What's a Phillabeg?
The phillabeg (a.k.a. phille-bheagh, feilidh-beag, or "little kilt"), with Cheater Pleats™ and straps and buckles added, is my favorite kilt. I wear them all summer long to pretty much every event we attend. They are light and comfortable, and allow maximum freedom of movement. And they look cool!
Modern, tailored kilts are often referred to incorrectly as "little kilts". The little kilt, or phillabeg, or feilidh-beag, is actually an earlier predecessor of today's modern kilt. Unlike a modern kilt, it is not a tailored garment. It is simply a length of tartan about 25" wide and 4-6 yds long, loosely bunched or pleated, and held at the waist with a belt. It is worn to about the middle of the knee, just like any other kilt. One of the things that makes a phillabeg distinctive, is that it has a few inches of tartan flapping over the belt. This flap-over helps keep the belt in place — without it, the kilt might slip loose from the belt, leaving you standing in your skivvies (or worse!).
The phillabeg can be traced historically back to at least the late 1600's. The first evidence of any pleats being stitched down in the modern fashion doesn't appear until 1792 (actual kilt in the possession of the Scottish Tartan Society).
You have probably all heard the story of the Englishman, Thomas Rawlinson, who opened a factory in the highlands early in the 1700's. It was very quickly discovered that wearing a Great Kilt in a factory was a bad idea, as they tended to get caught in the machinery and drag their unfortunate wearer in with them. Even still, the proud Scotsmen would not consider the thought of discarding their kilts, even to save their lives. Then someone came up with a great idea — they would just cut off the portion of their greatkilt above the belt, freeing them of their greatest hazard, while still allowing them to wear the whole kilt outside of work. This eventually evolved into today's kilt and fly-plaid. This is a great story, and probably has plenty of truth to it, but the fact is the phillabeg was being worn prior to the events of this story.
More likely it was a simple convenience or economic consideration. The Great Kilt was actually constructed of two separate pieces of tartan stitched together lengthwise. Looms of the day were only capable of weaving fabric up to 28" wide, closer to 25" probably being more common. So for a greatkilt, you wove 8 or 9 yards of tartan, cut it into a couple of 4- 4 1/2 yd lengths, then stitched them together into a single piece about 50" wide and 4- 4 1/2 yds long. This became a very versatile piece of clothing - it could also be your blanket or tent when needed. But picture for a moment your stereotypical bachelor - is he really going to go through all that trouble when he could just grab a chunk of single-width tartan off the loom and just wear it? For the lone bachelor, the widower, or the dirt-poor highlander, it just makes sense that the phillabeg would be a common choice. Being the least expensive kilt we sell, it's a good choice for you too.
A 4 yard kilt will fit up to about a 34 inch waist, a 5 yard kilt will fit up to about a 44 inch waist, and a 6 yard kilt will fit up to about a 50 inch waist. If you are larger than this please contact us for pricing on larger kilts. Also, If your waist size is close to one of these limits, consider the next size larger if you want deeper pleats or pleats closer together. For example:
If you have a 34 inch waist, a 4yd greatkilt will have pleats 1.5 - 2 inches wide and 3-4 inches deep. A 5yd greatkilt will have pleats approximately 1 inch wide and 3-4 inches deep or 1.5 - 2 inches wide and 6-8 inches deep. In this example a 6yd kilt would be overkill with a 34 inch waist, but it would have pleats about 1 inch wide and 6-8 inches deep.
Pleating instructions are included with each kilt. Traditionally these kilts are pleated each time you wear them. We ask for size information to be sure that your kilt will fit you correctly, but we do not pleat the kilt for you unless you also select Cheater Pleats™ (highly recommended) as an additional option