In the west, this famous motif came to known as ‘paisley’, based on the name of the town in Scotland where many of the looms were located during the industrialization of the shawl industry in Europe. Ever since, the paisley motifs can be seen now in prints, embroidery on fabrics or anywhere as an expression to represent perennial beauty.
The form as known today, originated in the Mughal period and was not seen before the 17th century. Now the motif itself has gathered a lot of vividness about it; it can seen as a sapling, leaves and flowers in various stages from initial buds to full bloom. Flowering plants, swirling vines, spiraling leaf arabesques are rendered in a natural, graceful style, that attempts to create a garden that is worn. The gentle hooked paisley makes it look like it is swaying in one direction because of the breeze!
Though the name ‘paisley’ has its roots in the west, the motif itself has connotations of eastern beauty and culture. The most common usage of this is to be found in hand embroideries on woolen, more so on cashmere or pashmina shawls and stoles. The pashmina shawls being so soft and vulnerable, that it is difficult to do a machine embroidery on them (rather it would be a sacrilege to attempt to machine embroider a luxurious pashmina wrap), so these shawls/wraps are lovingly hand embroidered with many traditional motifs, paisley being one of them.
The other usage in women’s clothing seems to be on the fabric lengths being printed with mills or hand screen and also we see the t.shirts/tunics/skirts and dresses being adorned with hand embroidered paisleys.