Paisley shawls, a brief history of a 19th Century trend

Recently I have found myself with a burgeoning addiction to antique and vintage shawls in all their forms, and I have been lucky enough to view and handle some magnificent paisley and Kashmir shawls. I’ve written a VERY brief synopsis of their history (basically so that I can show you some pretty pictures) and included a link to a site with MUCH more information on their past and manufacture as I am still learning myself.

Paisley shawl
A European Paisley shawl


Paisley shawls were a fashionable item of European woman’s clothing during the 19th century, but the instantly recognisable teardrop motif originated from Persia and India, where the Kashmir [paisley like ]shawl dates back to the 11th century.

kashmir shawl
A traditional Kashmir shawl

They became known as paisley shawls when the Kashmir influenced designs came into production in Paisley, Scotland at the beginning of the 19th century.

paisley shawl loom
A Paisley loom on display at the Paisley shawl museum

The woven design was labour intensive and required highly skilled workers and after an explosion in popularity after Queen Victoria purchased some Paisley shawls in 1942 manufacturing methods began to change, even to the point of designs been printed or embroidered so that manufacturers could keep up with demand.

victorian paisley shawls
A printed Paisley shawl from Gingermegs Vintage C1860


victorian paisley shawl
Blue taffeta afternoon dress with cashmere shawl, American, 1860s. Collection of the Kent State University Museum, 1995.17.52ab (dress) and 1983.1.1545 (shawl) Photograph by Joanne Arnett, 2012

Read more on Paisley shawls and the manufacturing process here.


The shawls fell out of favour by the 1870s, and during the late 19th and early 20th century people were remodelling their precious shawls. Gentleman’s dressing robes were popular, as were coats, cloaks and capes.

paisley coat from Poppy's vintage clothing
paisley coat from Poppy’s vintage clothing


1920s opera cape -Victorian paisley shawl
A paisley shawl C1870 remodelled into an opera cape in the 1920s from Gingermegs Vintage


remodelled paisley shawl
Paisley shawls remodelled into a dress, a coat, a hat and a bag