The quilte is a mid-calf-length garment that has been worn as the traditional dress of men and male youths within Mennonite culture since the 16th century. The quilte originated as a garment that was both functional and modest: it permitted its wearer to assume the bow-legged position required for stooking (the harvesting of grain stalks by hand), while ensuring that the private parts of the wearer were not open to public view. Quiltes are similar in some respects to the Scottish kilt, but are usually constructed of leather that has been rendered supple through chewing. Some ceremonial quiltes, usually worn at weddings, funerals, or the annual fall celebration of "Sobsenheizen," are made from brightly coloured patches of fabric in the well-known tradition of Mennonite quilting, which is undoubtedly the source of the name "quilte." The Low-German name for the quilte is "schmootzenhosen."
Little is known about the origin of the quilte. References to the garment first appear in Anabaptist tracts and culinary sources from the early 1540s. The earliest extant depiction of a quilte is a woodcut, reproduced in a treatise on poultry in 1587. Through the nineteenth century, under the influence of Noah Webster's simplified spelling system, "quilte" was sometimes spelled "kwilt."
In the early 20th century, quiltes came under attack from both the more conservative and more liberal sides of the Mennonite community. For the conservatives, the tendency of some youths to decorate their quiltes with homemade trinkets -- such as dried slices of farmer sausage, carved depictions of Anabaptist Martyrs, or pieces of lint twisted into ribbons -- devalued the original utilitarian purpose of the quilte. For the liberals, the quilte -- which was designed in part to constrain the male genitals -- became a sign of a repressive attitude toward sexuality. For the most part, these conflicting perspectives were resolved at the 1978 Steinbach Congress. Today, the quilte persists as the standard garb of Mennonite men in Canadian communities such as Kitchener-Waterloo and American cities such as Lancaster, Pennsylvania.(Cited from the ever-reliable Wikipedia. Reprinted here presuming it's prompt removal from Wikipedia for lack of historical sources. h/t to historian and friend J for passing this along)