June 14, 2015

Man and skirt

Can you think of a more awkward pairing of words in a blog title? 
If you have any inclination to dress the average bloke in a non-bifurcated garment, you had better avoid the s-word. 
In association, skirts are for women and girls. And even though there's no problem with women wearing trousers in this day and age, men willing to try out skirts are very few and far between. Especially if you keep talking about skirts...

Every now and then, some fashion designer has a go at the man-skirt. Vivianne Westwood and Jean-Paul Gaultier were the best-known trailblazers here but they weren't alone (this article on Modemuze, in English this time, tells more on that topic). This year (in the collections for A/W 2015/2016 to be precise) it's Givenchy and Dries van Noten who try it (images from vogue.co.uk).




And are they even really trying? Both collections exclusively layer their "skirts" over trousers. Givenchy's narrow buttoned skirts end up looking more like insanely long and fitting shirt tails and Van Noten's wrap looks aren't trying much harder. Surely a true skirt is a garment in its own right and negates the need for trousers? 

There were and are, of course, many skirt-like or skirted garments for men in the traditional costume of countries all over the world. Garments which have long traditions and are often only worn in just that way by men (even when the garments for men and women are basically similar in shape, there will be clearly defined differences. For example in the proportions and belting of kimono's for men and women or the material, colour and style of wrapping of sarongs). You'd have to be a very stupid tourist to call items like that skirts or dresses...
For me, in the Netherlands, the best known and geographically closest example of such a garment is the kilt. And I would guess that might be the best-known example for most of you. 


The kilt is an unquestionably masculine garment with many devotees, not just in Scotland. Any quick google search will give you lots of pictures and lots of instructions for sewing a kilt (for general information on the subject, this site is a great starting point). 
If you've seen the episode in the last season of Great British Sewing Bee in which they had to make kilts, you may remember how the very nature of the kilt (made, as it is, from an uncut piece of, usually tartan, cloth) makes it nearly impossible to a woman's body. In fact, although you can buy lots of kilt-inspired women's skirts they are never constructed like true kilts. 

I think we all know kilts are not skirts. This traditional Scottish garment is, at least in common romantic fantasy, imbued with the raw masculine power of Europe's last noble savages: The Highlanders. 
And it is interesting to see how versatile it can be. It can be worn in a very civilized way by male members of the British royal family to show their connection with Scotland but is equally at home as a symbol of non-conformism in the punk scene...
But of course, the real home of the kilt is in Scotland. I've spent enough time there to know that kilts are no longer every-day wear for the vast majority of men. However, lots of real Scots do still own a kilt and wear it for special occasions. And, based on what I've seen, they get to wear them enough to know how to move in such a garment.

Last year, when E and I were on holiday in Scotland, I insisted he would at least try on a kilt. Of course, I knew there's a vast difference between a real made-to-measure 100% wool kilt and the kilt-derived items sold to tourists. 
But E had never tried anything of the sort. And he never gets cold and easily feels overheated. So, lots of wool didn't sound appealing to him.
Towards the end of our time in Scotland, he relented and tried on a better quality tourist version in Edinburgh. That taught us a few things: 1. A waistband at the natural waist really doesn't suit him 2. You really can't just get a kilt. The accessories, sporran, long socks, are an essential part of the look 3. Proportions vary, in men too. This is why proper kilts are made-to-measure and we couldn't get this one to sit right on E 4. E is really not used to the dynamics of a vaguely skirt-like garment.

And yet, he came to the conclusion that it might be nice to have a casual kilt-inspired garment in a light fabric. Just something to wear at home in summer instead of bermuda length shorts. 
And that's what I've made for him this weekend.



I started out by drafting a normal straight skirt sloper and made a toile of that to determine the waistline for the eh... kilt-inspired garment. 
Fitting it was kind funny. E immediately complained about the restrictive nature of the straight skirt shape. In fact, he said it was too tight at the lower hip. It wasn't. He's just used to being able to do things like squatting down or standing with his legs further apart than hip width ;)

Based on the sloper and the result of the fitting, I made a very simple garment, meeting his requirements and loosely inspired on the kilt. 
The rise is much lower than on the waist-high traditional kilts (not a unique feature, there are modern kilt makers who go for a fit like that and so do makers of casual kilt-like garments). To suit E's body shape, I even made to rise higher at the back than at the front. 
The main thing that really makes this not a kilt is that it doesn't have pleats. At all. It wraps pretty much like a kilt, with an overlap of most of the entire front but the room for movement comes from a modest A-line shape. All I did was take the slight curve from the "waist"line down and draw lengthen it in a straight line. Of course this won't make the thing move like a real kilt but it did deal with all of the issues E had with the sloper while still giving a masculine silhouette. 

For the closure, I used three buttons: one on the edge of underlying part of the wrap and two which meet the edge of the overlapping part. 
And to reinforce the kilt effect, I cut, folded at sewed the fabric on the edge of the overlapping front part to show off the selvedge (of course I know the frayed edge a real kilt would have there is not the selvedge but a purpose-made bit of frayed fabric but this cotton-linen material can't really be frayed in such an appealing way and the selvedge does sort-of look the part). 

All in all, we are both happy with the result. I don't expect E will ever wear this outside but he was OK with me taking pictures and blogging about it. As long as I don't call it a skirt ;)
I kind of want to make him a more sophisticated version, maybe with pleats. And/or pockets. Just in case he might ever consider wearing a kilt-inspired garment out of the comfort of our own home...


1 comment:

  1. I love the bravery of E! Not only that he wears the skirt at home, but that he allows it to be put on your blog! If you didn't know in Fiji they wear the Sulu - both men and women and in my many travels there I always remember the more uniform ones the police wear. It makes sense for men and the heat really.

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