The Great Kilt is also known as the "breacan an fheilidh" or "feile mor". The first known reference to this mode of dress was made in 1594 in The Life of Red Hugh O’Donnell in a description of a corps of Hebrideans who had come to The O’Donnell’s assistance: “They were recognised among the Irish soldiers by the distinction of their arms and clothing, their habits and language, for their exterior dress was mottled cloaks of many colours with a fringe to their shins and calves, their belts were over their loins outside their cloaks."
The Great Kilt was made from wool, often grown on one's own sheep. It could take a year for someone to shear and spin enough wool to make one kilt. The yarn would then be taken to the local weaver to weave into cloth. Looms of the time wove a piece of cloth 27" wide and up to 30" wide. And, like today, cloth is easiest to handle if it doesn't get to be too much of it.
The actual amount of the cloth needed to meet these dimensions varied a bit depending on the fineness of the thread used, the tightness of the weave, and the purse-strings of the buyer. However, most lengths of wool ended up being just over 9 yards, and sometimes as much as 12. Any more would be too much to work with, not to mention extremely cumbersome to wear.
So a man wanting a Great Kilt would ask for "The Whole 9 Yards.” The Great Kilt enjoyed popularity until the Act of 1746 banned all forms of Highland Dress.
To read more about the history of the kilt, look for Celtic Classic on Facebook for links to the Celtic Cultural Alliance Education Blog. Additional research and ideas for further exploration of resources in the Lehigh Valley are gathered there. For the Celtic Cultural Alliance, I’m Silagh White. Slainte