Sunday, February 18, 2007

In Praise of Shawls

Women in Europe, Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, still wear them. They are practical, stylish, and have a certain je ne sais quoi.
Women in America discovered them (fashionable women, that is, the more Bohemian and some of the dowdier always used them) with the advent of the pashmina.
I am, of course, talking about shawls, a versatile piece of clothing that can keep you warm, add flair to your appearance, and serve every purpose from keeping your cat in control to being a make-shift umbrella.
I fell in love with shawls when I was traveling in India where shawls are a way of life. After all, the dupatta is a shawl, and really you could say that a sari is simply a shawl that serves as a dress. I bought shawls there, and I've been wearing those shawls and more that I've bought ever since.
Now I am not talking about the loosely crocheted shawl that your great-aunt saw fit to make for you and give you as a token as her affection. I am talking about pashminas, woolen squares, solid or beautiful patterns, long lengths of cashmere - real shawls that will keep you warm. I wear a shawl many times instead of a coat. With a good woolen shawl that I can wrap around me, a pair of gloves, and warm boots, I can get by with a suit jacket unless I have to walk several blocks - certainly I can drive around doing errands without having to keep a bulky coat on. When it is really cold, I wear one over my coat: my largest wool shawl adds a layer of warmth and hugs my neck, while a simple pashmina I treat as a scarf and wrap it twice around my neck.
When I'm caught outside in the rain, I simply pulling my shawl over my head keeps my long hair dry (unless it's a total downpour). In the summer, a light silk shawl keeps me from freezing in air-conditioned theatres, and just last week, I learned that my cat loves to go to the vet held against my chest wrapped in a shawl rather than being put in the kitty carrier.
Maybe one of the things I love most about shawls is the way that they make me feel: feminine, even exotic, sophisticated.
Choose your shawl carefully: you can't go wrong with a pashmina or Himalayan shawl. A Burberry is so popular in Europe that they stay sold-out. Avoid shawls that are made of too-fuzzy yarn, or are crocheted and bulky or that have fringe that will have all the cats in the neighborhood following you to play.
Do match them to your coat, your suit, your gloves and boots. And stay warm and chic.
The Louis Vuitton shawl to the left is a classic that you can keep forever and then hand down to your daughter.

1 comment:

NA said...

I am a huge fan of the shawl. Love, love, love them.