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The Plaid

The Pipers’ Plaid or Fly Plaid

The birth of modern Highland dress tailoring

The tailored plaid

Tailored plaids were not made to provide warmth, but to mimic the appearance of a full plaid without the prohibitive weight of gathered yardage.

By stitching the pleats in place, the versatile and voluminous nature of the traditional fèileadh mòr was lost. However, tailors soon developed a tailored alternative to act as a complement to the stitched kilt, should the wearer desire it as an option. Designed to be worn in seamless conjunction with the fèileadh beag, the tailored plaid was shaped and sewn to replicate the cascade of fabric from shoulder to waist that had so distinguished the traditional belted plaid of the eighteenth century.

Highland Style c 1745-1845 p150

“This primitive garment is preserved in the uniform of the Highland Regiments, which is an improvement on the simplicity of the original breacan. Being more convenient, the modern belted plaid is much worn by the present Highlanders. The difference is this, that where, formerly, the lower and upper parts of the garb were attached, they are now separated, the lower part having the folds fixed by sewing, and being often worn without the other appendages, The plaid is fastened round the body and suspended from the shoulder, being, in like manner, made by the tailor to imitate the ancient form.”

James Logan (The Scottish Gael 1831)


The Fly Plaid

The fly plaid, a simple modern version of the full plaid and easier to wear, is made from a 140cm square and with a purled fringe on each of the four sides.

The full plaid is the most showy form of plaid for full dress and the imitation of the old belted plaid. The full plaid is about four metres  long by one and a half metres wide and is generally fringed at the ends.

When the plaid was the universal garment of the Highlanders, all had a brooch or a pin; the wealthier of silver, the rest of brass, iron, wood, or horn….

“The plaid to an unprejudiced spectator must appear an incommodious and cumbersome dress; for hanging loose upon the body, it must flutter in quick motion, or require one of the hands to keep it close.”               Dr Samuel Johnson (1775)


“The Highland garb had been worn as a general and practical costume, founded in utility, and adapted to the uses of rank but following the proscription of 1746, these serviceable articles of dress and details of convenience disappeared, and hence when restoration was attempted the plaid no longer had its practical use but became decorative”   Frank Adam (1906)

Another dying craft. The traditional handcrafted purled fringe on a Fly Plaid – Ancient Hunter tartan commission. 4 sides of 140cm frayed to 15cm then hand twisted and knotted at 1cm intervals in keeping with the colours. Takes precision, focus and patience resulting in a beautiful plaid to be worn with pride.

With patience and care, the edges are frayed to about 20cm and then evenly twisted and knotted.

Kilt suit of Mackintosh clan tartan, c.1820 (H.TTA 20)

The Tailored Plaid

Kilt suit of Mackintosh clan tartan, c.1820 (H.TTA 20)

The fringes are all hand crafted. The edges of the cloth are frayed to about 20cm and then can be beautifully ‘purled’, creating an exclusive hand-twisted design or even knotted to a narrow lattice design with tassels.

These techniques are labour intensive although worth the skill and patience, creating a unique beautiful edge to the plaid and protecting the frayed edges from becoming untidy over time.

Worn over the shoulder and held in place by your choice of badge, brooch or pin, the fly plaid is an accessory designed to be imposing. The fly plaid should be worn for fully formal events like weddings, clan gatherings and graduations. This length of fabric should be in the same tartan as your kilt and to create an authentic highland look, choose a Clan Crest badge to secure your plaid. *Please note that dimensions of the fly plaid will vary.

Bespoke fringed plaids of different width and length depending on how you want to wear the plaid and your height.

The Tailored Plaid Price
Handcrafted fringe £890

Fly Plaid Price
Plain fringed 140 x 140 cm £300
Handcrafted purled fringed 140 x 140 cm £490
Plain fringed 180 x 140 cm £390
Handcrafted purled fringed 180 x 140 cm £560

Piper’s Plaid Price
Handcrafted purled fringed  4m £790