Scarf prints are a fashion trend this summer, but did you know that the Paisley print came from Norwich? Says Emma Harrowing.

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Paisley patterns are a fashion classic, but this season the floral inspired print can be found on any piece of attire from dresses and tops, to trousers and bags.

Now known as ‘scarf prints’ patterns are brightly coloured and have to be worn to create a clash of colour and pattern if you are to look fashionable this summer.

The Paisley print is called as such after weavers in Paisley, Scotland mass-produced shawls in the 19th century after the shawl become a fashion must-have in any lady’s wardrobe.

However it was our fine city that was one of the first to market with the ‘Paisley’ print shawl.

In Norwich the Paisley motif was known as the Pine and the original Norwich shawl was highly regarded in fashion circles in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Made by Norwich’s talented weavers, the shawls were originally produced on draw looms set up in the weavers’ homes.

Unlike the mass production of cheaper versions produced in Paisley in later years, Norwich weavers had the reputation for high quality craftsmanship. They produced individual shawls that closely resembled Indian dress from which the shawl originated and the distinctive patterns and colours were popular with wealthy women who wore the latest fashions as a mark of their high status in society. The Norwich shawl brought wealth and status to Norwich.

Norwich shawls were so well thought of that some were exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851 in London. Queen Victoria is said to have commented on the beautiful detail of the Norwich silk shawls and even purchased a shawl from Norwich manufacturers Clabburn, Son and Crisp who were based on Pitt Street.

Once other weavers had jumped on the shawl fashion bandwagon, including weavers from Paisley with their cheaper mass-produced versions, anyone could afford to wear a shawl and the fashion died out.

An extensive collection of some of the Norwich shawls can be seen at the Costume and Textile Association at Shire Hall. Some shawls in the private collection belong to the association’s Helen Hoyte who has an extensive knowledge of the Norwich shawl. There are now 200 Norwich shawls in the collection.

Although the fashion for shawls has died out the patterns from them live on through new fashion collections. So it is worth knowing that when you wear a top or dress with this season’s scarf print on it, the floral Paisley print is part of Norwich’s fashion and textile heritage.

As Helen says: “If Norwich had been as good at promoting shawls as it was at making them the (Paisley) motif might now be known as the Norwich!”

Helen Hoyte will be giving an illustrated talk on the working conditions and the fashion status of the Norwich shawl at 47 St Giles Street this Saturday May 19 at 2pm. Tickets cost £6 and can be purchased by calling Helen on 623495 or Vivienne Weeks on 01379 641187.

Do you have a Norwich shawl? Helen is an expert at identifying if a shawl was made in Norwich. If you have a shawl hanging in your wardrobe or packed away in a box in the attic go along to the talk on Saturday or call Helen on 623495. Alternatively email Vivienne Weeks at vivienne.weeks@virgin.net

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