The kilt is seen as an item of traditional Scottish Highland dress, although the origin of that tradition is more recent than is commonly believed. It was only with the Romantic Revival of the 19th century that the kilt became irreversibly associated with Highlanders, largely because of non-Highlanders reinterpreting their traditions. Today most Scotsmen see kilts as formal dress. They are often worn at weddings or other formal occasions, while there are still a few people who wear them daily. Kilts are also used for parades by groups like the Boy Scouts, and in many places kilts are seen in force at Highland games and Pipe band championships as well as being used for Scottish country dances and ceilidhs. The army still continues to have kilts as dress uniform, though they are no longer used in combat.
The Garment's name comes from the Scots word kilt meaning to tuck up the clothes around the body.
The kilt first appeared as the great kilt, the breacan or belted plaid, during the 16th century, and is Gaelic in origin. The great kilt was a full-length garment whose upper half could be worn as a cloak draped over the shoulder, or brought up over the head.
A version of the filleadh beag (philibeg), or small kilt (also known as the walking kilt), similar to the modern kilt was invented by an English Quaker from Lancashire named Thomas Rawlinson some time in the 1720s. He felt that the belted plaid was "cumbrous and unwieldy", and his solution was to separate the skirt and convert it into a distinct garment with pleats already sewn, which he himself began wearing.
His associate, Iain MacDonnell, chief of the MacDonnells of Inverness, also began wearing it, and when clansmen employed in logging, charcoal manufacture and iron smelting saw their chief wearing the new apparel, they soon followed suit.
From there its use spread "in the shortest space" amongst the Highlanders, and even amongst some of the Northern Lowlanders. It has been suggested there is evidence that the philibeg with unsewn pleats was worn from the 1690s.
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