Hank Phillippi Ryan: I love Topper, and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and yes, I am late to the party, but I am enchanted by Outlander. So imagine my delight to meet Fran Stewart, and to read the first of her delightful new series featuring a magical tartan shawl and a fourteenth century Scotsman, and ..well, you have to read it. Fran's mysteries are Outlander goes cozy. How great is that?
And one of the the lures of Outlander, besides the romance and the mystery, is...the fashion. Yes, I am in love with the tartan plaids, and the nubby shawls. And Fran, well-versed in all things Scots, has studied this is depth as well. Of course. And after you read this..how can you resist?
An Arisaidh for Everyday
Peigi, the love of my 14th-century Scottish ghost in A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP, wore an arisaidh. And Peggy, the 21st-century owner of the ScotShop (the only person in town who can see Dirk, the ghost), wears one, too. It’s good marketing for her store.
An arisaidh, the 700-year-old origin of the layered look is—or should be—the envy of any high fashion designer. Until I wore an arisaidh, though, I didn’t appreciate what a magnificent design it encompasses. It’s unbelievably comfortable and looks quite spiffy. I ordered mine from Misty Thicket.com. It comes in four basic pieces, which I spread out on my living room carpet to show you.
To dress for the day, the 14th century woman started with the chemise, a roomy floor-length dress held in place with drawstrings at the neck and wrists. Often women slept in their chemises, so all they had to do in the morning was adjust the drawstring. I must admit, though, that my more recent model has elastic at the wrists.
Next comes the voluminous floor-length overskirt. Mine is light blue and fastens at the waist with yet another drawstring. Tie yours tight; mine had a tendency to fall off before I learned to double-knot it! The chemise and overskirt are both 100% cotton. Notice how the chemise peeks a bit from under the hem of the overskirt—it feels just a little bit naughty to hike the skirt up like that.
Over this goes the bodice, which fastens with lacing, basically a very long ribbon that winds in and out of little holes along the stiffly-boned front edges and ties either at the top or the bottom, depending on what look is desired. My bodice is gray with a dark green ribbon. If I want to be fancy, I can thread a gray ribbon through the holes as well, giving me a bit of multi-colored spice.
In the Outlander series, Claire is always getting Jamie to help with her laces. Now I know why! They’re a real pain in the tutu.
I laced the one in the previous picture so the green ribbon forms a series of V’s. In the next picture, you can see an X pattern.
After this, I have a choice. If I’m working at home all day, I’m set to go. If the day is cool, however, and/or I’m going to be away from home, I belt on a long tartan piece of fabric (almost twice as long as I am tall), and drape it. How? I’m glad you asked.
The arisaidh (that’s the proper word for the plaid fabric) serves as cloak, hood, sling, and pocket. To put it on, divide it roughly in half and throw half the length back over one shoulder. Now grab the heavy wide leather belt—you did remember to put it nearby when you undressed the previous night, didn’t you?—and fasten it around your waist over the plaid.
Reach behind you, find the side edges of the fabric, and adjust them forward (under the belt) as far as you want them. Then pull the front half up so it’s draped becomingly over one shoulder. You’ll notice that the fabric behind you now forms a convenient pocket to carry your knitting, a firearm or two, and some snacks. The front part can be adjusted to form a sling for something like a baby, spare makeup, or your stiletto.
Now, think pashmina, shawl, scarf, or cloak.
To turn your arisaidh into any of these items, simply pull that draped front half out of your belt (remove the stiletto first) and wrap it around you. Raining? Lift it up over your head, as this picture from the Misty Thicket website shows. You’ll still have room for your knitting and weapons in the back. And, of course, the belt is a handy place to hang your 14th-century cellphone.
So, my questions for you are these: What’s the most versatile outfit you’ve ever worn? And just what did you tuck in your pockets?\
HANK: SO beautiful! Femmes, are you tempted to wear one?
One of Fran Stewart’s relatives described her as someone with the fashion sense of an aardvark. Fran does have a rather casual approach to clothing. “If my socks match my turtleneck, I feel like high fashion.”
She grew up in a military family, and some of her teachers encouraged her tendency to embellish every event she related. All Fran had to learn was to differentiate between the “really good story” and the truth. With eight published mysteries so far, she’s put that tendency to good use.
Fran lives with various rescued cats beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, northeast of Atlanta. She wears her arisaidh as much as she can get away with, writes the Biscuit McKee Mystery Series and the ScotShop Mysteries, sings alto in a community chorus, and volunteers at her grandchildren’s school library. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.
A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP is the first book in her new ScotShop series.
Hamelin, Vermont, isn’t the most likely place for bagpipes and tartan, but at Peggy Winn’s ScotShop, business is booming…
While on a transatlantic hunt for some authentic wares to sell at her shop, Peggy is looking to forget her troubles by digging through the hidden treasures of the Scottish Highlands. With so many enchanting items on sale, Peggy can’t resist buying a beautiful old tartan shawl. But once she wraps it around her shoulders, she discovers that her purchase comes with a hidden fee: the specter of a fourteenth-century Scotsman.
Unsure if her Highland fling was real or a product of an overactive imagination, Peggy returns home to Vermont—only to find the dead body of her ex-boyfriend on the floor of her shop. When the police chief arrests Peggy’s cousin based on some incriminating evidence, Peggy decides to ask her haunting Scottish companion to help figure out who really committed the crime—before anyone else gets kilt…