Paisley is a  design that is many hundreds of years old and can be traced back to ancient Persia, now Iran.

The fashion for using the pattern spread to many other Asian and Indian countries over the following centuries and it was in the Moghul period between the years 1526-1764 that it became the most popular, appearing on everything from stone carvings to the dress of Princes and Holy Men.

The ceramic tile below showing religious and political advisors of the Shah of Iran wearing  paisley printed robes.

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Paisley fabrics and shawls were imported to Britain form Asia for years, until the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century put a stop to trading and exporting of goods, which meant that luxury items such as this could no longer be imported. This was also a time of great unemployment in Scotland, so former silk manufacturers in Paisley, used their skills to make shawls and the industry thrived, leading to the name for the design which is so familiar. The introduction of the jacquard loom also meant that a wider variety of Paisley patterns could be produced more quickly and efficiently.

 

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William Holman Hunt, “A Lady in an Interior,” c.1850

 

Changes in fashion led to the demise of the popularity of the shawl in the late 1800s, once the shawls were inexpensive enough that every woman could afford to own one, no one wanted to wear them.

In the 1960’s the paisley pattern became popular again.  There was a great fascination for Eastern cultures and their fabrics, the Beatles especially were very interested in Indian music and were influential in spreading the word widely. Music, art and fabric designed for clothing and interiors all showed this trend.It was fashionable, especially in the hippy movement to wear dresses and kaftans in paisley designs, the style reflected in the fashion of the time.

 

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 Mick Jagger in 1967 wearing a paisley print jacket.

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1960’s /70’s Mary Quant body stocking

 

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Needlecord fabric in paisley design from the 1960’s

The paisley pattern is still widely used today in dress making, not just by lovers of vintage and retro but as an alternative to more commonly used floral designs.

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