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Martin Martin's Description of Hebridean Women's Clothing

by Sharon L. Krossa

©1997-2000 by Sharon L. Krossa. All rights reserved

Last updated 1 Jan 2000

This description of the clothing worn by the women in the Western Isles of Scotland is part of an account of a trip Martin Martin made to the Hebrides circa 1695, which was first published in 1703.

Martin, Martin, "A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland," in A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland Circa 1695, ed. Donald J. Macleod (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 1994). (1 Jan 2000 )

"The ancient Dress wore by the women, and which is yet wore by some of the vulgar, called arisad, is a white plaid, having a few small stripes of black, blue, and red. It reached from the neck to the heels, and was tied before on the breast with a buckle of silver or brass, according to the quality of the person. I have seen some of the former of a hundred marks value. It was broad as any ordinary pewter plate, the whole curiously engraven with various animals, &c. There was a lesser buckle which was wore in the middle of the larger, and above two ounces weight. It had in the centre a large piece of crystal, or some finer stone, and this was set all round with several finer stones of a lesser size.

"The plaid being plaited all round, was tied with a belt below the breast. The belt was of leather, and several pieces of silver intermixed with the leather like a chain. The lower end of the belt has a piece of plate about eight inches long and three in breadth, curiously engraven, the end of which was adorned with fine stones or pieces of red coral. They wore sleeves of scarlet cloth, closed at the end as men's vests, with gold lace round them, having plate buttons set with fine stones. The head dress was fine kerchief of linen straight about the head, hanging down the back taper-wise. A large lock of hair hangs down their cheeks above their breast, the lower end tied with a knot of ribbands." (pp. 247-248)

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