Etikettarkiv: paisley

Dressed for Travelling, Hiking, and a Visit to the Opera

Packing for the trip through Germany

I really dread packing. My suitcase always seems too small and my clothes inevitably weigh too much. And then I throw in things that I might need and would regret if I hadn’t brought along. The luggage scale is my enemy.

Packing for our trip in Germany was a different challenge. We would be travelling by train and there were no limitations to weight or size, except for the fact that we would have to manage our luggage between trains and hotels. Augusta would probably have packed her outfits in a trunk. Porters and maybe “Lohnbediente” (servants for hire) would have taken care of the luggage.  I imagine that she would have carried a small bag with her on the train, in addition to a reticule or a small purse.

The first thing I did was to buy a new suitcase with a matching bag in an antique-looking paisley pattern.  I was not going to travel with my home-made carpet bag and hat boxes. And definitely, no trunks!

So what kind of clothes did I bring?

  1. One brown wool dress for hiking and inclement weather
  2. One green-and-yellow checkered heavy cotton dress for travelling
  3. Two skirts with white blouses and cardigans – all in thin cotton – for sunny weather
  4. One silk ball-gown for the opera visit and Kerstin’s birthday dinner
  5. One green wool pelerine (short cape covering the shoulders)
  6. Five shawls, three pairs of gloves, and three white collars
  7. Two bonnets and a cotton lace cap
  8. Two petticoats
  9. Pantaloons and silk stockings
  10. Walking shoes and shoes for the opera visit
  11. Emergency jeans, t-shirts, and a puffer jacket, just in case….

In addition, I brought a hand fan, an umbrella, a parasol, opera glasses, a reticule, an embroidered purse, jewelry, hat pins, and hair ribbons.

And then there were guide books, reading material, a diary, and a sketch book; wool for knitting, protein bars for days we might not easily find allergy-suitable food, and emergency kits. Not to mention, lots of safety pins.

And of course, what Augusta could not have dreamt of: iPhones, chargers, and extra batteries.

For the record, I didn’t bring my laced corset even though I spent a lot of time making one. I figured, no one would know and it isn’t a very comfortable piece of clothing.

 What to wear?

Getting dresses in the 1840s took time and one would need help with dresses that had hooks and eyes for closure in the back. One would also need help with braiding and putting up the hair in the style of the times.

Every morning, Kerstin and I picked clothing based on the weather. If it was going to rain or be chilly, the wool dress with a shawl was perfect. For train travelling, I preferred the green-and-yellow checkered cotton dress with the green pelerine. And on a few sunny days in Lubeck, I did have use for my cotton skirts.

So what did I learn?

Shawls are great!

The wool pelerine was very useful when it was drizzling and cold.

Bonnets are great when it is windy and cold.

Fingerless gloves are beautiful and perfect when using an iPhone.

Dupioni (silk), which we used in our ball gowns, is a great fabric – it is very light and it doesn’t wrinkle. Why aren’t more clothes made of this beautiful material?

Walking around in cotton pantaloons (I even bought a pair of flannel pajama paints from H&M – same thing really) under 2 starched petticoats and a dress or a skirt is great! With the layering, you are never too hot or cold. And I loved the rustling sound of the starched petticoats when walking!

One evening, when we had to find a restaurant in Berlin and it was raining, we decided to just put on jeans – returning to present time! There were four revelations: 1. Getting dressed took less than a minute, 2. Walking didn’t make any rustling sound, 3. You almost felt indecent not wearing a full length skirt and no head covering, and 4. You became invisible – you looked like the rest of the people on the sidewalks and no one took any notice of you.

What will I incorporate in my 2017 every-day wardrobe?

Definitely lots of shawls. Fingerless gloves. Clothes made of wool and silk. And when at home, definitely pajama pants!

Album of the wardrobe

The green-and-yellow checkered heavy cotton dress:
The brown wool dress:
The cotton skirts:
The dupioni-silk, ball gown worn at Semperoper in Dresden:
Gloves and a few accessories:
Shawls and bonnets

French Kashmir shawl from the 1830s

Gallery of my shawl
Gallery of my shawl

In July, I wrote about my antique “paisley shawl” that I bought in Edinburgh. I was trying to figure out when and where it was made? I had spent time in the library and read all I could find, and I had narrowed it down to a European-made shawl from the early 1800s.

Who could shed some light on it? Any “paisley shawl” experts?

I googled something like “US expert paisley shawl” and found Dr Joan Hart, a textile specialist and art historian who specializes in Kashmir and paisley shawls. Contacting her led to a wonderful exchange of emails and some very definite answers, for which I am very grateful – thank you!

Even though I bought the shawl in Edinburgh, it is French, and probably made in the 1830s. It is very fine early jacquard weave (not woven on a drawloom). I also received some great advice on how to wash and mend the shawl.

Excited about knowing that the shawl was French, I continued looking for pictures of similar French shawls. The closest one I found was a French, wool and silk jacquard shawl from around 1830. The picture is included in The Kashmiri Shawl by Sherry Rehman and Naheed Jafri. The design has many similarities and the color in the weft seem to be exactly the same as in my shawl. The width is also the same. According to the authors, ”the delicate fronds that creep upwards on to the small, plain cream section is a motif that came into European shawls around the 1830s.”

I also purchased a used copy of a beautiful book by Monique Levi-Strauss: Cashmere – A French Passion 1800-1880. Besides being stunningly beautiful, it is a fascinating read about the history and designers of French Kashmir shawls.

Verification des Cachemires
Verification des Cachemires

Where do I go next? I would love to know who actually designed and produced these shawls – maybe a research trip to France 🙂 ? The French have always been scrutinizing their Kashmir shawls – and finding cotton fibers among the silk and wool fibers must have been scandalous!

But what about the shawl Kerstin and I got from our aunt Eva – a reversible square paisley shawl. I asked Dr. Hart about that one as well. It turned out to be Scottish and from the 1850s or slightly later. There is a photo of a similar shawl in Frank Ames book: The Kashmir Shawl.

This has been an interesting and inspiring side-trip to Augusta’s Journey. I have discovered a whole new world of beautiful textiles that I knew nothing about before. But then, I have always liked scenic byways.

I wish he may go to the East Indies, that I may have my shawl.

Jane Austen died 200 years ago and her legacy is celebrated this year with exhibitions and events. Kerstin and I visited Skokloster Castle last week. Their exhibition, Jane Austen’s World, featured costumes worn in Austen’s movies, including the famous soaked shirt worn by Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. A theme in the exhibition was marriage as a guarantor of family survival. Girls’ education focused on studies that would secure a future husband.

Our Augusta was fortunate in that she had a wealthy benefactor – her brother-in-law, Gustaf Lejdenfrost. She was not eager to get married, and when she did fall in love with her future husband, Lejdenfrost was also not in favor of her getting married. He would make sure that she could live comfortably without having to get married.

In the spirit of the Jane Austen celebration, I decided to re-read Mansfield Park. The following quote made me smile because it was so timely:

”Fanny, William must not forget my shawl, if he goes to the East Indies; and I shall give him a commission for anything else that is worth having. I wish he may go to the East Indies, that I may have my shawl. I think I will have two shawls, Fanny.”

For the last couple of days, Kashmir shawls have been on my mind. I guess, having a relative travelling to the East Indies would have been the way you would get one. If you were not fortunate to get a real Kashmir shawl, you might be able to get a locally produced copy.

I wrote about my hunt for Paisley shawls in May; then 3 weeks ago, my travels took me to Edinburgh. The first day, we did some sightseeing and visited charity and antique shops. It was there, in a back room, on top of a pile of other textiles that I spotted the now so familiar paisley pattern. I started pulling in the pile and realized that it was an antique shawl – with a few holes and matted fringes. What would you expect with a, maybe, 180-year-old shawl? The shop keeper and I agreed on a price and she stuffed the shawl into a plastic bag for me.

It wasn’t until we got home that I realized the size and beauty of this shawl. And it wasn’t until I got back to DC, and spent an afternoon in the textile library at The George Washington University that I realized that my shawl seems quite unique among published pictures of Kashmir and Paisley shawls. Since then I have spent many hours scrolling through online images of genuine Kashmir shawls and those made in France and the UK during the 1800s. I have also been reading all I can find about the shawl industry in Edinburgh and Paisley. I am no closer to assessing where and when the shawl was made. There is one tell-tales though: as I can discern, the warp is silk, which points to a European made shawl.

So here is the beauty, annotated with name of the parts of a Kashmir shawl:

My Paisley Shawl
My Paisley Shawl


The shawl is 306 cm long. The width at one end is 154 cm and at the other, 157 cm. The warp is silk and the weft is wool. According to historical records from Paisley, there was also a fine lace cotton thread used in the ground color weft for added strength – called a “sma’ shot”.


The silk warp is dyed in 3 different colors: gold, light red, and light yellow. Besides the ground color (cream), there are 4 colors used in the weft: crimson, light red, olive, and a very light turquoise.


The shawl is woven in 3:1 twill which can be seen in the fringe gate.

3:1 Twill
3:1 Twill

This is typical of European shawls; genuine Kashmir shawls are woven in 2:2 twill. The back side is typical of the European shawls in that the loose wefts were clipped and removed after the shawl was taken off the loom. This reduced the weight of the final shawl.


The typical “harlequin fringe gates”, those colorful squares at the end of the shawl, are 2 cm high. When harlequin gates first appeared on shawls in the 1820s, this is how high they were. They then became larger – having doubled in height by 1845 – and they were more ornate.

The Fringe Gate
The Fringe Gate

The field is quite large and cream (pale) colored. The pallu is also quite large with 8 tall, intricate butas (paisley shapes). What is so beautiful with this shawl are the stylistic flowers and fronds that stretch into the plain, cream-colored field. According to Rehman and Jafri, this motif started to appear on European shawls in the 1830s.

Augusta's Journey Paisley Shawl
Augusta’s Journey Paisley Shawl

Final notes

I would love to find out more about this shawl – nailing down the time period and the manufacturing site. Was is made on a draw-loom or on a Jacquard loom? And should I mend the holes?

While reading about the shawl manufacturing in Paisley, I realized the similarities with Norrköping and the life of Augusta. Both Paisley and Norrköping were textile towns that flourished in the 1800s. Paisley had long been a center for linen and wool textiles – and even silk manufacturing. In the 1820s, the Paisley shawl manufacturing was taking off. Unfortunately, shawl manufacturing was just about the only industry in Paisley and, when fashion changed and demand declined, there was no alternative work for those employed in the industry. By 1880, the manufacturing of Paisley shawls had come to an end.

Augusta lived a privileged life in Norrköping because of the wool mills and the textile industry. Her brother in law and benefactor owned a wool mill as did her cousin’s husband. So, did fashion in Norrköping at this time also dictate large wool shawls? And if so, were they aware of the European fashion of Kashmir shawls? Or did they buy locally produced shawls?

I wish I knew.

Below are some more images of the shawl:

Back side of gallery
Back side of gallery
Close up of gallery
Close up of gallery
Fringe gate from back side
Fringe gate from back side
Fringe gate
Fringe gate

On the Hunt for Paisley Shawls

Portrait of Fanny Holman Hunt
Portrait of Fanny Holman Hunt

We really don’t know what kind of shawl Augusta, or her mother, used when travelling. Most likely, they had large, dark, wool shawls to keep warm. Where they locally produced or imported?

In the 1800s, shawls with paisley pattern was the fashion. The shawls were large and multicolored. No artist can beat the Belgian painter Alfred Stevens (1823-1906) in rendering the beautiful Paisley shawls of fashionable women in Belgium and France during the later half of the 19th century:

Alfred Steven's paintings of women with large shawls
Alfred Steven’s paintings of women with large shawls

The original shawls with the buta design were Kashmir shawls, hand-woven in Kashmir with Cashmere goat wool. They were expensive and had to be imported. The invention of the Jacquard loom made it possible for Europeans to produce similar shawls. The Scottish town of Paisley became the center for this industry, and gave name to the droplet, leaf design. The National Museum of Scotland, located in Edinburgh, has a nice collection of early Paisley shawls and designs:

Paisley design
Paisley design
1848 design of a Paisley shawl, painted in gouache on paper
1848 design of a Paisley shawl, painted in gouache on paper

Now that Kerstin and I have made our 1850s dresses, we need shawls. So how would one be able to get an antique, Paisley shawl? One could be lucky, like blogger Beauty_for_Ashes, and stumble upon one at an antique mall (and the blog is hilarious), but that is rare.

But we were equally lucky. Our aunt Eva, who had followed Augusta’s Journey, called us one day and asked if we wanted some old nightgowns, lace, ribbons, and an old shawl that she had inherited from two of her aunts. Within a week, the package arrived by mail – and it contained a Paisley shawl from the mid-1800s!!! I don’t think we even realized at first what a treasure this shawl was. Of course, we don’t know that this one was made in Scotland, but it is antique and has the distinctive paisley pattern. After consulting with an expert, we decided that it would be OK to divide it into two shawls, so we each get one. Kerstin is now lining it with thin fabric so we can mend it where the threads are weak.

Mid-1800s Paisley shawl. Photo credit: Kerstin Melin.
Mid-1800s Paisley shawl. Photo credit: Kerstin Melin.

But maybe we should also have some additional scarves. As I was going to be in Dubai for a while, I decided to check out the shawl market. The first week, we made a trip to Sohar, Oman, and found a traditional, Kashmir store. The manager was from Nepal and showed me the various qualities and styles. I settled on a large, red, machine-embroidered, square shawl in a blend of cashmere wool and cotton.

My Kashmir shawl from Oman
My Kashmir shawl from Oman

Now I needed a green shawl and it had to be the right green color for my dress made out of thrift-store, green-and-white curtains. Back in Dubai, I figured the best place to find one would be around the old Gold Souk in Deira. This is one of my favorite places in Dubai, and especially late in the evening: the myriads of people from all over the world – Asia, Africa, Europe, America – crowding the sidewalks under blinking neon lights, maneuvering around the plastic chairs and tables of chicken and shawarma restaurants, and side-stepping delivery push-carts. And the sounds: music streaming from air-conditioned souvenir stores, the latest Arabic love songs from street cafés, and the singsong message of those pesky street vendors who descend on tourists – “Pashmina, handbags, watches, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, …”  I wave them off before they have finished their rant of famous fashion brands.

We are getting closer to the actual entrance to the Gold Souk, and I have yet to see a shawl that is of high quality or the right color. When the next street vendor starts his rant about pashmina, why not elicit his help? But honestly, what is pashmina? I had actually looked it up before going on my shawl hunt.

Pashmina refers to the finer fibers of the wool from cashmere goats local to Kashmir and Nepal. The courser fibers are called cashmere. The fine pashmina fibers can only be hand spun, so Pashmina shawls are all hand-made in Kashmir using hand-spun, 100% pashmina fibers. Cashmere shawls, on the other hand, are made with the courser, cashmere fibers and can be blended with other types of wool or fibers – such as silk. The fiber blend has to be stated; for example, 70% cashmere: 30% silk. So my Cashmere shawl from Oman was 50% cashmere: 50% cotton.

My green shawl
My green shawl

The street vendor gets excited and leads us into an alley with small Afghan shawl shops. This is his job – to introduce us to the shop keeper – and then leave. I tell the shop keeper what I am looking for and he shows me what I definitely don’t want – but, as a European, I am supposed to want.

As the communication is not working, I start digging in his piles of shawls with my dress-fabric sample as a color guide. I find a shawl that perfectly matches the color of the dress and it has a nice paisley pattern. But, of course, it is probably made of viscose or something similar. “Ma’am, this is 100% pashmina, best quality – you can wash it in machine!”

Well, if it was 100% pashmina, you would not be able to machine-wash it.

What is the price?

As customary, he shows me the price on a pocket calculator: 550 AED ($150) – are you kidding me! Azzeddine, my patient husband, asks me about my reservation price; I whisper “40 AED” – that is $12, the price I would be willing to pay at TJMAXX or Target in the US, or at Carrefour in Dubai, if they had the shawl.

The shop keeper tries to go half way – 250. He is not going to budge. Neither is Azzeddine. I show my lack of interest by walking out of the store. Azzeddine, still determined to get me the shawl, pulls out a 50 AED note and puts it on the counter with the body language signaling that either you take it or we leave. The shop keeper, without saying a word, reluctantly puts the shawl in a plastic bag and hands it over.

OK, $14 is still reasonable for a non-cashmere, non-pashmina shawl that has the right color and pattern. I am sure I could have had it for half the price if push came to shove.

And of course, as the weeks go by, I find other pretty shawls and scarves that I just have to buy. At least I am getting better at bargaining.

My purple paisley shawl
My purple paisley shawl

Which brings me back to Augusta: where did she buy her shawls? Were they imported? What did they look like? Does anyone in our large, extended family have one, or a reference to one?

We will keep digging, in letters and archives.