Exhibitions: Shawls, Caps & Lappets

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    Shawls, Caps & Lappets

    • Dates: June 14, 1940 through October 6, 1940
    Press Releases ?
    • June 14, 1940: An exhibition of Indian, Paisley and lace shawls, supplemented by caps and lappets, in line with the current vogue for shawls, will be put on view at the Brooklyn Museum in an exhibition, drawn from the Museum’s costume collections, opening Friday, June 14th, and continuing through Sunday, October 6th.

      Of the two dozen shawls shown, the major part will be Indian and Paisley. Some will be draped on mannequins to show the different ways they were worn, and one exhibit will demonstrate how to distinguish between the Indian and the Paisley, which was an imitation of the India shawl. Caps and lappets are included in the exhibition because they were other costume accessories that were fashionable at the same time shawls were. There will be about a dozen caps and half a dozen lappets.

      ORIGIN OF SHAWLS
      Shawls have their origin in India, where the draped type of costume was prevalent. The word comes from the Persian “shal.” They date from the end of the 15th Century at the time of the great Indian ruler Baber. As they were made from fine hair of goats found with great difficulty high in the Himalayas, they were a great rarity and only princes could afford the material. For that reason shawl making was done under royal patronage. Some of the centers were Kashmir, Delhi, Lahore and the Punjab.

      There are still in existence records of the registration marks which were embroidered into the India shawls during the reign of the great Moguls. These marks, mildly comparable to silver, gold and pewter hallmarks, may have been employed for the identification of the designs.

      In India, shawls were part of men’s clothing. Two types were developed, the long and the square. The former had a finishing pattern at each end, and the latter a border on all four sides.

      They were produced in two ways; one, by weaving in small pieces and joining them by needlework so fine that seams are barely perceptible, and the other, all in one piece, by needle weaving.

      INTRODUCTION INTO EUROPE
      Shawls first found their way into Europe in the early Renaissance as presentation pieces from Indian princes to Important Europeans. For many years they were considered important objects of great rarity, sometimes valued at 2500 pounds. Some few were imported by the East Indian Company as early as 1750, but it was not until after Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt that they were introduced into Europe in the popular sense. The French soldiers brought them as gifts for women, and they became enormously popular in a short time. At first they were treasured as priceless pieces, but when a reigning Parisian beauty decided to wear hers, it started a great vogue for them as part of the costume. Europe developed several ways to wear the shawl, from Sweden to Spain, using it as a veil over the head, dropped over the shoulders, knotted around the waist, or wrapped about the body as a skirt. In Russia at one time ladies passed judgment on each other as much by their shawls as by their jewels.

      The long shawl was most popular in the early days of the 19th Century, then the silhouette was slender and tubular; but as the skirt grew to bell shape, the square shawl folded in triangular form surpassed it in popularity.

      American sea captains brought them to the United States as one of the many early Oriental importations.

      REPRODUCTIONS
      Like many Oriental importations, ways were devised to reproduce them as well as possible at reasonable prices. France tried it about 1785, going so far as to attempt breeding of the goats, with little success. The best result was at Paisley in Scotland, whose products are of a quality to compare with some India shawls. The industry started there in 1805. It was considered so important an industry that when the fashion for shawls began to wane in the middle of the 19th Century, Queen Victoria sponsored them by wearing them constantly and making a collection. The Paisley shawl generally is a mixture of silk and Saxon yarns, and frequently brought prices $200 to $500.

      By the time the vogue was dying out in Europe, cheaper shawls were being made for the general public with printed patterns imitating the Indian and Paisley ones. There was a revival of interest in the Indian and Paisley types in 1922 and 1923, when shawls were cut up to be made into coats and jackets, and dress materials were printed in Paisley patterns.

      LACES
      The lace shawls on exhibition will be long, square and triangular types, of Valenciennes, Chantilly and Point d’Gaze, and will include also a pusher lace cape.

      CAPS AND LAPPETS
      Lingerie caps which will be shown resemble the baby bonnets of today. They went through a series of uses beginning in the early 19th Century as a fashionable headdress for practically every hour of the day. They enjoyed their greatest importance when they were worn at dinner, which at that time took place at five o’clock. Later they were worn under bonnets, and they finally became a symbol of quiet old age, for daytime and for night wear to ward off dangerous drafts.

      They will be shown in the exhibition on model heads, with the correct headdresses of their time, fashioned out of colored papers. Others will be exhibited to show design and material. Lappets are lacy streamers that were worn hanging down each side of the head.

      Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1939 - 1941. 05-06/1940, 100-2. View Original 1 . View Original 2 . View Original 3

    • June 14, 1940: An exhibition of Indian, Paisley and lace shawls, supplemented by caps and lappets, in line with the current vogue for shawls, goes on view at the Brooklyn Museum in an exhibition, drawn from the Museum’s costume collections, opening Friday, June 14th, and continuing through Sunday, October 6th.

      Of the two dozen shawls shown, the major part is composed of Indian and Paisley examples. Some are draped on mannequins to show the various ways they were worn, and one exhibit demonstrates how to distinguish between the Indian and the Paisley, which was a European imitation of the India shawl. The lace shawls on exhibition are long, square and triangular types, of Valenciennes, Chantilly and Point d’Gaze, and include also a Pusher lace cape.

      Caps and lappets are included because they were costume accessories that were fashionable at the same time shawls were. There will be about a dozen caps and half a dozen lappets.

      The objects and labels explain the origin of shawls in India about the end of the 15th century. Due to the scarcity of the material for making them, the hair of goats that live high in the Himalaya mountains, shawls were made first only under royal patronage. Originally they were a part of men’s clothing. They were produced in two ways, by weaving in small pieces and then joining these pieces by needle work in seams so fine they were barely perceptible or else all in one piece by needle weaving.

      They found their way to Europe in the early Renaissance as presentation pieces from Indian Princes to important Europeans and were considered objects of great rarity. Some were valued as high as £2500. Napolean’s campaign in Egypt is responsible for popularizing them in Europe. French soldiers took them home as gifts to women. When a reigning Parisian beauty decided to wear hers it started the great vogue for them as a part of women’s costumes.

      In every country in Europe shawls were worn by women in different ways such as a veil over the head, draped over the shoulders, knotted around the waist or wrapped about the body as a skirt. American sea captains brought them to this country as a result of their circumnavigations of the world.

      Their popularity of shawls lead to attempts at reproducing them in Europe. In France some ambitious people went so far as to try to breed the goats for the hair but this resulted in little success. A thriving industry was, however, started at Paisley in Scotland in 1805 where the products were of a quality to compare with the Indian. When the fashion began to wain, Queen Victoria took an interest in the shawl business to the point of wearing shawls constantly and making a collection of them. There was a great revival and interest in the Indian and Paisley types in 1922 and 1923 when shawls were cut up to be made into coats and dresses, and dress materials were printed in Paisley patterns. This summer there has been another revival of shawls to be worn with costumes.

      Lingerie caps which will be shown resemble the baby bonnets of today. They went through a series of uses beginning in the early 19th Century as a fashionable headress for practically every hour of the day. They enjoyed their greatest importance when they were worn at dinner, which at that time took place at 5 o’clock. Later they were worn under bonnets, and they finally became a symbol of quiet old age, for daytime and for night wear to ward off dangerous drafts.

      They will be shown in the exhibition on model heads, with the correct headresses of their time, fashioned out of colored papers. Others will be exhibited to show design and material. Lappets are lacy streamers that were worn hanging down each side of the head.

      Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1939 - 1941. 05-06/1940, 121-2. View Original 1 . View Original 2

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    The Brooklyn Museum Archives maintains a collection of historical press releases. Many of these have been scanned and made available on our Web site. The releases range from brief announcements to extensive articles; images of the original releases have been included for your reference. Please note that all the original typographical elements, including occasional errors, have been retained. Releases may also contain errors as a result of the scanning process. We welcome your feedback about corrections.
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