Antique paisley shawls can adorn a wall, complement country clothes

Shawls play a dual role: In the fashion world, Parisian couturiers are touting them this fall with swirling skirts and other voluminous fashions. and in the antique world, paisley shawls are eagerly sought.

According to a survey taken by Phillips, the New York and English auction house, 18th- and 19th-century paisley shawls are "items to watch in 1981."

Paisley shawls originated in the early 1800s in the town of Paisley, Scotland , which began the manufacture of the loom-woven woolen shawls with a "palm" (or "pine" as it is sometimes called) design. Soon the woolen shawls acquired the name of the town where they were made, and the "palm" design became the paisley pattern. the shawls were intended as a substitute for the more expensive cashmere shawls popular at the time which could cost from $5,000 dollars.

On her first trip to Scotland, Queen Victoria wore one of these handsome paisley shawls -- an act of royal courtesy, but one which enhanced the British textile trade and the wearing of paisley shawls. It has been told that the Scottish shawl gave a husband, badgered by his wife for an Indian cashmere one, the opportunity to say, "The paisley shawl is good enough for Queen Victoria. Certainly it is good enough for you."

During Victorian years and the early 1900s, paisley shawls often graced parior and living room tables. Fringed, embroidered silk shawls frequently rested on baby grand pianos during the 1920s.

A paisley shawl can be as decoratively used in a contemporary home. A not-too-large shawl used as a wall hanging in a room of stark furnishings brings warmth and pattern. And, in a home emphasizing the country look, a paisley shawl imparts cozy charm when covering a table graced with brass candlesticks or a brass lamp.

These days, however, it is not easy to find shawls that are in good conditions. During the 1880s and during earlier years of the 19th century, numerous shawls were cut up and used for draperies, to upholster chairs, and for pocketbooks, skirts, and wraps. And the number of shawls was further diminished by moths that enjoyed hearty repasts from them.

Pieces cut from a paisley shawl which has deteriorated may be effectively utilized for pillows. such pieces may be also used for tote bags to coordinate with country clothes or to complement a gray flannel suit. Vests, skirts, and handbags made from these remnants also amke distinctive accessories.

One of the best places to acquire a shawl is at an antique show, especially one geared to the exhibiting and selling of primitive furnishings. But before buying one hold the shawl to the light so that moth holes can be more easily detected. Most Indian cashmere shawls are in museums, but a desirable Scottish paisley can be obtained for about $250 and upward.

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