Kilts: From Highland Dress to Fashion Week

The world has changed significantly in a short space of time. Our technological advancement’s within the past decade or so have led to the internet becoming a world-wide platform. This not only affected things like fashions that the kids were following, but also evoked a lot of social and political revolution.

Tartan, in one way or another, has always been associated with revolution. In the 18th century, the Jacobite’s wore it as a sign of allegiance to the Stuarts; in the 1970’s, punks “ripped up tartan shirts and adapted kilts as an anti-establishment message”. Japanese school girls have also adapted a style known as Kogal, in which they wear loose socks, microskirts (often featuring tartan), as well as having dyed hair. In modern times, the tartan rebellion is associated more often with ideas of gender non-conformity, individuality and freedom of expression.

In the world of fashion, those who are well established and respected are the ones who push the boundaries of what is acceptable, and if we the public take to it, it becomes a trend. Glasgow born Charles Jeffrey, who has been worn by artists such as Harry Styles and Tilda Swinton, is said to have taken influence from the punk subculture with regards to his designs, and is regarded on a similar level to Alexander McQueen. Designers Chopova Lowena are known for tearing up traditional textiles only to re-stich them in a new and unique way. They have dual British-Bulgarian heritage and their aim is to “Usher in a system of ethical consumption with a focus on appreciating skill, craft, time and consideration for impact on the environment”.

So, subcultures such as the punks have created an alternate association for the kilt and tartan; leading to clothes that were once heavily gendered becoming available for anyone wishing to express themselves, whether that’s stylistically or personally. The kilt has been significant in modern fashion expression due in part to its gender-fluidity. Times have changed and at Houston’s we will dress you to look your best, no matter what you’ll be wearing.


Royal Tartans – Tartan Fit for a Queen (Or King!)

The British Royal family have had long ties with the traditional cloth of Scotland and a great affinity towards tartan. This link didn’t just start with the current monarch, but can be traced back hundreds of years!

The Dress Act of 1746 under George II brought a ban on kilts and all aspects of highland wear except for uses in the military. Any individual in breach of this act would imprisoned for 6 months for their first offence, and on their second they would be sent to overseas work camps. When the act was repealed it proved to kick-start the popularity in tartan – both with the general public and royalty.

The Royal Stewart and Royal Balmoral Tartans

George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822 propelled the kilt into the forefront of everyone’s minds. Whilst his would have been far dressier than the traditional highlander kilt, the concept became sensationalised and romanticised. This started the real love affair with the royals and tartan.

King George IV in a Kilt Outfit on his visit to Scotland

Queen Victoria continued the link with tartan during her reign, often dressing her children in Kilts. Prince Albert, Victoria’s husband, was a keen tartan designer and attributed as the creator of the (Royal) Balmoral tartan – a tartan to be worn exclusively by the royals and specially selected parties. (The Queen’s personal piper is one of the selected few allowed to be dressed in the tartan.)

The Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles are all keen wearers of Tartan

Queen Elizabeth is also a keen supporter of tartan, often seen wearing the cloth at Highland games or on visits to Scotland. Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales is also often spotted in a Highland outift on public occasions.

The British Royal family and Tartan have always gone hand in hand. As Queen Elizabeth II breaks the record for longest serving monarch, we hope the link continues for many years to come!



Scottish Wedding Traditions

Many cultures and religions have traditions that are performed during wedding ceremonies and receptions, for example Jewish cultural tradition is to smash a glass under one’s foot once the vows have been said. This is to remind the couple that marriage has highs and lows, and to stick by each other through the peaks and troughs of life.

The Scottish tradition of hand-fasting dates back to medieval times, and is also thought to have came from Celtic and Pagan rituals. Gaelic scholar Martin Martin describes hand fasting as an ancient custom of the Isles where “a man would take a maid as his wife for the space of a year without marrying her, and if she pleased him all the while, he married her at the end of the year and legitimised her children, and if he didn’t love her, he returned her to her parents”. Not exactly the stuff of Hollywood rom-coms!

By the 18th century, the Church of Scotland no longer recognised unions formed by consent and consummation, even though civil authorities did. So the way around this was to perform the ceremonies in public. This was until 1939 when Scottish marriage laws were reformed and hand-fasting was no longer recognised.

Modern interpretations of hand-fasting are ones of love and the binding of two souls. It has seen a revival over the years due in part to more and more couples wanting to personalise aspects of their wedding and make it unique to them. It was also featured in the Stark wedding of Game of Thrones, further romantising this ancient practice.


Tartan Wedding Accessories – Ring Cushions, Ladies Garters and More!

At Houston’s, we can take care of every little tartan detail at your wedding. We can provide bespoke, handmade tartan extras for your wedding. Attention to detail is key on your special day, so let Houston’s take care of bringing tartan to your wedding!

Tartan Ring Cushions

These handmade ring cushions add a touch of tartan to your ceremony. They can be made to match the tartan of the groom’s kilt, keeping with the colour scheme of the wedding. Ring Cushions come with either 1 or 2 ribbon ties, with the choice of tartan or silk ribbon.

Ring Cushions can be made in any Tartan!

On request, your Ring Cushion can be embroidered with the Bride and Groom’s initials, love hearts or a range of other messages in a variety of available font styles.

 Tartan Ladies Garters

Custom made ladies garters are also available from Houston’s. They can be made in any tartan, matching the tartan of the groom’s kilt, or in the family name of the bride. Ladies garters are a beautiful keep sake for a bride to be on the best day of her life. This can be her something new! All garters come with a white bow with pearl detail and are made to order, ensuring the perfect fit.

Tartan Shoulder Plaid

The perfect accessory to make the groom stand out against the rest of the wedding party – a shoulder plaid, matching the tartan of the groom’s kilt, can add prestige to his highland outfit. More about the shoulder plaid’s origins from the Great Kilt can be read about in our Previous Blog post.

The Plaid can serve many functions after wearing. The groom can wear the plaid for the ceremony and for the photographs after the ceremony. In the evening he can remove the plaid, using it as a table cover under the wedding cake, or on the top table as a table runner. The perfect way to add to the tartan theme of your wedding!

Other Tartan Accessories (Available on Request)

We can create order Tartan extras to order, from Ties, Bow-Ties and Hand Ties to Table Cover, Tablet Computer Cover and more!


Chalk Design and Weave

Commissioned by Stephen Chalk and his family for his 50th birthday, we designed and weaved this unique custom tartan for a memorable birthday.

Commissioned by Stephen Chalk and his family for his 50th birthday, we designed and weaved this unique custom tartan for a memorable birthday.

What an excellent birthday present!

This design was one of the most technical tartans Houstons have ever designed, with fire orange and Lurex woven through the weft to match his motorbike! A truly personalised experience.

We hope the family can enjoy this tartan for generations to come…
Stephen pictured with Ewan Mcdonald, 4th generation to run Houston Kiltmakers and skilled kiltmaker.

This tartan, being completely custom, was over a year in the design phase. The tailored experience doesn’t end there, however, as when deciding to make kilts out of this tartan there is an array of options with regards to weights, jacket options and even bespoke tweed jackets! This truly is a stunning tartan and the kilts will turn out great.


Bespoke Tweed wedding Jackets

If you’re wanting each part of your kilt outfit to be special and unique to you, we offer bespoke jackets from Houston Kiltmakers, established 1909. Ewan and his team are  making some of the best kilt outfits in the world.

Totally bespoke we prefer to take six months to a year to make.

We can have an initial design meet and get cloths, linings and embroidery aside and measure you closer to your wedding date.

We will help you every step of the way create a unique wedding outfit   

With customized features 

So you look your best on your wedding day

Email for bespoke one of a kind outfits.


Jacket Linings

Lining Ideas

Tell us your preferences in regards to colours, fabrics and patterns in order to find the best tweed to bring all elements of your outfit together. We have standard linings of which the price is included with your the rest of your outfit purchase.

For our £50 linings there are lots of colours to choose from and some really nice tones such as sailor blue; which ties in very nicely with muted tartans woven in the UK.
Our £90 luxury linings – some two tones, excellent quality with unique depth. Woven by Dugdale bros Huddersfield.
We also have our £160 stunning paisley pattern lining. Featuring some beautiful paisley and two tone paisley that will set your jacket apart from the rest.

Note; you can have your jacket and waistcoat with different linings. Personal touches such as tartan trim , initials, wedding date or address embroidered onto a piece of your tartan inside the jacket are all ways to make it extra special.
We will always help you to pick a lining that sets off your outfit thanks to our expert knowledge.  


Argyle hose, Diced hose and Castellated topped hose

Also known as tartan socks or plaid socks, these hose are all made to order and take 6-10 weeks to make. Traditionally worn to black tie events and evening events with black brogues, or the traditionalist would wear buckle shoes. Made from pure new wool, and always hand made in Scotland.

Some wear Argyll hose with day jackets but best to only wear to formal events, with a black jacket such as Prince Charlie, Montrose, Kenmore or Sheriffmuir.

Classic Argyll hose with Modern Hunting Robertson

Castellated tops have turrets on top and date back to the 1600s. They stay up naturally or come with a cord to tie them up with, should you wish to use it. Diced, Argyll and castellated socks are expensive but look and feel a million dollars. They are the best socks you can wear with your kilt and if you match the colors right it will give your outfit a whole new dimension and depth.

Black and white/ grey Castlated diced sock with Bute Mist.

When correctly fitted, hose feel fantastic. They require a few different sizes but are pretty easy to measure (see measuring details below).

Remember Hand knitted socks need to be hand-washed only – we have seen a few sets that have gone through a hot wash cycle and there is not much use for them after that…

Argyll socks hose will last a lifetime if you look after them and are hand wash only.

Purple and Navy contemporary Argyll Hose with Scottish Heather tartan
Classic diced Hose with Ancient Campbell tartan
Contemporary Charcoal/ Black and teal Argyll Hose with Glencallum tartan
Claret red and Green diced Castellated hose with Macdonald of Glengarry Modern
White and red diced castellated Hose with Autumn Bute

How to measure:

We need your:


Shoe size ( US or UK)

Length of foot

The width all the way around widest point

Round the ankles

Round the calf

Length of leg (Note we will add extra on for the return)


The Scottish Kilt

Who, what, when, where  and why?


Established in the 17th Century, Kilts (originally called “little wrap” in Gaelic) were the first steps in a separation of the Celts, as prior to this Irish and Scottish Gaels wore similar fashions. During the Jacobite uprising of 1745 there was a “diskilting” act enacted as they were seen as a symbol of rebellion and primitive savagery, the only exception being for those serving in the military. This is perhaps the lifeline of the modern kilt seen today, as historians have argued that Highland costume would not have survived had there not been Highland regiments raised on and dressed in parts of their traditional dress.

Highland chieftain Lord Mungo Murray wearing belted plaid, around 1680.

Nearly 40 years later, through the efforts of the Highland society of London, the “diskilting” act was revoked. The image of the highlander at this point in time was changing from being seen as other, to an extotic romanticised image which still has an impact in today’s society. This image was also in part response to the industrial revolution; a rejection of the urban and industrial and an embracing of the wild, unpredictable wilderness.

Kilt wearing became national dress after King George IV’s visit to Edinburgh where he walked out on his guests dressed in a kilt, establishing it as national dress for Scotland. This example of a kilt far differs from the traditional Highland wear seen in the previous century.

David Wilkie‘s 1829 portrait of the kilted King George IV

The tail end of the 20th century is when kilt wearing became more what we are used to seeing today. The connotations the kilt has with masculinity has led to modern designers incorporating elements of the kilt into fashion to suit the young, fashionable male. The punk subculture as well as LGBT+ culture have adapted the kilt due to its associations with traditional masculinity, with more modern takes also allowing for the piece to make more of a statement, whether that be of individuality or questioning the lines between masculinity and femininity. 


The Scottish Kilt is traditionally 8 yards ( 7.4 metres ) of pure new wool, and always made in Scotland. There is almost an inconceivable amount of tartans to choose from. Tartans are usually associated with a clan, but can be custom made. Kilts also come in a variety of weights to suit one’s needs or weather conditions:
– 16/17oz cloth ( Heavy weight ) is the best weight of authentic Scottish Kilt cloth as it sits and hangs and gives the best swing to the pleats. Contrary to what you may think, it is not any warmer than a 13oz kilt.
– For broader gentlemen heavy weight is by far the best cloth to use as it hangs much better over the belly and holds its shape and looks a million dollars!
– 13oz Medium weight is adequate if you are under a 44/46″ waist
– 19oz to 21oz is regimental weight cloth – only 6 tartans are woven in this weight now
– 110z Lightweight


Traditionally the Scottish kilt is fully handmade.The kiltmaker will take half a day to check the cloth, check sizes and prepare the tartan.The kiltmaker will then take around two days to make each kilt, there are around 6000 to 7500 stitches!

22 to 28 deep knife pleats ( Note kilts can be box pleated if you wish ).

And reinforced double stitches surrounding the key areas where typically you face the most wear and tear. Kilts can also be partially machine stitched which are also of high quality.


Houston Kiltmakers provides kilts with 3 buckles and straps so the customer has 1.5″ of adjustment for their optimal comfort. All kilts are cut for growth so that they can be adjusted a few inches in years to come.

Kilts can be made to a normal sett where the pleats at the back are folded to repeat the tartan exactly ( so the front and back of the kilt looks exactly the same) or they can be regimental sett. This is also called sett to the line where the kilt maker will take one of the symmetrical predominant pivot lines and sett each pleat to that line so you just see lines down the back of the kilt and the front and back of the kilt look remarkably different. A normal sett kilt is by far the most popular of the two options.

Kilts usually take 6 to 8 weeks to make provided the cloth is in stock. Kilts can be express made  quickly in a few weeks or a few days if required at a premium.

If commissioning a special weave and cloth has to be woven, then kilts can take up to five or 6 months to make. For this reason we always recommend booking at least six months before your function date if you can.


Houston Kiltmakers is a 4th generation family business based in Paisley established in 1909 by William.M Houston. Mr Houston’s Great grandson Ewan William MacDonald is now running the business and is passionate about everything tartan. At Houstons we have kiltmakers with decades of experience.


Houston kiltmakers are one of the few kiltmakers in Scotland who offer bespoke options. Our history spanning over 100 years and being established in the threading town of Paisley means we are particularly skilled and provide a niche in this market. If you are interested in getting a bespoke, authentic Scottish kilt you can come into the shop, contact us by telephone on  0141 889 4879 or email


How Many Tartans Are There?

There is no way of knowing specifically the first tartan ever created, given how long they have existed. However, with certain magical online tools, we are able to at least see more modern renditions, who designed it and when.

A Tartan is a design by which 2 or more colours are set to a pattern and weaved to create an accumulation of lines and boxes. Certain mills may have different coloured threads, meaning it is important that you are aware of the specific colours of yarn.

SELKIRK, SCOTLAND – Wattie Inglis, a weaver at Lochcarron Weavers, overseas the first bails of Royal Pride tartan, being produced for McCalls Highland wear on February 1, 2011 in Selkirk, Scotland. The new tartan was designed to mark the forthcoming Royal Wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton.

In the past, tartans were worn mainly by highlanders. During the 18th century when Tartan was associated with government rebellion, it was adopted by lowlanders as a means of making a statement. It began to grow within Scottish culture, with more and more tartans being designed and registered. According to the Scottish Tartan Society (STS), Scottish Tartan Authority (STA) and the Scottish Tartan World Register (STWR) there are 8165 tartans on the register, made up of legacy tartans formerly recorded by such authorities. On top of this, there are over 2400 tartans registered on the Scottish Register of Tartans since its implementation on February 5th, 2009.

Any new tartans created are registered with the Scottish Register of Tartan, where a huge catalogue of tartans can be found and the rights to be woven can be acquired from specific tartan Designers. This is useful if one day you wish for your own special weave or custom tartan to be made.