How to make a Kilt | Outlander costume – Part 1: Arisaid / Great Kilt

An Outlander tutorial! An Outlander great kilt tutorial or Outlander Arisaid skirt tutorial that I crafted just for you. Click here to go to part 2.

“Well, well, well, Ava Baytree.. This article seems even longer than your other ginormous tutorials!”

Guess what, this one is actually much easier 😉 ! Perhaps you are here because of Outlander, or just because you are as much into Scotland as I am. Anyway, you probably want to know how to achieve that key Scottish look. The modern small kilts these days don’t even reach that traditional look and feel of the amazingly functional great kilt.

Wearing and pleating a great kilt or an Arisaid is easy, it is warm and comfortable! The only thing that holds the tartan together is a belt. So no hardcore sewing required whatsoever! I’ll try to break down every bit that is key to these ancient garments.

Outlander Great Kilt by Baytree Costumes

Quick explanation

What is a great kilt? “the whole 9 yards” is a typical saying in English. Guess where it comes from? The traditional great kilt was a multifunctional type of clothing that the Scots are known for. If you have ever been to Scotland or know something about it, you probably know Scotland sometimes means four seasons a day. Because of that, the Scots needed something practical for travelling through the harsh Highlands. A great kilt could not only be used as a warm type of garment, but also as an overthrow, a uniform, a sleeping bag or a garment to share and to keep your companions or yer lass warm in.

The 9 yards of fabric are not literally 9 yards in length for the great kilt, because in the Outlander 18th century they could only spin 30 inches wide fabric. They spun 9 yards of tartan in total from the wool of their own sheep in which the process of shearing and spinning enough wool could take up to one year for one great kilt. Then they cut the 9 yards in half to 4 ½ yards. These two pieces were then sewn together to extend the width. That gives 4 ½ yards to pleat and fold into a great kilt.

What is an Arisaid? As I will show you later, once you pleat a great kilt and girdle it, when you stand up it will first fall into a large skirt. This skirt is what shaped the skirt for my Outlander inspired costume. When you fold the front flaps open and tuck them in at the back, you have revealed the kilt below the layers. An Arisaid is kind of like an untucked and unfolded great kilt. A feminine kilt. But there are different ways to put them on as I will show you later.

Necessities

Now, how does this all come together? “Making” an Arisaid or great kilt is not that difficult at all.

Traditional for the Arisaid: You start off with 4 ½ yards (≈ 4 meters) and 30 inches wide fabric if you want to remain traditional. Please note: if you do the 30 inches in width, note that you won’t be able to get and the Arisaid and the great kilt in one. You will only be able to get the long Arisaid skirt.

Traditional for the great kilt: 4 ½ yards long and 60 inches wide tartan is traditional for a Highland great kilt. A great kilt is automatically a great kilt and an (¾ long) Arisaid in one.

What I did: Now, I used 3 ½ meter (= 3,8 yards) long and 150 cm (≈ 60 inches) wide fabric since there was no more left where I got mine from. Now I worried there, a lot. I was afraid it wouldn’t look the same after pleating because it was not the whole 4 ½ yards. It turns out it doesn’t really matter how long the fabric is, you’ll just have less pleats on the back.

If you don’t care about a lot of pleats, 3 to 3 ½ yards would be my absolute minimum. If you want to go full pleat just remember that that is not only pretty, but it does also increase visual bottom mass the most in the traditional 18th century way ;). Of course all of this also depends on your size! For size recommendations, check out this handy site.

So from here on, I can only tutorial (is that a verb?) my way of the great kilt and Arisaid in one.
If you are interested in that, please tag along!

The fabric

Outlander Fabric Sample

I tried getting the pattern of my fabric as close to the Outlander Mackenzie pattern as possible. Besides the colour, it worked out really well! Remember traditional cloth is always modest in colour since they (especially the less wealthier Scottish clans) coloured their fabric threads with natural dull colour products.

For the fabric types, I got a very flexible non-stretch polyester fabric. It is quite thin, but it is not shiny like bed sheet fabric can be. I know this sounds non-kilt fabric-y, and yes: it is not a fabric for a true kilt, but it was the pattern that made me get it.

Traditional fabric is wool, but I thought that that would not only be more expensive, also too hot to wear in hot and steamy conventions (yes yes) and perhaps too heavy as well. I think you can use a lot of woollen and cotton blends, but polyester can work fine as well if it is not shiny and if it pleats nicely.

Tutorial – Pleating and Folding the great kilt and the Arisaid in one

“To make” does not really apply. Now that you have your fabric, you can start the process immediately without any sewing or tailoring. It would be wise to zigzag the edges to prevent fraying, but that is all you need to do with the sewing machine. I can break down the pleating and folding technique in words, but it is much more informative to watch it unfold (see what I did there) yourself. I really suggest you watch this video clip! It is so inspiring.

If you want to see more, I also used this, this and this video for my research. These youtube videos were the ones that brought me the most information in a humorous and playful way.

To sum up the dressing process:

How_to Wear a Great Kilt

  • Step 1: Lay the fabric flat out on the ground
  • Step 2: Take one arm length (for me it was a bit less, like minus the hand) on one side and start pleating from there until you have got the same length left on the other side. Once you have pleated your kilt a few times, you’ll know exactly how long you need those parts to be. The pleats were 2 pattern blocks (columns) wide for me. You just grab 2 blocks away from you and pull until it lies half over your last pleat (that is how I do it and there are so many (pleat) variations!)

Check this handy page out for more pleating inspiration.

Note: you only have to gently pleat the bottom half of your fabric since you’ll lie on the bottom half. Don’t mind the fabric pleats of the top laying off.

  • Step 3: As you might have seen in the recommended youtube videos, you now lay on the fabric yourself with your buttocks on the pleats. Mind that the fabric you lay on should stop at kilt height just above your knees. That is for when you buckle it and stand up, you’ll have a skirt length under the folds. My experience is that it will always fall a bit longer than you expect so keep that in mind!
  • Step 4: When you lie flat, fold the right and left sides over yourself one after the other. This means folding yourself in the fabric. Now take your belt and shove it right under the fabric at the height of your middle (you can also do this before you lay on the fabric). Buckle the belt and make sure it is middle height and quite tight.
  • Step 5: The most exciting part: STAND UP! If done right, it will fall into one great skirt. An Arisaid skirt! My skirt doesn’t fall quite Outlandish long, but I think with a 60 inch width you should get it as far as your ankles when you have a kilt below it.
  • For the great kilt: you can take the two layers that fall in the front and tuck it in the back. This will reveal the kilt. More variations I shall discuss later in a very exciting paragraph!

Now that you know how to pleat and fold your Arisaid and by that your great kilt, you might have gotten an idea of how many different styles you can transform your cloth into. I’ll take you through a few of my favourites which we’ve also seen in Outlander. And yes, this is my 3,8 yard kilt. Let’s see my Outlander Mackenzie inspired kilt in action!

Warning: these are all personal interpretations and they are not based on precisely true and  the exact traditional ways to wear the kilt nor are they truly historical. They used to wear it all types of ways. These just seemed logic as well as funny to me. Oh and before I forget: I used my Semi-Corset just to wear something “traditional” with my Arisaid and a blue shirt for my male kilt.

A Man’s Great Kilt 
–beware of Outlander jokes

IMG_72244

Dress code: formal. This is how you would wear your kilt when you get an invitation from your Leird to come see him at the castle. You are pending on whether to break a vow or not.. It will decide your destiny.

Outlander Great KiltDress code: casual. Your brother asked you to help him in the stables. He then also persuades you to meet up with some càirdean in the village. Let me just get my kilt on!

Kilt_Cape

The Kilt Cape

Dress code: travel ready. You’ve been asked to join a mission lead by a rather two sided guy. Anyway, the weather has been a bit off lately so you’ve decided to spend a bit more time on your kilt’s functionality.

Dress code: Low slung and Dusty. This one is reserved for Jamie Fraser. That is all that needs to be said.

Dougal Front

Dress code: Dougal. Sharp – ornamental – fierce. No further remarks.

A Woman’s Arisaid 
–beware of Outlander jokes

Arisaid Front 1

 

 Dress code: Female formal. This is how you would properly wear your Arisaid around the higher folks and in great hall meetings with the Leird in presence.

Dress code: Formal chique. Drapery is what it is all about. Scottish.. with a French twist. Je suis prest!

Arisaid with pockets!

  Traditional_Arisaid2 Height_Arisaid

Dress code: Grocery casual. “Let’s do our groceries at Inverness market. For the fresh air. No need to fuss with yer Arisaid lass, yer wit is all ye need! Ye ken?” Said she.

The back of the casual Arisaid type really reminds me of a little hobbit!

How_to wear the Arisaid

Dress code: Warm and cosy. A days ride to craigh na dun from Cocknammon Rock. A lass should be kept warm for such a long journey. Protection from the weather is key. The cloth should be immediately available to the lass as a blanket for when it starts to rain.

Dress code: Laoghaire. Nothing too outrageous, nothing too special. Just your go-to-outfit for  the classical Castle Leoch girl. Isn’t she a duine farranach?

Dress code: Voyager. The cold Highland weather has set in and your group is preparing for a late night mission. Or, you are running away in the middle of the night with yer Scottish lad!

The Wrapper

Dress code: The wrapper. Reserved for Claire. See how she rocks the 9 yards of tartan in this photo.

Please leave a like if you were inspired! Subscribe if you want to follow my Outlander project. Comment down below if you have made an Outlander costume or are going to make one, I would love to know! ❤

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17 thoughts on “How to make a Kilt | Outlander costume – Part 1: Arisaid / Great Kilt

  1. Lisa Crowe says:

    really enjoyed this post! working on our kilts for haloween, and any other time i can get my hubby to wear his kilt around the house! hoping it comes out as good as these photos! thanks for sharing..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Baytree Costumes says:

      Hi Lisa! Thank you so much for your kind words. That is so awesome you’re making kilts for halloween – they are not that hard to make yet that Scottish feel is amazing! Not to forget they look very sexy ;). You could imagine yourself walking through the highlands just like that!
      ~ Ava

      Like

  2. Alicia says:

    Hey girl! Just wanted to thank you for making this post. I’ve been working on an Outlander-inspired costume for the Renaissance Faire and I followed this blog to a tee, and I’m so happy with how my Arisaid turned out! I’ve been trying to figure out how you wrapped the kilt Claire-style in that last photo. I’ve been playing with my own trying to mimic that look and I just can’t seem to get it right!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Baytree Costumes says:

      Hey Alicia!!
      Thank you so much for your lovely comment, it makes me so happy reading that you find this post so helpful. Ahaa the wrapper! Now that I look at it I am not really sure how I managed to wrap those yards like that.. It is an insane wrap after all! I quickly grabbed my tartan and tried the look out once more. And gosh re-creating it was a bit harder than expected. But I think I got it! Start by folding the great kilt / Arisaid as you normally would, then take the back section that falls over the pleats and drape this over your shoulders. Part the front sections by pushing them to the back, so that the front is now open. Now you kind of have the “warm and cosy” https://baytreecostumes.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/how_to-wear-the-arisaid.jpg photo look. Start slowly pulling the rest of the dress up from under the belt on the back so that the drapery over your shoulder gets longer and longer until you have reached the wrapper length on the back and front. Tuck the two points that now fall in the front under the belt, folding them one over the other. If you are lucky, the fabric below the belt will fall into this lovely sideways falling fabric waterfall (holey crap those words). I remember that even though the look looks amazing, my version was really uncomfortable since your hands can’t really go anywhere under the pressure of all this tucked fabric (notice the tactic posture 😉 ). Haha I hope it works for you and that this helped!
      Have a lovely lovely day,
      ~Ava

      Like

  3. Sean McGuire says:

    This is so wonderful, and a HUGE help! I’m making Bonnie Prince Charlie’s tartan outfit from season 2 episodes 9 & 10 and this is INCREDIBLY helpful. His kilt looks VERY similar to your “casual” mens great kilt style; the front isn’t bulky with fabric under his waistcoat, but is much more smooth and flat.

    However, the back (the very last image in the link below*) has the pleats visible. If the extra fabric isn’t visible in the back, and it’s obviously not bulky in the front with it… where’d it go?!

    There’s no photo of your “casual” great kilt, so I don’t know if you arranged it for the pleats to be visible or not. If they WERE visible, I’d love to know how you arranged it to make the rest of the fabric disappear! I can’t see any hanging down like you can see in some other styles.

    Please let me know if you have any thoughts! Thanks again for making such an awesome and thorough post!

    * http://www.frockflicks.com/outlander-costume-recap-season-2-episode-10/

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nichol Miller says:

    Finally got up the courage to work on my Claire interpretation, and your blog series on your adventures in both researching and making your costume have inspired me greatly! I also want to thank you for all your research and efforts and documentation because you have saved me a lot of time! I can’t wait to get started shopping for fabric!

    Liked by 1 person

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