tartan.  But amazingly, this kilt is the second discovered historical kilt to be made in the "Kingussie" pleat style.

You can see photos and read more about the William Muirhead kilt at the Scottish Tartans Museum web site.  The original Kingussie pleated kilts contained approximately four yards of cloth, as did the early box pleated kilts.  I sometime make them from five yards of cloth; this makes the knife pleats slightly more narrow than the central box pleat, highlighting the contrast between the two pleat styles.  I can make your Kingussie pleated kilt from either four or five yards of cloth, to your preference. 

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Scottish Tartans Authority