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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Strange kilt closures, take two

Following up on my last post featuring Larry Long's unusual kilt closure method, I recieved a short time after that posting a link to a kilt being offered on Ebay. (The auction is over, so I don't know how long that Ebay link may be good for).

This kilt was described by the seller only as an "Army Kilt," and no date was given as to the age. From the photographs, it was obviously an old regimental kilt, and the very interesting thing was that it had the same long belt closure method as the kilt Larry Long described to me.

Since the story Larry told me was of a man in Clan Maxwell who had his kilt made by an "old regimental kilt maker" I thought it signifigant that this was a regimental kilt. The tartan is Hunting Stewart.

According to the Scottish Tartans Authority web site, this tartan was worn by the following regiments:
Stewart Hunting – Trews worn by the Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment) First of Foot. Also worn by The Pretoria Highlanders (South Africa); Calcutta Scottish (India); Bombay Volunteer Rifles (India); Shanghai Volunteer Corps (China); Loretto School, Cadet Force, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Now, I have no way of knowing if the above kilt was made for any of these regiments or other groups listed above. But I ran into my old friend Bob Martin at the Gatlinburg Highland Games and Scottish Festival, and if anyone would know about this, he would.

Fortunately, he knew the kilt that I had seen Larry Long wearing, so he knew just what I was talking about. He had never seen another kilt like that (except for one that he said he made), and to his knowledge no regiment ever made their kilts like that.

In fact, he told me, prior to WWII regimental kilts had no fastenings at all. They were held in place by use of two kilt pins. These were not the kilt pins worn in the lower corner of the kilt apron, as we think of them today; these were long straight pins, like lady's hat pins, only made from spring steel. One was worn at the waist line, and the other worn at the top of the two inch rise. (This is why most kilts today typically have two leather straps on the right side, by the way).

After WWII, Bob indicated that they went with standard leather straps and buckles like are used today.

But he did say that a lot of soldiers had kiltmakers put on some form of closure system after the kilts were made. These were individual alterations done to the kilts, and were neither uniform nor sanctioned. Since there was no "standard" way to do it, per se, people could use anything, from buttons to ties to leather straps.

My best working theory right now is that at least one regimental kilt maker came up with this novel method for fastening the kilt, but that it never really caught on (it takes up so much more leather than the more conventional method). Maybe the same kiltmaker resposible for the kilt offered on Ebay also made the Maxwell kilt that Larry Long based his on! Who knows?

For now, it seems, it will remain a mystery!


Schultz said...

Is that pleated to the red and the yellow stripe? Wouldn't that make the pleats different lengths across the whole back?

Matthew Newsome, FSA Scot, GTS said...

Yes, it is pleated to alternate red & yellow lines, which is actually the way the Hunting Stewart tartan is typically pleated, when it is pleated to stripe. As the yellow and red lines are spaced equidistant to each other, each pleat depth is regular.

Cuidichn said...
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Anonymous said...

To add to your list of Regiments that wear the Hunting Stewart tartan:
Canadian Scottish Regiment.

I recall that particular kilt at auction, and also recently found the same kilt for sale again on a web site based in the Netherlands.

I would guess by the green binding of the top that this kilt dates from some time after WW1. Most WW1 and prior military kilts used black binding at the top.
The single long leather strap used here is certainly unique and one can only guess it's origin. It may even have happened after the kilt left military service.
Also, the use of the now common short leather strap and double tongue buckles began in the mid to late 1930s for the kilts of some Regiments. (Seaforth Highlanders for instance, two on right side only, changing to one on each side sometime in the 1950s)
The Black Watch did not start using straps and buckles (three) until the early 1950s

The long pins mentioned that were used to secure military kilts were often used one on each side at the top, rather than two on the right side.

Anonymous said...

I have kilt to the 5th Royal Highlanders with the leather strap mentiones. The kilt was worn in the Great War by an enlisted man in the Canadian Black Watch. I have several dated and undated kilts both in other rank and officer quality worn by Canadians in Highland battalions of the Great War and all examples have leather straps. Whether these were added later...I don't know.....Victor

Anonymous said...

I know this is a very old posting, but this looks like a Queen Victoria School kilt. The closure could be engineered in such a way as to be "universal" so that the kilt could be re-used by different students. Only a guess. I recognize the pleating pattern as QVS.

Dave said...

I'd second the QVS motion, our kilts were designed to be adjustable (as one got bigger around)but were never designed with belt loops or such as pictured. We did have the green binding as well and up until I left (2001) this was certainly the case. Leather straps were used to fasten the kilt though they were about 10cm long at most and attached at each side.