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Beverlyheels StyleClothing: Shawls

Clothing: Shawls

Posted on Wed, Jul 25th, 2018

A shawl is a simple garment that is worn loosely over the shoulders, upper body and arms, and sometimes also over the head. Usually a rectangular or square piece of cloth, it is often folded into a triangular shape to be worn over the shoulders. The first shawls were used in the Assyrian times and later went into widespread use in the Middle East.

The shawl now comes from the Indian state of Kashmir, but it originated from Hamedan, Persia. It is believed that Cashmere crafts were introduced by a Persian sufi named Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani. In the 14th century, Hamdani came to Ladakh, India, the homeland of pashmina goats, and found that these goats could produce soft wool. He then took some of the wool, made socks out of it and gifted them to Kashmir’s then ruler Sultan Qutubuddin. Afterwards, Hamdani suggested to the king that they start a shawl wearing industry in Kashmir using this wool. This is how the pashmina shawl began.

The most expensive shawls, called Shahtoosh, are made from the under fleece of the Tibetan antelope or the Chiru. These shawls are said to be so fine that it can be easily pulled through a small finger ring.

A striking feature of the shawl is its embroidery or design. There are various types of designs available. It started off with net like patterns with floral ensemble motifs in them. The ‘naksha’, a Persian device like the Jacquard loom invented centuries later enabled Indian weavers to create floral patterns and creeper designs as opposed to brush painted designs. Always a luxury commodity, this fine wool shawl became a fashionable wrap for the English and French elite ladies by the 18th century. By 1870, the advent of the Jacquard loom in Europe destroyed the exclusivity of the original Kashmir shawl.

The Kashmir shawl also influenced the delicate woolen Paisley shawl in the early 19th century in Scotland. Shawl weaving was a cottage industry but the Jacquard moved weaving into the factory. Similarly, silk shawls with fringes, made in China were also available by the first decade of the 19th century.

Shawls are used to keep one warm, to compliment a costume, and for symbolic reasons. For example, the “tallit” is worn by Jewish men during prayers and ceremonies. In daily life, shawls can be worn with almost anything. Jeans, trousers, skirts or even certain dresses. Depending on the design and color, the shawl can be worn in the day or night. Select your favorite shawl at

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