During the last few decades, there has been a growing interest in shawls and wrappings. Earlier, it was worn as a wrap to protect from the biting cold. Today, however, it is also a matter of making a style statement. Originally referring to a fine woven woolen fabric used for drapery, the word shawl is derived from the Indo-Persian word 'shal'. The Italian traveler Pietro della Valle observed in 1623 that the shawls were primarily worn as girdles and draped over the shoulders in India.
Although shawls have their origins in the medieval period, archaeological findings and literary references suggest that the tradition of shawls in India predates the Indus Valley Civilization. Although these shawls are rich in tradition and speak volumes about their past, they are now wardrobe staples that notch up your style and reflect opulence. Worn during weddings in winter, it is a sight to behold when women turn up in the most stunning pieces in myriads of colours and exquisite embroidery. Besides, they are a great gift that blends both style and utility in the best manner.
In this round-up, we share a list of top 5 must-have shawls for all times.
- Pure Pashmina Shawls
Pashmina, once a sign of exclusivity and security for Kashmiri women, epitomizes the glorious history of Kashmiri craftsmanship. Since time immemorial, pashmina shawls have been treasured for their reminiscent designs and exquisite materials. The softness and warmth offered by these shawls is simply beyond comparison.
The word Pashmina comes from a Persian word “Pashm” meaning a weavable fiber, precisely wool. The wool used for making Pashmina is obtained from a special breed of Kashmiri goat found in the high altitude regions of the Himalayas.
The love for Pashmina reached its zenith when it fell under the spell of European royalty during the Mughal era. The great Napolean Bonaparte found the shawl suitable to adorn the shoulders of Josephine, his beloved. These shawls are of the highest quality, made from a silk-like fibre that requires expert weaving, spinning, and patterning skills. The pure pashmina is recognized by the softness and warmth of the shawls. In some cases, color may also aid in identification since pure pashmina shawls are naturally cream-colored.
2. Kani Shawls
Kashmir's cold climes are home to a small village called Kanihama, where a few artisans spend their days weaving magic spells of warmth and color known as Kani shawls. It is handmade using wooden needles and has a distinct Mughal pattern woven into the fabric. Previously, Mughal kings, Sikh maharajas, and British aristocrats wore this exquisite shawl. Emperor Akbar was a passionate collector of Kani shawls, as recorded in the Ain-i-Akbari.
Handwoven Kani Shawls are considered nothing short of magic due to their patience, creativity, and love for the work. These attributes make Kani weavers unique in the world of weaving. These shawls involve one of the most laborious techniques used in weaving. Even in one weft line, there are numerous Kanis (small wooden sticks used as spools) or shuttles laden with richly colored threads. A wrap can take several months to complete if it contains 50 Kanis and different coloured thread. The designs are codified on paper, known as talim, and sung out as two weavers work on a shawl together.
3. Sozni Jamawar Shawls
These beautiful Kashmiri shawls from the land of beauty loosely translate into a “robe to cover the body”, which comes from the word Jama meaning ‘robe’ and Var meaning ‘chest or body’. Jamawar is woven with the pashm fibre, with the brocaded parts woven in similar threads.
Jamawar is characterized by its intricate weaving, which makes its front and back look alike with no stray threads visible. Paisley, a popular design element of the weave that derives its inspiration from Persia, is a dominant element of the fabric, along with motifs of flora and fauna. Jamawars also include a great deal of hand embroidery, which is done with meticulous attention to detail.
In today's fashion, floral motifs or paisleys add a touch of elegance to the wearer. Historically, these Kashmiri shawls were a prized possession of the aristocrats, who used to buy woven fabric by the yard and wear it as a shawl or wrap. One of its most popular patrons was Emperor Akbar.
4. Tilla Shawls
Tilla shawls are handmade out of pure cashmere wool that is sourced from Ladakh, J&K. Tilla embroidery was once done using real gold and silver threads, and only the royalty and influential nobles would afford it. But gradually, to make it more affordable to common masses, craftsmen chose metal threads coated with gold to embroider these luxury shawls.
Tilla embroidery is locally called Tilla Dozi and shawls laden with it are an essential part of a bride's wedding trousseau. Tilla is an embroidery work that is used extensively to decorate ethnic clothing. To create lovely designs, needlepoint is used to tie imitation gold or silver threads over the fabric. Throughout the process, accuracy and skills are required. These skills are also applied to clutches and shoes. Tilla is a legacy investment that is passed down from generation to generation, and true lovers of this art do not accept anything less than the fine detail achieved by hand.
5. Papier Mache Jamawar Shawls
The most alluring type of shawl is the Papier Mache Jamawar Pashmina, which usually has a white base. Over the white base, colourful threads are embroidered in such a way that thick strokes embellish the plush base underneath. The final product looks nothing less than a live piece of art. The name of the embroidery comes from the Papier Mache art, as both look similar in their artistic demeanor.
Kashmiri shawls are all different from one another, but stand out for their unique personality. Weddings are the best time to flaunt your collection and make heads turn with your fashion appeal and classy demeanor. Make sure you stock up on these by then!
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