At first glance, it may seem quite a bit of work to wear the Breacan Feile, but once you get accustomed to it, itís really easier and more comfortable to wear than the traditional belted or pleated military kilt. Just remember, take your time and be patient. Your first experiences with the preparation of the breacan will be arduous, but in time it will become second nature.
The material used for a Breacan Feile is obviously wool tartan, but unlike the traditional pleated or military kilt there are a few differences. First, the breacan is not a sewn garment, it is a large piece of tartan that is pleated by the highlander every time it is to be worn. Second, the breacan includes two garments in one, the kilt and the plaid. And third, the belt plays a much more important role in the breacan, it is a necessity in keeping your kilt on where as with the belted kilt, it is merely an accessory.
How much tartan do I need?
The amount of material required for the Breacan depends mainly on your girth. In general 5-6 yards at 60 inches in width is the standard recommendation. Your main concerns are getting enough properly folded pleats and having sufficient material in the plaid so that it hangs nicely (The plaid will be used in a variety of different ways which will be explain later). If you are of more stout girth, over about 42 inches around the waist, you may require up to 6 yards of material or more for a comfortable fit.
Where can I get this quantity of tartan?
The breacan is becoming more and more popular but still many kilt makers and suppliers are not well versed in its application. You must be very careful not to get swindled when purchasing your tartan. Here are a few things to ask for in order to get exactly the right thing for the money.
Make sure that the tartan is 60 inches in width. This is a necessity for the plaid. Get A1 worsted wool in a weight between 11 and 13 ounces. If you live in a colder climate a heavier weight may be appropriate but 11 ounce can be quite warm even on a brisk day. Based on the 11 ounce weight, the price may vary from $50 to $65 per yard.
The Three Types of Kilt in the Handbook
We will discuss three types of kilts, the ancient Breacan Feile, the ancient pleated Breacan Feile, and the formal Breacan Feile. Actually, its really only two types with two variations on the pleated Breacan Feile.
The first kilt, the ancient breacan feile, has been researched as being the genuine dress of the ancient highlander. It was customized by the highlander making it a uniquely personal thing. There was no pleating or special considerations made for this kilt, you basically threw it around your body and belted it on.
The second and third kilt are the same only with major differences in the accessories, like the shirt, belt, sporran, etc. . . The pleated brecan feile requires much time and patience because each pleat must be made manually, by hand every time it is worn. Are you having second thoughts? Itís not that bad.
The ancient pleated breacan is worn in combination with the old-style undershirt, ancient footings, sporran, and ancient weapons. The formal breacan feile is worn with heavy wool hose and flashes, gillie brogues, a formal belt, quality tuxedo shirt, bow tie, and either an Argyll Jacket of Prince Charlie Coatee. It is a very formal look for the most elegant of occasions.
How Much is All this Going to Cost?
Depending on your enthusiasm it could cost quite a bit. For the breacan feile material, depending on the availability of your tartan and the quantity and weight necessary, prices range anywhere from $225 to $400. And for the pleated, military kilt, prices range from $350 to $500. As far as ancient accessories go; sporran, footings, undershirt, and so on would cost around $125 to $200. The formal accessories including sporran, gillie brogues, hose, flashes, shirt, tie, and jacket, you could be anywhere from $400 to $1,200. (Some sporrans and jackets can be quite expensive.)
Now letís talk about weapons. Prices can range dramatically dependent on the style, quantity, and quality of weapons you buy. A high quality, hand-made, battle ready two handed broadsword can run in the $300 to $500 dollar range, with the baskethilt in the same range if not a litle more. Replicas can cost considerably less but the quality falls short and retains little value. So, overall costs. For your basic kilt and accessories you can get into the spirit for around $600, not including weapons. And to go totally nuts with a Breacan Feile and pleated kilt, accessories for, both ancient and formal, and to have a wide array of weapons, you could spend as much as $3,000.
Really, it doesnít matter how much stuff you have. What matters is that you have fun doing it and take pleasure in learning about your highland heritage. It can be costly I will grant you that, but the long-term satisfaction will pay off ten-fold.