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The stola was the traditional boxy, outer garment, usually woolen, worn by Roman married women. It corresponded to the toga, the traditional attire for Roman men. Worn over a tunic or tunica interior, the stola was a long, pleated dress fastened at the shoulders with clasps and belted just below the breasts and around the waist. Around that she wore a wrap called a himation. Clothing was expensive so it was usual for these one-size-fits-all garments to be handed down from generation to generation.

In my story, “The Brother,” Miriam describes Phoebe wearing a crimson silk stola:

It was almost noon on the Ides of March when my house servant, Minta, recognizing the frantic jingle of bells as those on Phoebe’s litter, rushed into the late winter chill to greet her at the entrance to our townhouse.

“Miriam! Miriam!” The urgency in Phoebe’s voice rang through the house.

A moment later, my best friend was plunging through the ceiling-high, double mahogany doors of my study. I looked up from my desk and had to remind myself to breathe.

Her cheeks flushed, her shoulders rigid under her crimson stola and the matching silk himation, she stared at me with wild eyes before dropping into the chair opposite me.

To calm my own blood hammering like a clapper inside a bell, I focused on the scent of alarm in her perspiration.

So why is Lady Liberty wearing a stola? Because the Roman goddess Libertas wore one. Now, why is Phoebe so alarmed? Ah, that question is a little harder to answer. To get a head start, click here.


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