Highland Dance Costume Guide: How to Pin an Aboyne Plaid

How to Pin a Plaid on an Aboyne

Highland Dance Costume Guide

As a dance teacher, I’m often asked at dance competitions how to pin the plaid (often referred to as a “plaidie”) on the National costume. Particularly for Pre-Premier dancers new to the competition scene, this costume can be tricky.

Unfortunately, although I’ve been wearing this costume for over 10 years, my answer to that question is always “let’s go find my mom”.

My aboyne costume tartan is Dress Red Scott

Dance Mom Expertise

That’s why my mom, Angela Francoeur, is here to give us all a lesson in National dance attire. 

Angela’s pinning method isn’t the definitive way of doing things. The written rules surrounding the plaid aren’t particularly descriptive, so methods of pinning are passed on through generations of dance moms.

Phase One: Folding

Your plaide should be a square or rectangular piece of tartan. Mine is a square, so if yours is a rectangle, this might look a little different.

Fold the fabric almost in half, with a slight over hang on one end. My plaide has fringe/unfinished edges on all sides. If your plaide doesn’t have fringe on all edges, fold it so that the two exposed edges are fringe.

The fold is slightly off-centre. The corner meets the edge a few inches off the opposite corner to create overhang.
Flipped over, the folded plaide is almost a triangle. The two unfolded sides should have a raw/fringe edge.

“Be sure to use the big safety pins. No piddly little things.” – Angela

Phase Two: Pinning

Start by taking the pointed corner and placing it on the front of the right shoulder of the vest. Scrunch it slightly, and pin with a safety pin. 

Try the vest on the dancer, and be sure you’re happy with the height where it is pinned. Then, add your brooch.

It's usually easier to pin to the vest when it's not on the dancer, but be sure to try it on and see how the height looks.
The fabric should hang below the brooch, but not too far down past the neckline of the vest.

Then, the tricky part.

If you have a vest with no zipper, you’ll be able to pin the plaid and leave it forever. My vest has a zipper down the back, so I have unpin and repin each time I wear it. 

Line up the edge coming from the brooch shoulder with the edge of the vest.

The edge of the plaid is aligned with the vertical seam of the vest.

Fold the left corner of the plaid (the one with the slight overhang) under and up to the waistline on the left side. Pin the fabric in place near the waist seam. 

Take the corner across to be pinned near the left hip.
Flip the corner under and upwards. Pin the corner around the green X.

You’ll be left with a loose fold at the bottom.

Flatten the plaide as much as you can, and then add another pin near the middle of the top of the plaide. 

The green X marks where the additional pin is. Be sure to pin underneath the fabric, so the pins aren't visible.

“Make sure to put your hand between yourself and the dancer when pinning. May result in some stabbing, but sacrifice yourself for the sake of the aboyne… or the dancer.” – Angela

Phase Three: Adjusting

Now, try the vest on the dancer. If the plaid isn’t laying relatively smoothly, adjust the pins as needed. 

When I tried on the vest, the bottom left corner of the fabric was hanging a little loose. So, another pin was added to connect the corner to the petals of the vest. The higher pin was also adjusted in order to help the fabric lay flat. 

Pins from the inside of the plaid.
The plaid should lay almost flat, and remain secured as the dancer moves.

“Having an aboyne vest with a zipper makes life a lot easier. Kate’s is from Highland in Style out of Calgary.” – Angela

Do You Have a Question About Highland Dance?

The topic of this week’s Highland Dancer Blog post was a suggestion submitted by a member of our dance community. If you have a question or topic you’d like to see us cover, message us on social media or email me at hello@saorsastudio.ca 👋


  1. Michelle

    July 5, 2023

    Do you happen to know what the dimensions should be for a rectangular sash?

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