Kashmiri Victorian Paisley Shawl, 1860s

Paisley is a centuries' old status symbol

For hundreds of years, paisley shawls have been worn as high fashion statements and as status symbols. The history of paisley began in Kashmir, a country bordered by Pakistan, China and India, in the 1500s. 

The paisley motif has morphed through time, but the 'Paisley Buta' design, the pine cone shape we most commonly associate with paisley, came into being around 1815. The differing styles of the paisley motif helps us date the shawls as well as the actual shape of the shawl. Long rectangular shawls, such as the one in The Darnell Collection that measures 1.5 x 3.25 meters, were worn from the early 1850s to the 1870s. The shawl would have been folded in two and worn wrapped around the shoulders and secured with a brooch, while the rest draped over the skirt to show off its pattern and colours to full effect. A shawl took the place of a coat, which would have been awkward to fit over an enormous hoop or crinoline skirt. From the late 1870s to the early 1890s, a square shawl was worn instead as it only had to cover the shoulders and a narrow, bustle skirt. By the late 1800s, mantles, capes, coats, cloaks, capelets and stoles were all popular and diminished the need for shawls.

Paisley shawls were heirlooms and passed down to daughters and nieces through the generations. They are rare because, due to their size and value, they were often cut up and restyled into other garments or used within the house as a decorative table covers or throws.

The Kashmiri paisley shawl in The Darnell Collection is dated c.1860 and is made from wool, silk and domesticated goat hair woven on a jacquard loom.

This shawl was gifted to the collection from Bob McKeown whose late wife, Deborah, bought it in American when she was collecting Victoriana. The shawl was included in the recent travelling exhibition, Flora & Fauna: The Nature of Fashion.

Kathleen Moss gently reinforces some of the fragile areas of the shawl before it goes on display at
Blue Mountains City Art Gallery, NSW
Wool and silk woven on a jacquard loom encircle the goat's hair (brown) decorative panel at the centre.





The curatorial team at Blue Mountains City Art Gallery help with the hanging of this enormous shawl - scissor lift and all!

Hanging at Bundaberg Regional Gallery as part of 'Flora & Fauna: The Nature of Fashion'


This is how it would have been worn.
(I apologise for not properly crediting this photograph but I couldn't find any reference to its origination on the net.)