Products > Apparel > Shawls

Overview and Brief History
How to wear

There are many sizes and styles of design of shawls; traditionally they have been categorized by their fabric. There are four types of shawl fabric i) finely woven merino wool (from sheep) ii) Pashmina/cashmere (from goat) iii) shahtoosh (now illegal-from Himalayan antelope) iv) and wool/silk blends. Paisley Valley carries many different styles, colors and designs of shawls, select a fabric to see more.

Overview and Brief History:
There are few textiles in human history that have attained the global status of the Kashmiri shawl. How marvelous that the creative inhabitants of the Valley, drawing upon their regal surrounding as a spring of inspiration, have inspired countless artisans and aficionados of art and design worldwide.

Known as ‘the woven jewel’, the alluring shawl designs combined with the softness and warmth of the fabric has captivated nobles, royalty and lovers of beauty for hundreds, some say thousands, of years. The shawl, glorious with colors and harmonious designs is one of the most meticulous yet beautiful textile weaves.

It would be hard to overstate the worldwide impact the Kashmiri weavers and artisans have had. Textile artisans in other regions have taken inspiration from their Kashmiri brethren, from Russia to the Middle-East, from France to the US; the flowing Kashmiri designs have left their mark on textile as well as non-textile items. Internationally one can find antique Kashmiri shawls in private and museum collections; prized pieces preserved for antiquity.

Historically, scholars note that shawl production, and its trade, goes back to the very beginning of Kashmir. To the West, there is evidence of nobleman in the court of the Caesars wearing them, and to the East, shawls have been mentioned in ancient Buddhist manuscripts. The Chinese traveler Huen Tsang who visited the valley in 631 was awed at the dexterity of the Kashmiri weaver and the fanciful designs.

As with paper mache, the Mughal’s were great patrons of shawls, and it was under their reign that the weaving and embroidery arts reached new levels. The ruler Akbar in particular was passionate about Kashmiri shawls, and his devotion to them is apparent in his profound influence. Among other things he is said to have initiated  the practice of wearing shawls draped on the shoulders (in addition to the traditional ‘wrapped’ style), wearing a coordinated set of shawls, experimenting with different dying techniques and had entire suites made from shawl material. It was during this time that the shahtoosh (ring shawl) was developed.  It was common for Mughals to ornament some shawls with gold and silver threads.

What are the two primary elements that made Kashmiri shawls so popular? The first is the exceedingly superior quality of the fabric itself, Kashmiri weavers are masters at taking the fine wool (be it merino, Pashmina or shahtoosh) and creating the shawl fabric from it. It is no wonder then that the word in English (among other languages) for exceptionally fine wool is cashmere, whose etymology is of course directly from ‘Kashmir’. Secondly the embroidery artisans embellish the shawls with elegant designs through needlework, crewel work, or directly woven in. The designs may be decorative border patters (pallu), or cover the entire piece.


How to wear:
There are numerous approaches to wearing a shawl stylishly, and many of them are represented on Paisley Valley. Below we will take a closer look at four examples. A simple technique is to wear the shawl around the shoulders as a scarf, the item acting as a luxurious accent. It can also be draped in the front as a light over coat, this looks particularly stunning if the shawl has a traditional pallu (border) design. Shawls can be wrapped around the body (either left to right, right to left or 'semi-wrapped' with one end draped over the other) to provide ultimate warmth, yet highlight the design of the item. The elegant backward drape style is a great method for emphasizing a shawl with a full design.

In whatever style a Kashmiri shawl is worn, it is provides a dramatic and startling addition to anyone's wardrobe.

Select an image to enlarge.

Scarf Front Drape Semi Wrap Backward Drape

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