The Johnston Collection

Fabricating The World: ‘The only proof of true love’: Kashmir and Paisley shawls in the era of Jane Austen

Explore the history of the Kashmir shawl - perhaps the most important and interesting fashion accessory in the era of Jane Austen.


Event Details



Event Starts

Jul 25, 2024 14:00

Event Ends

Jul 25, 2024 15:30


192 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne VIC, Australia


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The Fabricating the World series explores three examples of the impact of textiles from the Islamic world on interior decoration and fashion in Europe from the 16th century to the present day.  Robust trade connections and artistic exchange between Europe and the East have been documented by merchants as far back as the 11th century in Fatimid Egypt. Such exchanges increased in the Middle Ages and especially during the Renaissance when material culture from the Middle East in particular had a major aesthetic impact on European art and fashion.

Perhaps the most important and interesting fashion accessory in the era of Jane Austen (1775–1817), was the Kashmir shawl and its imitations made in Norwich in England and in Paisley, Scotland. Large and exotic shawls added practical warmth and social prestige to the simple, high-waisted garments of the so-called Empire-line favoured by Austen and her milieu. This talk traces the arrival of this fashion into England from France, its spread in popularity across the whole gamut of society from the aristocracy through the middle classes and amongst the working poor, and the ways in which Jane Austen’s characters defined themselves in the social hierarchy depending on their choice of these garments. 

Susan Scollay is an art historian specialising in Islamic art and architecture and in historic textiles. She is an elected fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and honorary fellow in art history and curatorship at the University of Melbourne. She has been a regular speaker at The Johnston Collection since 2007 and has convened the Fabricating the World textile series since 2018.

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