M975.32.4 | Shawl

About 1850, 19th century
160 x 163 cm
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Charles McEachran
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Shawl (17)
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Keys to History

British women, from the mid-18th century on, wore shawls imported from India, especially Cashmere (Kashmir). India was then part of the vast British Empire.

Appreciated for their warmth, cashmere shawls were very expensive and were therefore beyond the means of all but the upper classes.

A hundred years later, cashmere shawls were still preferred by elegant women, who saw them as a tangible symbol of their wealth. At the time, steamers from England regularly put into Montreal carrying products from the four corners of the British Empire. All the fashionable women had shawls in their wardrobes to wrap around their shoulders when they went out.

  • What

    This square silk shawl from India belonged to Lady Allan, who lived in a house called Ravenscrag.

  • Where

    In the 19th century, the English were fascinated by India and imported various items of clothing, jewellery and typical spices, including curry powder, from the British colony.

  • When

    Shawls were one type of clothing accessory that withstood the upheavals in fashion between 1850 and 1870.

  • Who

    Young British women had Indian shawls in their trousseau, for they were considered to be valuable heirlooms.