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Early 19th c shawl

zoom inEarly 19th c shawl

Kirking shawl

zoom inKirking shawl

Kashmir embroidered foldover shawl

zoom inKashmir embroidered foldover shawl

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Kashmir & Shawls of Paisley Design 18/19th century

Fashion Dictates

During the 100 years the shawl was in fashion, its shape changed to suit the dresses with which it was worn. From 1770-1810 simple high-waisted white muslin dresses were fashionable (9). With these neo-Classical dresses, simple long light stoles with narrow borders and deeper woven ends or small one-yard squares shawls with narrow borders folded into a triangle were worn. The centres were either plain or had a small repeating sprig or pip design. The ends and narrow borders were separately woven, often having small meandering flowers or pine motifs, using just three or four colours. Such a shawl would have cost around £20.

The 1820's saw great changes to the industry with the Jacquard loom being introduced into Paisley. Now shawls could be woven in one piece with bolder designs and more colours. Dresses were of silk, still with high waists but with bodice detailing such as pintucks and wide puff sleeves, requiring a larger shawl. During the 1830's the skirt got larger, balanced by huge sleeves, until by 1840 several starched white petticoats or a horsehair petticoat was worn, replaced in 1856 by whalebone hoops or the crinoline frame (10).

It was at this time of the widening skirts that the shawl really became popular, with at least one being included in every better class trousseau. In Scotland they were known as 'kirking' (church) shawls when they were worn to church on the first Sunday after the wedding and then used again at christenings.

Paisley had become pre-eminent in Great Birtain by reducing costs through sub–division and specialization of labour. They appealed to the mass market of the middle and eventually working classes. By 1850, Edinburgh could no longer compete with Paisley and stopped producing shawls. Norwich and France continued to produce very good quality examples.

It was difficult to wear a coat with a crinoline frame (wire underskirt) although short mantles and capes were worn. Most people preferred a warm enveloping shawl, with a stunning design (11). From 1840-75 shawls were made much larger to cover the skirt: 5 feet (1.50 m) square; 5 feet (1.50m) by 8 feet 4 inches (2.50m); 5 feet (1.50 m) by 10/12 (3/3.60m) feet. Square shawls were folded in triangles with a top flap just slightly turned over, whilst the large rectangles could be folded into two and caught at the front with a brooch and the full splendour of the shawl splayed out over the crinoline (12).

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