The perennial paisley print has many different sartorial connotations: from Art Nouveau gentleman’s smoking jackets to Saint Laurent’s ‘seventies romantic references; nostalgic nineties Prince to swinging ‘sixties psychedelia. Fashion historians quibble over the exact origins of the floral motif, some arguing Persia, others favouring Celtic foundations. The pattern became widespread in the first half of the 17th century when imported by the East India Company – so much so that they couldn’t keep up with demand. Fast forward a few hundred years and European production increased, particularly in the West of Scotland town from which the pattern derives its name – so there’s a second Caledonian connection – which became the foremost producers of the woven paisley shawls. Printed cotton and wool versions of the pattern followed, and this more affordable incarnation helped paisley to go mainstream. Reinvented in the 20th century, the print became particularly synonymous with ’60s and ’70s style.
The twisted teardrop pattern is as fresh as it is traditional, utterly timeless but somehow contemporary too. In recent years designers like J.W. Anderson made the print seem new again, adorning layered separates in bold paisley, while style icons such as Florence Welch reinvigorated the romantic history of the heritage print in wafty dresses with billowing sleeves. But how do us mere mortals wear it? I say embrace all over paisley – the trick is subtle colours, which can make a potentially overwhelming print that bit more wearable. It’s taken a while to find my dream vintage version, but this Jaeger number ticked all the boxes for me – fluid fabric, romantic midi length, demure neckline and muted colour palette. And it cost me the grand total of £5! A charity shop bargain if ever there was one. In terms of styling, tone the rest down with a leather jacket or clash with a contrasting, bigger print, like my Boden checked mohair coat in complementary colours. If the thought of all-over paisley scares you, then add a men’s vintage silk scarf to jeans and a jumper, or pair a patterned skirt with a plain top to break up the print.
What are your thoughts on paisley? What are you wearing at the moment?
What I’m wearing: vintage Jaeger dress; coat c/o Boden; Clarks boots; vintage accessories and Topshop faux fur hat (old).