What to Wear on Burns Night

By Angela Marshall, 13th Jan 2012

Burns Night – Wednesday, 25 January

Scotsman with bagpipes

Burns night is one of the most celebrated events in the Scottish cultural calendar, celebrated throughout the entire world. The Burns Supper can be a formal or informal occasion and is a celebration of Robert Burns.

What to wear to a Burns Night Supper?

If you’re Scottish then of course a kilt is the best for a man! The tartan, or plaid, pattern of your kilt should reflect the traditional  pattern of your ancestor’s clan. If you don’t come from a Scottish background and want to wear a kilt, consider using one of the more  universal tartans such as a Black Watch, Royal Stewart or a Jacobite pattern.

A more formal Burns Night supper ceremony may require a black tie dress code of dinner jacket and bow tie or a kilt or the Highland dress for the men and an evening dress for the ladies. Less formal Burns Night suppers may require men to wear a suit or jacket and tie with smart trousers whilst women a smart dress, a skirt or trousers with a smart blouse. It is often a good idea as a guest to wear an article of tartan clothing such as a tartan tie, tartan skirt, tartan trousers or even tartan socks or tartan tights. If you receive an invitation to attend an event the dress code for the Burns Night supper should be stated on the invitation or ticket.

How to Wear a Kilt

Stuart with David in kilts

A man should wear a kilt that sits on his waist and falls to the middle of his knees. The pleats are at the back of the kilt. The jacket should coordinate with the formality of the event and with the rest  of your outfit.”Prince Charlie” jacket  is appropriate for weddings and other formal events.

It is important to wear the correct accessories with a kilt: 

  1. Sporran – strap on the sporran about three fingers below your waist
  2. Hose – men usually wear hose (socks) in black or cream. Black was originally worn for funerals but is worn more often now. Cream is generally the best bet for evening or formal occasions.They should be folded two to three fingers below kneecap.
  3. Flashes – place flashes on the outside of the leg, covering the strap with the fold of the  sock top.
  4. Kilt pin – A kilt pin is decorative and it is intended to give the apron a little bit of  weight to keep it from flapping open.  Place a kilt pin on the open flap along the right-hand side.
  5. Sgian-dubh –  a Gaelic  name, is a small, singled-edged knife worn tucked into The top of the kilt hose with only the upper portion visible. The sgian-dubh is normally worn on the right leg. To carry a sgian-dubh is legal in Scotland, England and Wales whilst the person wears a Scottish costume, but some say it is advisable not to wear it  if strolling in the street.
  6. Ghillie Broguesthey need to be cross laced and pulled into simple knot. Twist three times and pull  tight again to create a thong. Pass laces around ankle back, bring to front and  tie a bow, letting laces and toggles hang in front.

If you are lucky enough to attend an event then enjoy and have fun and do try the haggis and whisky!

16 Responses to “What to Wear on Burns Night”

  1. Maggie says:

    My husband and I have been invited to a Robbie Burns formal evening dinner celebration. What should I wear?
    Thank you,

  2. Depending on what your budget, age, figure, wardrobe personality and what you feel comfortable in. Generally women wear dresses as they are fashionable. I would suggest a long dress or a short evening cocktail dress. Othwerwise if you have a long (black velvet/tartan) skirt and blouse. There are several items on the sale at present but need to buy as soon as possible as sales coming to the end this week in many places plus you don’t have long!

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  6. Hojo says:

    It definitely seems so. Great stuff by the way!

  7. Andy russell says:

    I’m going to a burns night tomorrow at one of the loch fyne restaurants I do have a kilt (Russell tartan) socks shoes sporan etc but all I have to wear on my top half is a leather laced shirt which I
    bought at the same time as the kilt, would this be alright to wear ,I didn’t want to offend anyone
    regards Andy from kent.

  8. jemma says:

    Very good information on what to wear.

  9. Many thnask for your comments

  10. Hi Andy

    It would be good to have a jacket, but really it depends on the type of event. I would imagine it will be fairly relaxed and it woudl be a shame not to wear teh Scottish items you have so go for it! As long as you feel good you are expressing your personality!!

  11. Going to my first Burns’ Supper in Barcelona tonight (of all places!) and totally clueless about what to wear. It’s much easier for men! I also hate tartan, which complicates matters. Hell, it’s Barcelona, will just pitch up in flipflops and it’ll be fine.

  12. al bruning says:

    i see two types of Prince Charlie jackets of the picture of the two men on the left of “how to wear a kilt” what are the 2 types referred to that describes the difference

  13. Hi Alvin,
    There are two styles of jackets in the photo. One is The Prince Charlie (shorter jacket) and the other is the Argyll style.
    The classic formal Prince Charlie ‘Coatee’ Jacket and Vest (waistcoat) is the topmost ‘black tie’ outfit, for traditional formal events such as dinners, balls, weddings or graduations.The Argyll is a day/evening jacket and is versatile,altering its formality with accessories. It’s suitable for all occasions, from dinners and Burns Suppers, balls to weddings, Highland games or simply as general day wear.
    I hope this helps.
    Angela Marshall

  14. mike says:

    Can I wear a black dress shirt with my kilt?

  15. Hi
    First of all I am very sorry for the delay in responding. I thought I had already. A black shirt is not appropriate for a formal look and in general I would say stick to white. However, if you are wearing your kilt in a very informal way the key thing is to have a plain shirt that compliments the pattern of the kilt. Personally I would say stick to white!

  16. Thank you so much for information.

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Welcome to Angela Marshall's Blog. Angela Marshall
"I am in the third phase of my life and having been a successful image consultant for 18 years, I now enjoy the freedom of blogging about life in general, especially fashion, grooming, etiquette and manners." Angela Marshall
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