This elegant 1870’s Paisley shawl was purchased from a dealer (old threads) in the UK by Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli in 2018.
This rectangular (Paisley) (shawl) is handwoven in cotton and wool. Although the note during acquisition read c. the 1870s, upon further perusal, it could be safely estimated to have been made between c.1830s-50s because by the 1870s the shawl industry in Europe and Great Britain was already on a decline, especially the woven ones, and mass production centred more around printed pieces. With cotton Muslin body it is a rare piece, as shawls from that period were usually made of wool or silk irrespective of their place of origin – India, France, or Great Britain.
With a white cotton base and a clear centre, this shawl has a woollen woven embellishment only on the four sides like a frame in (Indigo) blue. There are distinct and noticeable stains and patches in the central ivory panel that is perhaps a sign of storage and decades of neglect. The boarders on the (Warp) ends are broader than the (Weft) ends because of the inclusion of a (Phala) on each side. As an imitation of its contemporaries from the subcontinent, this piece has all the tell-tale elements – a (Tanjir), a Phala, a (hashiya), and a (Matan).
The Tanjir and the hashiya are in the shape of temple steeples that curve inwards, while the Phala are decorated with large, elongated Paisley motifs or the (Buta). The space between the paisleys is decorated densely with intricate floral patterns of (jhal/Jaal). The Matan or the body of the shawl is empty. There are fine fringes attached at the end of each Tanjir giving the shawl a very elegant and dainty feel. The absence of some fringes reflects its usage and its age.
Although not much is known about the origin of this shawl, it is quite clear that this piece did not originate in the looms of the subcontinent. Before the introduction of the (Jacquard) loom in the 1820s shawl makers in Europe were not able to weave the shawl (Selvedge) to Selvedge along with its border as one piece. As a result, the body of the shawl was often stitched to its borders. With the body and the fringes stitched to it, this shawl thus gives a clear indication that it was not just made in Europe but was also perhaps made using the technique practiced prior to the 1820s.
Women’s dresses during this period in Great Britain had a higher waistline with flowing skirts and (bodices) detailing pintucks and wide puff sleeves. Large shawls became a perfect accessory to balance this silhouette. By the 1850s with the widening of skirts and (crinoline) frames, these shawls became even more popular as it was difficult to wear a jacket or a coat. This resulted in the inclusion of at least one such shawl in the wedding trousseau of every lady from the aristocracy thus giving rise to the term (Kirking_shawl) especially in Scotland as they were worn to the kirk or church on the first Sunday after the wedding and then again at christenings of children.
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