PASHMINA SCARVES, SHAWLS & WRAPS
The pashmina scarf has been around for a long while, but it really only rocketed to mainstream popularity in the 1990s, after pashminas were spotted around the necks and shoulders of fashion editors and chic women around the globe; most notably on Her Royal Highness Diana, Princess of Wales. The images of these luxuriously oversized scarves around the necks of some of the world’s most fashionable women sent customers clamouring to the stores to purchase one of their own, and launched such a demand for these luxury scarves that a fashion trend (and a small industry) was born. That industry is still going strong to this day.
To really trace the origins of the pashmina, one has to look back as far as the 3rd Century BC, where one can find references in ancient Afghan texts that make mention of a certain type of woollen shawl made in Kashmir. In fact, woollen shawls have been made in the Kashmir region for literally thousands of years, and were renowned for their superior warmth, lightness, and feel. Over the years, the process of harvesting and producing these woollen shawls has been refined and honed as modern technology afforded more sophisticated methods to be used. The methods of production may have changed, but design-wise the classic pashmina scarf has weathered the years relatively unchanged by the sands of time.
A true pashmina scarf is made from a very specific type of wool that comes from a very specific type of mountain goat. This goat, called the Changthangi or Pashmina goat, lives in the high-altitute regions of the Himalayas. Traditional pashmina scarves are made from only this very special type of cashmere, and are sometimes referred to as “shahtoosh”. Shashtoosh pashminas are renowned for their lightness; there is a gauzy quality to the fabric that is undeniably luxurious, yet is actually almost too delicate to be serviceable by our modern standards; any kind of embroidery would be out of the question, and even light wear can sometimes be enough to create a rip or tear in the fabric. As the production process became more sophisticated over time, wool blends were introduced in order to increase the durability (not to mention the affordability) of the pashmina.
Walk into any shop that sells pashmina scarves, whether they be “pure” changthangi cashmere or a modern wool blend, and the first thing you will probably notice is the incredible array of color that meets your eye. Pashmina scarves are available in just about every color of the rainbow. When shopping for a pashmina, it is not unusual to encounter several different shade varieties from the same vendor, each with just a subtle hint of difference from the last. Whatever color you decide on, when looking at purchasing a pashmina, there is one important thing to remember:
Once you have chosen your pashmina, keep it forever and wear it year round. Yes, pashminas are scarves, but they are not just an accessory for cold weather. One of the best things about the pashmina is its lightweight effortlessness. A pashmina will lift your look with a pop of color, keep you warm on a long-haul flight, or even take the place of a cardigan or jacket over your favorite dress. However you decide to style it, treat it with care, and it will likely reward you for the rest of your life.
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