We are all familiar with a shawl, that pretty and comforting accessory that not only warms but adds an element of grace and style to an outfit. We've seen wedding versions made of organdy or knit from fine wool -- but did you know that their origins are much, much older than that?
The word shawl comes from the Persian 'shal', simply a loose, wrapping garment meant for warmth, and they are traditional throughout the east, for men as well as women. Beyond simple warmth, though, they can have decorative, symbolic, and even religious purposes. And they are certainly worn at weddings.
The type we're most familiar with in the West is probably the pashmina, made from the wool taken from the underbelly of a particular kind of goat in the hill-country of Tibet, Nepal, and the Kashmir region of India. The wool is "pashm", meaning finest wool, "soft gold", also called cashmere. Wedding shawls in India are not the delicate white wispy creations we're accustomed to as bridal accessories here in the west. They are woven from light wool, but they are full of depth and vibrancy colors -- red, purple black, maroon, gold, champagne -- richly embroidered and often shot through with gold thread. Luxurious and celebratory: perfect for that very special day!