Phillabeg "Little Kilt"

The phillabeg “little kilt” (a.k.a. phille-bheagh or feilidh-beag), 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 you maximum freedom of movement. And they look cool!

What is a Phillabeg?

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. This is then loosely bunched or pleated, and held at the waist with a belt. Your phillabeg is worn to about the middle of the knee, just like any other kilt. A few inches of tartan flapping over the belt makes a phillabeg distinctive. 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!).

Phillabeg History

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. The actual kilt is in the possession of the Scottish Tartan Society.

Historic Fact or Fiction?

You have probably 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 working Scotsmen wouldn’t consider the thought of discarding their kilts, even to save their lives. Then someone came up with a great idea — just cut off the portion of their great kilt above the belt! This freed 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. While a great story with probably plenty of truth to it,  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. So for a great kilt, you wove 8 or 9 yards of tartan, cut it in half, and then stitched them back together. This made a versatile piece of clothing about 50″ wide and 4- 4 1/2 yds long. But picture 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 wear it? For the lone bachelor, the widower, or the dirt-poor highlander, it just made sense that the phillabeg would be a common choice. Being the least expensive kilt we sell, it’s a good choice for you too.

Sizing

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. 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.

Pleats

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.

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