Kashmir & Shawls of Paisley Design 18/19th century

Paisley called these large shawls 'filled harness' plaids or shawls (13). By 1860, a large shawl could cost about 17s.6d to (46s old money), or 87p to £1.35, took 18 days to weave and could have up to 15 colours, whilst a Kashmir shawl could have four times as many colours. The Paisley would weigh 50 oz whilst the Kashmir, of slightly smaller size weighed 5 -9 oz, making the Kashmir shawl greatly popular with those who could afford them. By 1865 a reversible shawl was invented at Paisley which was of double thickness with all the loose unclipped threads sandwiched between the two layers, resulting in a heavy and unpopular shawl.

Norwich, Paisley, Glasgow and other towns printed shawls which were immensely popular. Beautiful flimsy silk gauze examples, with bright clear colours were printed for evening wear for the middle and upper classes (14). Heavier shawls of wool and silk with light coloured centres were used for summer wear and dark centres for winter. Printers copied the designs of the woven examples, using wooden blocks and later blocks with the pattern lines inlaid with metal (15). The blocks could of course be interchanged to produce an infinite number of designs. Later, roller-printed shawls were produced. Millions of shawls were printed for the mass market, mainly on wool and cotton or wool and silk grounds. These were usually extremely attractive, with clear vibrant or soft pretty colours.

A combination of events led to the decline of popularity of the shawl in the early 1870's. The Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871 halted exports of shawls from Kashmir to France, resulting in the collapse of the industry. A shawl could not fall very successfully down the back with the bustle, that rear wired protrusion, which became so fashionable at the time. But probably the most defining factor was that by 1870 a woven Jacquard shawl could be brought for 20 s or £1 and an identical patterned cotton shawl for a few shillings. Once shawls had become so inexpensive that every woman could afford to own at least one, they fell out of fashion. Many were cut to make into stunning mantles which could be worn with the bustle dress (16).

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