The Well Dressed Scotsman

(This picture is from a child's stitching kit.
Copyright Muppets, Inc. 1971 and 1978.)

Bagpipes and a kilt instantly identify Scotland in the public's mind. Individuals own their instruments.  The band provides the kilt and some other parts of the uniform.


The KPB wears the MacLean of Duart tartan.  This pattern was originally chosen by founding member John Beaton to honor the family of his mother.  

Kilts are pleated and the pleats are always worn in the back.  (The occasionally observed failure to do so usually indicates that the wearer is on his/her first outing.)  The overlapping flat parts in the front are called aprons and they are fastened with three leather straps and metal buckles.

The fabric can be pleated in  two ways: either to the "sett" where the pleats are folded to recreate the full plaid pattern across the kilt; or to the "stripe" when the pleats are folded to the same line all the way around. Most military kilts are to the "stripe" while civilian kilts are commonly done to the "sett."  Pleating to the stripe can, depending upon the sett, create a "flash" of color as the kilt swings.   This works well with the MacLean of Duart. 

The group pictures son the site how KPB members wearing two different but very similar tartans. Originally, the band chose MacLean of Duart (red) and these kilts were professionally made, but are privately owned. A rapid increase in membership in the early 1990's created a shortage of uniformes which was remedied through the good offices of Kalamazoo businessman Ed Ihling who sold the band an entire bolt of dress (red) Stewart tartan in fall of 1995 and the generosity of a local seamstress. These interim kilts were hand made nd used extensively until the band could afford the $450+ for each new kilts.

With the decision to replace our worn and aging kilts in 2002, it was decided to retain the original MacLean of Duart tartan and to remember the history of our band.  The original (circa 1965) KPB kilts and those made in the interim were made to the sett, but our new band kilts are pleated to the stripe.

Band kilts are subject to substantial use/abuse and are often made of a very heavy cloth designated in "ounces" as 15-17 ounce material.  Lighter use kilts are commonly made of 12-14 ounce material.   

Each kilt begins with about four yards length of "double wide" of 100% worsted wool tartan woven in Scotland.  The cloth is woven with no selvage.  The tartan is cut to the appropriate length for the wearer, using the selvage (or finished) edge as a hem. Kilts are not turned up and hemmed except in dire circumstances. The pleats are 5 to 6 inches deep and vary according to the finished size. Many lighter use kilts may be hand-sewn, but for heavy use, most band and dancer's kilts are actually machine made as the stitching is more robust.  The inside is lined in heavy twill over a hair canvas interfacing. Alone, a kilt weighs about six pounds. The fabric's weight coupled with the deep pleats are responsible for the attractive swing a kilt makes when the wearer walks.

Other Kit:

The uniforms also call for sporrans, the little kit pouches on waist belts used in place of pockets. Some are made of cowhide, leather, animal pelts, or are elaborate antique horsehair. They can be plain, mounted with a metal band, or decorated with tassels. On occasion, the fancier variety have been known to spontaneously self-destruct and shed pieces along a parade route.  The band recently obtained matching black hair sporrans.

Heavy black belts with ornamental buckles are worn with the kilt.

Short-sleeved dress shirts with epaulettes and red covers, with either an embroidered black or MacLean of Duart tartan tie are worn for warm performances. For Michigan's cooler weather or formal occasions, long-sleeved dress shirts with tartan ties are worn along with band issued black vests. 
When it's downright cold, we wear black sweaters.
The black caps are called glengarries and resemble overseas military head gear. (Another style of headwear not used in the KPB is the round tam called a balmoral.) The band wears black or dark blue Glengary hats without dicing.  These hats have a small pom-pom (usually red) on top called a toorie, and plain ribbons down the back. There is a ribbon cockade on the side where an individual's clan badge or other apporpriate symbol may be displayed. The clan badge is commonly a silver-colored metal brooch depicting a belt around a portion of their clan chief's standard symbol. 

The KPB wears ecru colored stockings (hose) folded over red flashed garters, and black shoes with long laces. 


Called ghillie brogues, the shoes have no tongue. Designed for the boggy highland, the ghillies are perforated to let water run out. (We have not tested this in a bog, but find it to be true during rainy Memorial Day Parades.) The shoe laces are crossed around the leg and tied so the tasseled ends are on the outside of the leg.

Members may also carry a sgian dubh, a small utility knife worn in the top of the hose.  Displaying the knife in this fashion is a historical means of demonstrating that you are not carrying a concealed weapon.   Some members use them for cutting up apples to provide energy during a day of competitions or to cut the waxed hemp used to hold the bagpipe together.  These knives are the subject of some concern during presentations at public school functions and are usually not worn at those events.  One of our member was singled out by police officers and challenged for carrying a concealed weapon. His solution is to carry a horn-handled bottle opener instead of a sgian dubh. It has come in quite handy after long performances.

Completing the uniform is a personal choice of kilt pins fastened to the top apron of the kilt to keep the fringed edge from flying up.  (Note:  Never fasten the kilt pin through both layers of the kilt or you will tear the material.  Think of the kilt pin as a simple weight, not a fastener.)

The pipe bags are covered with black fabric "coats" trimmed with fringes.

In accordance with band policy, the KPB members do not wear any insignia which would imply rank within the band.  Rank is earned by mutual respect for playing and for leadership.

Directions on How to Fold a Rain Cape: These directions were taken from the one remaining intact set in our band. We can't even give proper credit to the manufacturer because, oddly enough, the manufacturers tags were cut from each of our capes prior to our purchases. For a printable copy (on 3*5 cards which can then be laminated and put into the pouch), click here.

References and Resources:

For an excellent guide to the ins and outs of Highland attire for many occasions, please see J. Charles Thompson's book, "So You're Going to Wear the Kilt" published by Heraldic Art, Box 7192 Arlington, Virginia 22207.

A great detailed reference book on kilt-making is Janet Ferguson Cannonito's "Kiltmaking: The Making of a Scottish Kilt" the Tartan Patch, Irvine, California USA 92715. There was also an excellent discussion entitled " Making a kilt: Sew a man's traditional kilt or a woman's kilt skirt" by Ann Stewat in Threads magazine, volume 33, pages 55-60, February/March 1991. Backissues may be available from Threads, 63 S. Main St., P.O. Box 5506 Newtown, CT 06470-5506.

A good local source for buying or renting a kilt is Scottish Modern Enterprises, 6115 S. Archer Rd, Summit Argo, IL 60501-1632 (708)-594-5773. Tell Jack Thompson that the Kalamazoo Pipe Band referred you. (There are other national shops as well and we'd love to know about your experiences with any of them.)

The only kilt repair place that we have an address for is Atlantic Reweaving Co., 351-B Hwy, 17 N. Suite 191, Surfside Beach, SC 29575, (800)-203-6638. We've never used them, so don't have any experiences there.