My basket
COSTUME EXHIBITION 2022
"BOTEH BEAUTY KASHMIR"
From April 9th to October 2nd 2022

Museum of Provencal Costumes and Jewellery
2 rue Jean Ossola, 06130 Grasse
06 93 36 02 07

Free entrance

"IF ORIENTALISM COULD BE SUMMED UP IN A WORD IT WOULD PERHAPS BE THE KASHMIRI 'BOTEH' MOTIF."

18th-century France's taste for the Orient was expressed through gardens, castles, furniture, crockery, paper and painted decors, and encompassed costumes and adornments. Fashions spread across France through fairs, hawkers and newly improved travel means, including to Provence, where colorful, printed Indienne fabrics were already extremely popular.
But Indian and Western exotic and imaginary floral prints met with direct competition at the end of the century, with the arrival of the so-called "paisley" motif (cachemire in French), borrowed from Indian shawls from the Kashmir region woven with goat down from the high plateaus of Asia and Tibet. Their unique weaving technique, called "kani", required two to three men per loom and eighteen to thirty-six months of work were needed to produce just one shawl. The paisley motif is a variation on the palmette or boteh. The boteh motif, a kind of lanceolate leaf curved at the top, was very popular in Safavid Iran (1501-1722) and Mughal India (1526-1857).
Its unique shape appears to have many meanings, evoking a droplet, Buddha's tear or the foliage of a cypress tree for some, and the fiery tongue of ancient Zarathustra for others. These exceptional shawls were originally reserved for the sultans. They were later exported throughout the Orient and introduced into Europe in the late 18th century by the English, who had annexed this highly coveted area of India, then under the Directory and Consulate after the Egypt campaign. Shawls and stoles from Kashmir were rapidly adopted by high-society ladies who, it should be remembered, dressed mostly in light, transparent muslin dresses inspired by Antiquity at the time.

In the 19th century, enthusiasm was such that the French textile industry began reproducing these large shawls a few years after England and Scotland, home to the famous town of Paisley. The draw looms and jacquard looms already used for silk were adapted in Nîmes, Paris and Lyon, which went on to specialize in the fashion. The creation of design schools favored the continual invention of new patterns, while the development of department stores and the fashion press propelled the success of the fabrics to unparalleled heights.
Their sometimes-exorbitant cost did nothing to deter 19th-century women, eager to own one of these precious shawls. In response to very high demand, French manufacturers took popular Kashmiri boteh motifs and adapted them to create a multitude of new shapes.

Alsace and England rapidly became two major hubs for these oriental motifs, which were now printed rather than being woven: the printing process was fast and hence far more profitable, allowing the collections to be renewed each season. Dresses in turn were adorned with the warm colors of swaying palmettes. Soon, fabric-printing factories were producing endless new designs and, for nearly a century, developed models for headscarves, stoles, shawls and fabrics for clothing or decoration sold by the meter.

Not a single French region, traditional costume or fashionable outfit escaped the trend. In Provence, piqué petticoats, skirts, dresses, camisoles, headscarves and even winter clothes such as capes and mantles sported the motifs from North India and the Orient. Printed fabric production was relaunched in the 20th century, in particular at the last factories still in operation in Provence. The success of the light, comfortable and silky fabrics made in the South of France, revisiting Indian motifs from the previous century, was so great that their oriental origins were somewhat forgotten and the generic term "Provencal fabric" was born, designating cottons printed with colorful Kashmiri boteh patterns.



 



Printed cotton scarf with a discharge-printed red and tan background.

Overlaid with large yellow, blue and green palmette prints.  →

French paisley shawls, first half of the 19th century
Rewarded loyalty

Rewarded loyalty

 Secured payment

Secured payment

Free samples

Free samples

Satisfied or refunded

Satisfied or refunded