Wrapping a proper kilt is a rather easy task, though it does take some practice to get it right. I'm going to try and describe it as best I can until I get some photographs to show you step by step how to wrap your kilt. There are several basic steps, and I'll outline them all on here.
Choosing a Fabric
The first step to wearing a proper kilt is finding the right fabric. Wool is warm, so keep in mind when you're going to wear it the most. Will it be the Summer? Fall? Winter? Choose a wool weighted to the season in which you will be wearing it. I find that typically an Autumn weight wool works the best as a year-round wool, though you'll probably want a cloak or something in the really cold days in the winter.
The next step in finding the proper fabric is doing a little family research. Are you of Scottish or Irish descent? Do you know your family's Scottish or Irish surnames? Try to get the right plaid for your family. A great site for finding your family's tartan is http://www.tartans.com. On that site, click on the "Clan Finder" link, and type in your surname. For you Irish out there, there's also a Clan Finder on the Irish portion of the site that will place your family name in the proper county, and hence with the proper plaid.
Note, however, that while having your family's proper tartan to wear is a nice thing, it's not nessesary for renaissance festivals. The tartan system was instituted in the late 1800's, and is wholly a modern day thing. During the renaissnace period, a tartan was usually made from whatever dyes were available from the local vegetation, and then woven into a pattern that pleased the man who was going to wear it. Also, for you people that want to wear a kilt and can't find your family's tartan (or can't afford it.. imported tartan fabric is expensive), just hit your local fabric store, and look through the wool weaves. Chances are, you'll find a plaid that you like. If you don't find anything in the wools, then check out the acryllic fabrics. They're usually cheaper, and look and feel about the same as wool, though they don't breathe as well (expect sweaty thighs in the summer!).
To wrap a kilt, you're going to want approximately 6-9 yards of fabric, adjust according to your size. It's always better to buy more than you need than not enough. You can always trim the fabric later. You will also want fabric widths between 45" and 60". The 45" is good for a Filebeag or short kilt that hangs just from the waist to the knee, and the 60" is good for a great kilt or a kilt with the full sash over the shoulder and everything (much like the kilts worn in the movie Braveheart). You can also do a slightly different, yet still traditional, version of the great kilt using the 45" fabric, you'll just need about 9-12 yards instead of the 6-9 previously mentioned.
Wrapping the kilt
The first step to wrapping a kilt, is finding a large flat area where you can lay out the kilt in order to pleat it. There's a few things that you'll need in addition to the kilt. First, and most important, you'll need a belt to hold it up. I prefer a 2" buffalo or bull hide belt. They are wide, and heavy, and do beautifully holding up a kilt. You will also need a pouch to wear on the belt. The traditional kilt pouch is a sporran, and is worn in the center of the front of the kilt, usually on a second belt or belt chain, though it can be worn on the same belt as is holding up the kilt. The sporran is typically round or oval in shape, and often times has fur on it. The sporran is not required, but is certainly handy if you want to carry anything while wearing the kilt. Remember, a kilt doesn't have any formal pockets (though the great kilt can have one large pocket if you wrap it right, but we'll get to that later.
Lay out the fabric first, getting as much of it as possible smoothed out. Once the fabric is laid out, measure a distance in from the edge of the kilt equal to your elbow to the tips of your fingers. You may find you need to adjust this a bit later, if you need to, just add of subtract however much fabric you need. Remember where this mark is, that's where the first pleat starts.
Now it's time to start putting the pleats in the fabric. You're going to want the pleats as even as possible. Plaids naturally have guidelines in them.. USE THEM! *laugh* If the plaid is straight in the kilt, it will look a lot better than if it's not. If the plaid you have has any contrasting color highlights that stand out from the rest of the fabric (such as a red stripe on a dark blue or green background), try to make that the accent of the kilt. Pleat across the kilt until you have as much unpleated fabric left at the far end as you do at the end you started from.
It's important to note at this point, that if you plan on wearing a shirt with the kilt, to put that on now, before putting on the kilt. It's *very* difficult to tuck in a shirt once you're already wearing the kilt. It can be done, but even people who are experienced with wearing kilts prefer not to do it.
At this point, slide the belt under the kilt. Make sure to slide the belt under the same way the pleats lay, otherwise you will destroy all your hard work on the pleats! Once you have the belt slid under the kilt, lay down on the kilt, and adjust yourself so that the bottom hem of the kilt lies in the middle of the backs of your knees, then adjust the belt so that it's at your waist. Now we begin what I like to call eggrolling. Wrap the right side of the kilt around you. Be careful not to pull to hard, or you'll undo a few of the pleats on that side. The edge of the fabric should lie just over the edge of your hip. Now wrap the left side over the top, once again, being careful not to pull out any of the pleats. One you've gotten the kilt wrapped around you, slide any items you plan on wearing on your belt onto the belt, and buckle the belt. When you buckle the belt, make sure you have it snug so that the kilt doesn't decide to wander lower and lower during the day.
Remember, all that's holding the kilt up is that belt! Once you've gotten the belt snugly buckled, it's time for the moment of truth... stand up! If the kilt falls off, your belt isn't tight enough. If it's ticlking your ankles, you didn't read my directions close enough! Chances are that you'll have to do some slight adjustment on the kilt once you stand up. If you need to raise or lower the back of the kilt (the pleated area), try to move as many of the pleats as you can together. This will keep them from becoming crooked. Now is also the perfect time to check the length of your kilt. The proper length is measured the easiest by simply kneeling down. If the kilt just barely touches the floor, it's the right length. If it doesn't quite reach the floor, or drags on the floor, adjust as needed.
What do I do for the top?
Now, those of you who are wrapping a great kilt are standing there with all this extra fabric hanging around you looking like a dress. It's this extra fabric that becomes the top of the kilt. It's probably the most versatile piece of men's clothing ever created. It can be a sash, a cloak, a hood, a belt, you name it. Your own creativity is the limit! For the typical Braveheart look, just take the right portion of the extra fabric, twist a couple times, and bring it around your back and up over your left shoulder. Now, twist the left portion of the extra fabric a time or two, and bring it up the front and tuck it under the portion going across your back. If you have a penannular, or kilt pin, go ahead and pin it all together. If you don't have a kilt pin, a leather lace works well, or you can simply tie the two pieces together.
Experiment with the various ways you can wear the top portion of the kilt, and have fun with it! Also, if you see someone wearing a kilt at a faire in a manner that you're not sure how to do, feel free to ask. Guys wearing kilts are usually pretty happy to tell someone how they wrapped it. Just have fun with it! The ladies love them, they're the most comfortable thing to wear, and above all, they look good!
A brief note about 45" Great Kilts
Wrapping a 45" Great Kilt is just like wrapping any other kilt, except that you will want to leave about 3 yards of fabric unpleated on the left side. When eggrolling, bring all the extra fabric on the left side over, and fold it up at your right hip, and throw it back over your shoulder before belting it. It is all this extra fabric that provides the sash on the kilt. It's not quite as versitile as the 60" Great Kilt, though it'll keep you warm in a pinch. Kilts of this style were more typically worn by clan chieftains and Scottish nobility because of the noble look of a kilt wrapped in this fashion. You can also fold the extra fabric above the belt down over the belt after you have it on to give a finished look to the top of the kilt, or even tuck it into the belt for an even more finished look.
And that's all there is to wrapping a kilt! Keep checking back on this page for the step by step photos! Enjoy your new kilt!