Shawls – The Origins of the Traditional Shawl

Shawls… “Shal” is a Persian word where shawl has been taken and derived. It is considered a wrap around garment which is normally put on top of other clothings. Shawl is of very old origin, both in India and the Middle East. These particular items of clothing provide protection against harsh cold weather conditions since time immemorial. Hence their basic function was and is to provide warmth.

The actual source or origin of this wrap around piece of clothing is unknown. But people have been using them for a very long time. Men of Jewish decent wear a shawl called “tallit” whenever they attend ceremonies and prayers. During the nineteenth century’s first decade, shawls made of silk with fringes can be purchased and seen in China.

These garments that have more embroidery were well liked in America and Europe in the 1820s, which were likewise known as the China crepe shawls. The Spaniards on the other hand called such pieces of clothing “matons de Manila” as these were taken to Spain from China through the Manila port in the Philippines. In Spain the shawls were a natural dress part of the Gypsies, commonly known as “gitanas”.

Folk dresses in countries like Germany, Latin America, Andalusia, the Near East and Madrid have shawls, and it became high fashion garments during the early to mid nineteenth century in Western Europe. Further, Persian shawls also became world famous due to their elaborate patterns and designs. Shawls from Persia are manufactured from the wool of Kirman goats. Wool, silk and cottons were likewise made used of to the exquisite designs.

The history of shawls in Russia is a mixture or European and Oriental cultures. Russia’s trading with Persia resulted to the popularity of Persian shawls or wraps in Russian women, which was how shawl weaving started in Russia. The softest, most luxurious and best wool in the entire world is Pashmina, which comes form the wool of the mountain goat called Capra hircus, usually found inCentral Asia and Tibet.

Garment knitting is closely interconnected with India’s woolen textile history where the weaving of said wraps is done by using Pashmina wool in the Kashmir valley of India. Kashmiri shawls are popular in Persia, western countries and Europe due to its warmth, softness and conventional designs.

Currently, in the colder parts of the Himalayas and also in India, shawls are still a traditional part of the male costume and are very popular in some north eastern states of India and others like Punjab, Gujarat, and West Bengal.