A new book by Caroline Young reveals the fascinating story of Frances Farquharson, an American woman who married a Scottish laird and transformed the style of the Highlands with her daring and innovative tartan designs.
From Seattle to Paris
Frances Farquharson was born Frances Lovell Oldham in Seattle in 1902, and grew up with a passion for travelling and writing. She moved to Europe in the 1920s, where she befriended exiled Russian princesses who ran fashion boutiques in London and Paris. She also worked as a journalist, publishing her dispatches from the continent in the Seattle Times.
She married her first husband, James Rodney, a war hero and a cousin of Winston Churchill, in 1928. They lived a glamorous life in London, where Frances became the editor of Harper’s Bazaar, a prestigious fashion magazine. She was known for her bold and creative style, and her ability to spot new trends and talent.
A Highland romance
Frances met her second husband, Alwyne Farquharson, the Laird of Invercauld, in 1945, when he was recovering from a war injury in London. They fell in love and married in 1949, and Frances moved to Braemar, a village in the Scottish Highlands, where she became the chatelaine of Invercauld Castle, a sprawling estate that had been in the Farquharson family for centuries.
Frances brought her flair and sophistication to the Highlands, where she decorated the castle with bright colours and modern art. She also designed her own tartan outfits, using local fabrics and tailors. She created a silk tartan harem suit and turban for a ball at Balmoral Castle, the royal residence nearby, which caused a sensation. She also wore tartan capes, coats, dresses, and hats, mixing traditional patterns with contemporary cuts and accessories.
A fashion legacy
Frances was not only a style icon, but also a generous and influential hostess. She invited many of her friends from the fashion world to visit her in Braemar, including the legendary designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who was inspired by the Scottish textiles and landscape. Frances also supported local craftsmen and businesses, and promoted the culture and heritage of the Highlands.
Frances died in 1997, at the age of 95, leaving behind a remarkable legacy of high fashion in the Highlands. Her story is told in detail in the new book by Caroline Young, High Fashion in the Highlands: Frances Farquharson and her Style Legacy, which is based on extensive research and interviews with Frances’ family and friends. The book is a tribute to a woman who was ahead of her time, and who brought glamour and innovation to a remote and beautiful corner of Scotland.