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  1. #1
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    Kilting outside the box for a piper

    Hey guys, I'm new around here and hoping for opinions on something, and ideas if you've got them. Sorry for laying out my life story.

    I'm a bagpiper who has/gets to kilt up for the upcoming St Patrick's parade in my town and a fund raiser a week before, but I'm in a bit of a weird spot.

    I'm a bagpiper, so used to the garb, but all my kilts/uniforms in the past have been owned by my pipe bands. When I moved a year or so ago, I was forced to leave behind everything short of my lucky tartan boxers. I don't have so much as a set of ghillie brogues to call my own. Normally, there is an easy and awesome solution right? Shopping trip!

    Here's where things get complicated. Just after I moved, I broke my foot and needed a few surgeries and time in a chair then scooter to recover and gained almost 100 lbs. Well I'm mostly recuperated, and I'm back down 50 lbs, but that leaves another 50 to go. My waist size is 16 inches larger than it used to be, but I have no reason to think I'll stay this way for long. I'm an extremely active person, which is how my foot got screwed up in the first place. Anyway, any kilt I buy at this size will either be trash or an attempted resell in two months. since I'm 6'4" and sporting a 50' waist right now, I don't hold out high hopes for the resale market.

    So now, I'm kiltless and buying seems like a waste because of my waste (see what I did there?) My next thought was a hire. I started looking around and a full pipers dress basically isn't something they rent, so I figure "ok, day dress it is." Well, if I want day dress that isn't homely, we're talking $150-200 USD. Since I have to rent twice, now it's $400. So for good day dress now I'm spending $500-800 (buying) and selling/donating everything fitted (kilt, vest, belt) after the fact, or $400 (renting) and the whole shebang goes back after March. It's also a personal complaint, but hire shops drastically limit your choice of tartan, which isn't the end of the world, but is annoying and disappointing.

    I'm the only piper (I sort of got roped into this) so I can do whatever I please without worrying about matching/tradition. So in a moment of madness I think to myself "GREAT KILT!" Waist size doesn't matter, so at least I'll walk away with something that will size down after parting with $500-800, and the things definitely stand out. For me a piper is about something dramatic, not about wearing the same utilikilt (no judgement) as everyone else at the parade.

    So finally, my question: Am I nuts? and as a correlate, what should I be doing instead?

    To my mind, the pros of a great kilt are:

    - The whole size/weight thing. A GK shrinks with me after the fact
    - I can do my preferred tartan
    - Where I'm doing the parade is going to be balls-out cold in March. That helps sell the GK
    - I've always sort of wanted one of the things for fun, maybe this is the universe telling me something
    - I can still easily get one in time (without having to rush the kilt maker)

    Cons are:

    - Definitely not traditional piper wear
    - There is a major perception now that they are basically period costumes. I've never totally agreed, but I know that is a common perception.
    - Even though I'd walk away with something, it still is technically more expensive than a hire

    Some things to know:
    full military garb is off the table, so the only traditional piper gear that is in contention is the summer stuff (vest, kilt, hat), I don't want to do the thing where I make my own GK at Joanne's Fabrics and Crafts. I'll do a GK, but I want the wool swish if I'm going that far outside the box. I don't mind being a little weird. Please by all means provide links or names of places I should be checking.

    If there is any info that would help, I'll try to answer questions quickly.

    Also, I've reached out to a lot of retailers, some of whom are sponsors here. By all means, if we haven't talked weigh in, but I'm sort of excited to get the average kilt enthusiast's (as though there were such a thing) opinion.

    Thanks in advance for the help! I was starting to run out of resources and I'm hoping you guys can save my bacon!

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  3. #2
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    Just a couple of thoughts to put into your mix.

    One of the great things about a well made kilt is that it can always be made smaller. At first you can move the straps and buckles.
    After that you can ask the original maker to take some pleats out and perhaps re-shape the aprons.

    This way you are guaranteed to get exactly the kilt you want, in the Tartan you want.

    Yea, OK, having the straps and buckles moved will cost you a nominal alteration fee.
    And when you are ready, having a kilt re-made will cost almost as much as the original labor to make one in the first place. But - you already have the fabric so you save about half the cost right there.

    And don't really worry about your one piping gig. You are not going to be part of a band so don't need a uniform. You can wear almost anything you want. Most solo pipers opt for a day wear outfit so you are still going to be pretty normal looking. Just not like a pipe band where everyone else missed the bus.
    Steve Ashton
    www.freedomkilts.com
    Skype (webcam enabled) thewizardofbc
    I wear the kilt because:
    Swish + Swagger = Swoon.

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  5. #3
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    For me a great kilt wouldn't really work, were it me I would look on www.eBay.co.uk you can get a lot of the kit needed at bargain prices. For example I have several Argyll jackets that I purchased on eBay for $40.00, I have got a few kilts for $50.00 a daywear sporran for $10.00 and hose for $4.00 If I were to wear an outfit made up of those items I would have spent $104.00 total.

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  7. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Wizard of BC View Post
    One of the great things about a well made kilt is that it can always be made smaller. At first you can move the straps and buckles.
    After that you can ask the original maker to take some pleats out and perhaps re-shape the aprons.
    Interesting. I'd spoken with a few makers and it had been indicated to me that once you are taking out more than a couple of pleats you are basically talking about the same amount of labor as it was to make the kilt in the first place because of the amount that has to be rebuilt, hence their recommendation that I try to sell afterward. It looks as though you charge about $270ish US for labor on a custom kilt. If I were to send you a well made kilt, would that price be similar to what it would cost to "rebuild," it 10" or so smaller 6 months from now?

  8. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by McMurdo View Post
    For me a great kilt wouldn't really work, were it me I would look on www.eBay.co.uk you can get a lot of the kit needed at bargain prices. For example I have several Argyll jackets that I purchased on eBay for $40.00, I have got a few kilts for $50.00 a daywear sporran for $10.00 and hose for $4.00 If I were to wear an outfit made up of those items I would have spent $104.00 total.
    Fair enough, I'd planned on grabbing the accouterments from various online sources, the issue is jackets that aren't made to stretch for a piper are sort of a nightmare IMHO, so probably not something I'd trust ebay with. I was figuring just a vest if I did that. That, and off the rack sizes can get a little chaotic at my height/weight. But I will take another look. Thanks for the input.

  9. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhaco View Post
    Interesting. I'd spoken with a few makers and it had been indicated to me that once you are taking out more than a couple of pleats you are basically talking about the same amount of labor as it was to make the kilt in the first place because of the amount that has to be rebuilt, hence their recommendation that I try to sell afterward. It looks as though you charge about $270ish US for labor on a custom kilt. If I were to send you a well made kilt, would that price be similar to what it would cost to "rebuild," it 10" or so smaller 6 months from now?
    I have to preface my reply with - It all depends on the kilt. Some kilts cannot be re-made easily. Some take more time and effort to correct the original mistakes than it did to make them in the first place. And some are simply not worth the effort.
    It will depend on the original maker.

    With that said, yes, the labor to re-build a kilt is a bit more than the labor to make it from scratch. You must take it apart and that is straight man-hours.

    But, if you invested in premium fabric and had the kilt made by a kiltmaker who did not skimp in the internal construction elements it can be re-made and altered many times over its life.

    Now the bad news. On 1 Dec this last year I closed my Highland wear retail shop. I am still making the same custom kilts I am known for but it seems that I am busier now than I was this same time last year. I cannot commit to taking on another job right now.
    Steve Ashton
    www.freedomkilts.com
    Skype (webcam enabled) thewizardofbc
    I wear the kilt because:
    Swish + Swagger = Swoon.

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  11. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Wizard of BC View Post
    I have to preface my reply with - It all depends on the kilt. Some kilts cannot be re-made easily. Some take more time and effort to correct the original mistakes than it did to make them in the first place. And some are simply not worth the effort.
    It will depend on the original maker.

    With that said, yes, the labor to re-build a kilt is a bit more than the labor to make it from scratch. You must take it apart and that is straight man-hours.

    But, if you invested in premium fabric and had the kilt made by a kiltmaker who did not skimp in the internal construction elements it can be re-made and altered many times over its life.

    Now the bad news. On 1 Dec this last year I closed my Highland wear retail shop. I am still making the same custom kilts I am known for but it seems that I am busier now than I was this same time last year. I cannot commit to taking on another job right now.
    The help is much appreciated anyway. Thanks!

  12. #8
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    As a stopgap measure, how about a SportKilt that has a Velcro closing around the waistband?

    You can close it tighter around you as you continue to lose weight, and you wonít have dropped all of your cash on an eight-yard wool kilt.

    As a fellow tall and bit-too-round kilt wearer, Iíve thought about this myself.
    Descended from Patiences of Avoch | McColls of Glasgow
    Member, Clan Mackenzie Society of the Americas | Clan Donald USA

    "We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul." (Heb. 6:19)

  13. #9
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by revdpatience View Post
    As a stopgap measure, how about a SportKilt that has a Velcro closing around the waistband?

    You can close it tighter around you as you continue to lose weight, and you wonít have dropped all of your cash on an eight-yard wool kilt.

    As a fellow tall and bit-too-round kilt wearer, Iíve thought about this myself.
    That is a great idea, and one that a couple makers recommended, but I'm honestly losing an inch or two a month, so even with the velcro the thing would just be a two month rental haha

    I think I will either do this or get an ex hire off Ebay as a stop gap. Thanks for the input.

  14. #10
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    Thanks so much everyone. Ultimately I've gone with piecemealling something together out of cheaper (but still reasonable) components off of Ebay, and a couple of maker's with budget options.

    I'd still love to hear thoughts. Piper in a GK?

    For me it's whimsical and attention grabbing, which suits me just fine, and IMHO suits the instrument, but I definitely get the opinions on the other side. Please continue to chime in. Just because I've figured out what I'm doing this March doesn't mean I won't get a wild hair, try to put together a formal GK look, and head somewhere to busk for a while Nobody ever picked up the pipes because they were against grabbing some attention.

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