Robert Burns Supper brings out the tartans

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Looking for an excuse to wear a kilt? The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh is hosting a traditional "Robert Burns Supper" Jan. 25 at the Pittsburgh Golf Club. Burns was Scotsman Andrew Carnegie's favorite poet. It seems he was not alone in his love of this son of Scotland since Burns Suppers have been held on the bard's birthday for more than two centuries. He was born Jan. 25, 1759. His "Ode to a Haggis" is read at the dinners before the traditional Scottish dish is served.

Not Scottish? No worries. Take a wee dram of whisky and you'll have bagpipes in your blood if only for the evening. To really get into the spirit of the clans, men should wear formal Highland dress (optional for the Carnegie party), while women can simply shoulder a tartan sash over their evening ensemble. Formal Highland dress involves kilts and all their accoutrements -- kilt pin, knee socks with flashes, Ghillie brogue shoes, sporran (man purse), Prince Charles jacket and vest and, of course, a sgian-dubh (pronounced ski-n-do). It's the knife.

Scotsman Ralph Nielson runs St. Kilda Kilts, 114 Charles Drive, Scott (15106). He rents and makes custom kilts and jackets and also sells the shoes, socks, sporrans, belt buckles and more. During the kickoff party for the Carnegie Museums Burns Supper, he assisted guests in picking out the proper attire. On Jan. 16, he will be taking orders and measurements for those who want to rent a kilt or sash in the Founders Room at the Carnegie Museum in Oakland from 6 to 8 p.m. You must call 412-578-2470 or email tighej@carnegiemuseums to let them know you are coming. Rental for a full Highland outfit runs approximately $125. To have a traditional kilt made with 8 yards of material runs about $380. Ladies' sashes are $50.

This traditional Scottish ensemble begins with choosing a plaid. Unless you have a clan in your lineage, it can be time-consuming. According to the Scottish Tartans Authority, there are more than 3,500, with only one that is off-limits: the Balmoral Tartan designed by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, for the exclusive use of the British Royal family.

What is the difference between plaid and tartan? Basically, nothing. Originally, tartan was the cloth and plaid the pattern, but now the terms are interchangeable. Black Watch and Royal Stewart are two of the most popular for those without an allegiance.

There are three levels of tickets to the Robert Burns Supper: $750 is the Auld Lang Syne, which covers it all from valet parking to seated dinner, Highland dancers, dessert, commemorative gift and more; $500 is the Tam O'Shanter, which includes premier seating at supper and recognition in the program; $300 Red, Red Rose includes valet parking and seated supper; $75 late night ticket, A Bottle and Friend, includes valet parking, two drinks, a whisky tasting, light Scottish bites, dessert buffet, silent auction and souvenir picture.

For tickets to the Robert Burns Supper on Jan. 25, call 412-622-5772.

Patricia Sheridan:, 412-263-2613 or follow her on Twitter at

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