During the 17th and 18th centuries, India exported vast quantities of textiles throughout the world. The influence of India's textile export may be judged by the number of textile terms in use today which have Indian origins: chintz, calico, dungaree, gingham, khaki, madras, pyjama, sash, seersucker, and shawl are just a few..
By far the most prized of Indian fabrics during this time period was Chintz, a cotton fabric usually having a large-scale, floral pattern applied by mordants (a resist dyeing method). For the finest chintz, the design was actually painted on the fabric, not printed. The colors were fast (they didn't fade or wash out). Chintz was used for both apparel fabrics and home furnishing fabrics (drapes & bedspreads) (Irwin and Brett, 1970).
In the mid-18th century a new accessory was introduced to the fashionable European woman's wardrobe which remained fashionable for almost a century. This was a shawl produced in Kashmir which is located in the northern part of India bordering the Himalayan Mountains. The shawls were originally brought to England by the East India Company, as well as by travelers bringing home gifts.
The finest shawls were woven from the very fine and soft hair of a Kashmir mountain goat. (This is the fiber we know today as Cashmere.) The Kashmir shawls were handwoven entirely by men. One or two men would work 2-3 years to produce one shawl. Thismade the shawls very expensive (A Kashmir shawl at that time cost the equivalent of a mink coat today.). However, they were in such great demand that European manufacturers quickly began efforts to try to imitate them. A good source of shawl images and info is Victoriana.
Kashmir and paisley shawls can be identified by the use of a certain design
motif which in India is called the boteh. After European textile
manufacturers began imitating the shawls, the motif began to be called
a paisley, after Paisley, Scotland, one of the largest producers of imitation
Kashmir shawls (Reilly, 1987).
The phenomenon of the banyan, a gentleman's loose, long jacket or gown in the 1800's, illustrates combined Japanese and Indian influences. Trade with Japan was open from 1543 to 1640, and then closed until 1854. During the time that Japan was closed to trade, Japanese kimono made their way to Europe via Dutch traders who were the only ones to have access Japanese ports. Because of the rarity of kimono in the western world, it became a valued commodity. Demand quickly exceeded supply. The scarcity of the kimono enhanced its popularity and led the Dutch to manufacture banyans in India where they were highly involved in textile trade and export.
The banyan was a loose, full kimono style in the early 18th century, but later evolved into a more fitted style with set-in sleeves, similar to a man's coat. It was known as an Indian gown, nightgown, morning gown, or dressing gown. First used as a type of robe, it was originally worn for leisure and in at-home situations; but came to be worn as a coat out-of-doors, in the street, or for business. Many gentlemen had their portraits made while wearing banyans. They were made from all types of fabrics in cotton, silk, or wool (Cunningham, 1984).
Authentication of the Banyan and the Kashmir Shawl
Thinking of the levels in the cultural authentication process, how did Europeans adopt the Kashmir shawl and the Banyan and make them their own? Did each go through the cultural authentication process? Refer to the previous chapter for definitions of the levels of cultural authentication.
The Kashmir Shawl
Selection - The shawls were purchased as gifts for family and friends by those traveling in India, and were also made available in Europe through trading companies, such as the East India Company.
Incorporation - English women were quick to incorporate them into their wardrobes.
Transformation - As Kashmir shawls gained in popularity, European textile manufacturers sought to copy them. However, European designers knew nothing of Indian symbolism. The boteh, therefore, was adapted for Western tastes. Additionally, European manufacturers could not duplicate the Kashmir shawls in either fiber type or weaving method. Cashmere was not available, so wool and/or silk was substituted. Kashmir shawls were woven by hand which was one reason they cost so much. European manfuacturers experimented with printed designs, woven bands with the boteh motif attached to a solid center section, and then finally, the Jacquard loom was invented in 1805. The Jacquard loom allowed weavers the versatility of weaving large design motifs utilizing many colors and thus, European weavers were able to more closely duplicate the Kashmir shawls (Levi-Strauss, 1988).
Characterization - Imitation Kashmir shawls were made in several European manufacturing centers. The most famous being Paisley, Scotland. Because of the large production of these shawls coming from Paisley, eventually both the design motif itself and the shawl gained the name "Paisley". The word "shawl" is actually derived from an Indian word (Reilly, 1987).
Selection - It was common in the 18th century for gentlemen to wear comfortable, negligee' style clothing in their homes. For gentlemen, this was a long robe or gown which replaced the tight coat and waistcoat (vest) worn in public. Trade with Japan and India affected the demand for gowns made in the kimono style. The Dutch East India Company was the only trade group to have access to Japan durign this time period. The demand for these garments became so great that the Dutch eventually began manufacturing them in India through their locations there.
Characterization - The banyan was known by a variety of names. Theses included the Indian gown, the morning gown, and nightgown. The name banyan itself may be derived from the Indian word bannian which translates as a Hindu merchant and also as a loose shirt or gown worn in India.
Incorporation - Banyans were worn first in the home for "undress." Then gradually they became more and more commonly seen in professional and social situations. It was also very common for a gentleman to have his portrait painted in one.
Transformation - Early banyans may have been kimono, for they were shaped much like a man's kimono. Later in the century, a more tailored style evolved which was more like a man's coat