Scottish Formal Attire



Scottish evening dress traces its roots back to the seventeenth century and is as diverse as Anglo-American black tie, if not more so.  Consequently, this page is only intended to serve as an introduction to the topic.  It does so by repeating the descriptions in the Wikipedia "Highland Dress" article (which has improved considerably since the previous edition of the Guide) and enhancing them with some additional clarification and much-needed illustrations.

For in-depth explanations of the various components of highland dress the Guide highly recommends Kinloch Anderson’s web site. They are a sixth-generation family company based in Edinburgh and are official tailors and kiltmakers to the Royal Family which makes them a much more reliable source of etiquette than mainstream rental shops.  Scotweb is another excellent visual resource and most images here are taken from their site.


Highland Dress: Black-Tie Equivalent

According to Wikipedia, Scottish Highland dress is often worn to black and white tie occasions, especially at Scottish reels and céilidhs (traditional social dances).  Customarily, the black-tie equivalent consists of the following:



black barathea kilt jacket:
    · Argyll, Braemar jacket (least formal, see note following)
    · Prince Charlie jacket (the most popular)

    · regulation doublet

alternatively, a black mess jacket

there is some contention about whether the Montrose doublet or Sheriffmuir doublet are too formal for black tie; they should be worn with the accompaniments described for white-tie equivalents.




waist covering

matching waistcoat, low cut and fastened with three Celtic buttons

Wikipedia also states that the waistcoat can be tartan (as shown in the Lowland Dress photo below) but that option seems to apply only to the Argyll jacket or Sheriffmuir doublet



white shirt with shirt studs, French or barrel cuffs, and a turndown collar (wing collars are reserved for white tie in most locales)



black bow tie


evening dress brogues:

· buckle brogues (tongue-less brogues closed with a strap and decorated with a buckle on the toe of the shoe) are most formal

· ghillie brogues (tongue-less brogues with long laces that wrap around the lower leg and tie above the ankle) are less formal

dress kilt hose (knee-length wool socks):

· diced pattern (broad criss-crossing diagonal stripes of two different colors) or tartan patterns (to match kilt) are most formal; note that red diced patterns are for members of the military

· solid-color hose are less formal; note that white and off-white hose are often seen but are deplored by some



silk flashes (a pair of decorative pointed vertical strips of fabric attached to elastic sock garters) or silk garter ties (traditional sock garters made from fabric that ties around the calf)

dress sporran (decorative pouch worn at the front of the kilt) with silver chain

black, silver-mounted sgian dubh (a small ornamental knife tucked into the kilt hose)

optional dirk (an ornamental cut-down sword)



Highland bonnet with crest badge (only suitable out of doors)


Regarding the Braemar jacket, reports that "Braemar" is actually just a style of cuff (specifically, a three-button patch cuff) that can be applied to any kilt jacket.  They are typically seen on Prince Charlie jackets but are sometimes seen on Argyll jackets thus leading some makers to refer to the latter as Braemar jackets.  Even more confusing, “Argyll” refers to both a style of jacket and a style of cuff (specifically, a gauntlet cuff).  While the jacket and eponymous cuff are usually matched together it is nonetheless possible to have an Argyll jacket with Braemar cuffs or a Prince Charlie jacket with Argyll cuffs.



Highland Dress: White-Tie Equivalent

The more elaborate forms of Highland Dress are reserved for white-tie occasions although it is actually more common to see Highland Dress black-tie equivalents at these occasions.



formal kilt doublet in barathea or velvet:
    ·  regulation doublet
    · Montrose doublet

    · Sheriffmuir doublet

    · Kenmore doublet

all are suitable in a variety of colors




waist covering

waistcoat in white marcella, tartan (to match the kilt), or the same material as the (regulation or Sherrifmuir) doublet

no waistcoat is worn with the Kenmore doublet (nor, presumably with the Montrose doublet as it is double-breasted); instead, Kinloch Anderson says these two doublets are usually worn with a belt

Kinloch Anderson says that the Sheriffmuir should be paired with a waistcoat that closes with seven Celtic buttons



white stiff-front shirt with wing collar and white, gold, or silver studs and cufflinks for the regulation doublet

white formal shirt and optional lace cuffs for the Montrose, Sheriffmuir, and Kenmore doublets



white lace jabot (a cascade of lace or ruffles on the breast of a garment)

with the regulation doublet a black silk or white marcella bow tie may be worn in place of the jabot (highland wear often includes a black bow tie even at white tie events)



black buckle brogues

diced or tartan kilt hose



studs and links as noted under "shirt" for regulation doublet

formal kilt pin

silk garter flashes or garter ties

silver-mounted sporran in fur, sealskin, or hair with a silver chain belt

black, silver-mounted, and jeweled sgian dubh

optional fly plaid or short belted plaid (a square piece of cloth in the same tartan as the kilt attached to the left shoulder of the jacket with a decorative broach)
optional dirk



Highland bonnet with crest badge (only suitable out of doors)

Lowland Dress

According to Wikipedia the traditional Lowland equivalent of black tie is tartan trews (tight-fitting trousers worn as an alternative to the kilt) combined with a standard dinner jacket or a Prince Charlie jacket.  Trews are often worn in summer and in warm climes.

Traditional white-tie Lowland dress is a variant of standard white tie that substitutes tartan trews for the usual full-dress trousers and may include a suitable kilt jacket or doublet instead of the tailcoat.