History Of The Shawl
Shawls are rectangular shaped pieces of clothing that are usually worn loosely on the upper-body, arms and
shoulders. They are also worn sometimes to cover the head and are useful to covering the face. When folded, these
shawl wraps take on many shapes and these include oblong forms; but the most basic happens to be a triangular
shape. They have multiple uses but the most natural usage of the shawl is to cover parts of the body to help
protect against colds or the unforgiving heat of the sun.
It is said that the shawl was originally part of a Persian traditional costume dress in the early Achaemenid
dynasty of ancient Persia. The Shals, as their original etymological origins suggest, were woven in beautiful
threads of woolen twill. As part of the cultural dress trend of the time and worn by females as well as males, they
were designed with different colors and variations of embroidery. Some designs were also said to be so fine that
they could easily fit right through a ring.
As cultural assimilations and trading flourished throughout the ancient world, the shawls and wraps of Central
Asian civilizations influenced its surrounding neighbors and gradually became a fashionable trend. It is said that
the shawl first caught on in Northern India around the late Achaemenid Era and gradually spread from there to the
Far East. This may have some truth to it since the traditional male costumes in Kashmir also included the shawl. On
the other side of Asia, in the Middle-East, at probably the same time, the shawl also influenced the early Jews,
who incorporated it into their symbolic rites as part of their religious costumes. These were the more famous types
of shawls called the Tallit.
The Silk Trade
When the Chinese got hold of these shawls, they also incorporated them into their own culture and made their own
beautiful designs. These were the shawl wrap silk designs. They became highly prized and the various European
civilizations such as Greece and Rome encouraged the Silk trade to flourish. Albeit, the silks were very rare, the
trade of the silk shawls became commonplace whenever the caravans arrived in Europe. This continued for
The Pashmina Shawl
From the 3rd century BCE to the 11th century CE, the shawl underwent a gradual evolution that started in the
Himalayas. These came to be known as the handcrafted shawls called the pashmina or the pashm. However, it is
officially stated that the final evolution of this particular design originated sometime in the 15th century. Over
time, it became an influential design that spread from Central Asia, to China, and the Middle-East.
It’s been stated that the Chinese were the first to design shawls wraps with fringes (and they were silk too).
When the Spanish colonized the Philippines, they opened up a route that allowed them to trade directly with each
other. The Spaniards called these shawls the Mantones de Manila simply because they were shipped from the Manila
harbor and directly to Spain. With this direct trade, it allowed for various other designs of the shawl to spread
across Europe and ultimately, the rest of the world.
The shawl certainly has an interesting history, and it has had various evolutions in design. These days, shawls
are still used everyday and its uses are still the same. A lot of cultures are still using them to symbolize their
ancient roots and national identity.