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Women's Ancient Wear

Lady’s dress from ancient times to about 1746 was called the arisaid (pronounced air-a-sod). It was of the same time period of the men’s great kilt. While the men loosely pleated their yardage around their waist, the women gathered theirs (could this be that the women had little time to worry about pleats when chasing children or doing chores?)

The arisaid was a large piece of tartan with a large sett (pattern of repeating stripes) of muted colors (due to vegetable dyes). It was long to the ankles, gathered to the waist with a belt and the top portion over the head so it could be worn in cooler weather. Otherwise, the top corners could be tucked back into the belt or over the shoulder and brooched.

The GOWN PATTERN should be cut long to touch the ankles. The BODICE (see our Bodice Pattern) would be for the arisaid time period. It was made with layers of fabric to add stiffness but with today’s choices of fabrics, something suitable such as an upholstery fabric can be used. The darts are strategically placed for bust line support.

The BODICE, on the outside of the GOWN, was the support garment of its day. It could be laced in the front or the back and across the shoulders if so desired. It could end at the waist or flair with square peplums. This ancient style is suitable for renaissance faires.

After about 1746, the English ruled Scotland and wanted to strip the Scots of their nationality by making ‘all things Scottish’, illegal. This included their dress, bagpipes, etc. When the English relaxed their rules in about 1780, the Scottish dress morphed to a different style for both men and women. The men began wearing the little kilt or philabeg, which is a kilt as most wear today of sewn down pleats from waist to hip and from the hip to the knee, the pleats hang free and sways with the proud saunter of the man. The women’s wear became the modern style called the Highland National Dress, including the GOWN (see our Gown Pattern), a knee length skirt on a waist band (see the Highland National Wear Booklet for directions and history of the skirt and plaide), a separate plaide (tucked into the back of the skirt) and a dark velvet VEST (see our Vest Pattern).

See also our HIGHLAND NATIONAL WEAR BOOKLET for more information as well as the slide show demonstration on the right.

Other than changes in the GOWN pattern pertaining to the longer length for the ancient wear and the puffed sleeves of the modern dress, the two time periods should never be mixed.


National Highland Dress
Women's Modern National Highland Dress


Women's Ancient Wear


Scottish Patterns



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