Perfect Paisley

The ubiquitous paisley print sparks off a number of immediate associations. The sultry Eastern ancestry, the strong hippy vibe… Yet how many of us realise that this beautiful pattern is actually named after a Scottish town?

The intricate pattern of twisted teardrops did originate in the East, seen throughout Indian, Pakistani and Persian culture hundreds of years ago. It became the height of fashion in the Western world when woven shawls were imported by the East India Company in the 1800’s.

This gorgeous yellow pashmina is from the V&A’s History of Fashion exhibition – it was made in 1780 in Kashmir, India, from goat hair.

Paisley Pashmina, 1780

After a while, the imported supply simply couldn’t meet the frenzied demand, which is why the print takes its Western name from Paisley in central Scotland – it was there that production boomed to meet this demand. This shawl was part of the same V&A exhibition – a good example of those made in Scotland in the 1820s.

For a while, Paisley-print woven shawls were simply a must-have for the girl about town… until they became so mass-produced that nobody really wanted to wear them any more. A classic case of how even the best fashion trends can be ‘over-cooked’!

Please, no…

Personally, I’ve always been drawn to paisley for its intricate, looping beauty and also for the connatations of free love, sunshine and self-expression it holds. As everyone knows, paisley print is strongly associated with the hippy culture of the late sixties and seventies, when the popularity of the Eastern-inspired print soared for a second time. Who can resist that lure of free love and festival sunshine?

Apparently, interest in Indian culture and spirituality spread wildly following the The Beatles pilgramage to India in 1968, fueling the hippy trend. Things got so Paisley-crazy that Fender Guitars even made this Pink Paisley version of their Telecaster guitar.

Due to this association with sixties and seventies culture, paisley print always has a lovely vintage feel, even in its modern incarnations. A fair few Spring/Summer 2012 collections featured paisley and so we’re currently seeing this classic print in the highstreet. Even paisley pyjamas in Topman… Can you see your man sporting these babies?

Hmmm, me neither!

If you are planning on adding some statement vintage (or designer) paisley to your wardrobe this summer, my advice is that you make sure you hang on to it. You can be sure there’ll be another revival in a few decade’s time!

Buy something really fabulous and you can pass it on to any delighted daughters or granddaughters, who will be bound to inherit your love of vintage…

Yeeeedi, £38

Mintage, £25

If paisley dresses, shirts or trousers are just a tad too hippy-chic for you, remember that accessories are a wonderful way to introduce a slice of any trend, vintage or catwalk, into your everyday style.

My long-term love affair with vintage scarves has created a collection scattered with paisley prints… I find scarves a really easy way to wear paisley, particularly in this on-off London Summer. In fact, this is one on my favourites and currently part of my Asos Marketplace collection

Retro with Rosie £9.50


If you have any gorgeous paisley pieces of your own, then please do share them… why not tweet me a photo at @retrowithrosie?

Happy August,

Rosie x

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