How to Wear Highland Dress

Updated July 20, 2017

The distinctive dress of the Scottish Highlands, known for its plaids and kilts, is seen as the traditional dress of Scotland. The way Highland dress is worn today is based on traditions that have not changed much since the 18th century. There are 3 basic levels of men's dress: day, evening and dress. However, apparel worn on the bottom half stays much the same for most of these occasions and it is the jacket that changes. For first time Highlands wearers, buying a Argyll jacket in black barathea cloth is recommended as it will be suitable for any time of the day including formal occasions. The colour of your kilt can match either your Scottish clan, or the part of Scotland your family came from. If you don't know that information (or aren't Scottish) then fear not; many US states and all Canadian province have their own plaids, as does each branch of the US armed forces.

Put on a plain white collared shirt and button it up. The shirt can either be worn with a bow tie or a tie that matches the plaid of your kilt.

Put on your hose (socks). Pull your hose all the way up but wait to adjust them until after you've put on your flashes and garters.

Thread the garters through the hoops in your flashes, if your flashes and garters arrive separately. Now clip the garters around your calves about 2 to 3 inches below the knee. The flashes can face towards the front of the leg or towards the outside.

Fold the top of your hose over the flashes so the garters do not show. You will be folding the hose over so that about half of your flashes are still showing.

Put on your brogues (shoes). If you are wearing buckle brogues, simply buckle the shoes and skip to step 7. For how to tie gillie brogues (tie shoes) look at step 6.

Pull your shoelaces tight and make sure they are even lengths on both sides. Make one knot then twist the laces around each other three times. Wrap the laces around the back crossing just above the anklebone. Pull them back to cross in the front and then pull them back to cross a third time. After this third cross, pull the laces back to the front and tie either a bow or a double knot.

Pull your kilt all the way open behind you with the lining facing towards your body. Take the right strap over to your left and thread it through the hole in the kilt. Fasten the strap to the bucket that is on the outside of your kilt. Select a hole on the strap so that the strap is tight on your waist but not uncomfortable.

Fasten the kilt strap on your top right in a comfortable position. Then buckle the bottom right strap.

Adjust your kilt so that it is flat and symmetrical along your body. Tuck your shirt neatly into your kilt.

Stretch your sporran (pouch) around your waist holding the sporran by the leather straps. Lace your sporran straps through the sporran loops at the back of the kilt. Buckle the sporran so that it hangs high on your kilt, not midway down.

Put on and button up your vest. You can use the strap on the back of the vest to adjust the fit. Then put on your jacket.

Slip your sgian dhubh (knife) into your right sock if you are right-handed or into your left sock if you are left-handed.


You may want help lacing your sporran through the sporran loops on the back of your kilt.


If your kilt hangs down below your knees it is too long. A kilt should sit high on the waist and end at the knee line. Some experts believe that only bagpipers should wear white hose. To be on the safe side, buy tan hose or hose that match your jacket. Check the legislation in your area before donning your sgian dhubh. Legislation in some area prohibits weapons such as this knife.

Things You'll Need

  • White shirt
  • Tie
  • Hose (socks)
  • Flashes
  • Garters to attach the flashes
  • Brogues (shoes)
  • Kilt
  • Sporran
  • Vest (optional)
  • Jacket
  • Sgian dhubh (knife)
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About the Author

Alexis Bateman has been writing since 2000. Her work has appeared in "The Smith Sophian," and she also writes for eHow . Since 2007, Bateman has been a full-time elementary school teacher. She has her Master of Arts in bilingual education from Teachers College at Columbia University.