Thursday, May 25, 2017

Book Review: Paisley Plaid and Purled: Shawls of the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Cover of "Paisley Plaid and Purled: Shawls of the Mid-19th Century" by Anna Worden Bauersmith.

Paisley Plaid and Purled: Shawls of the Mid-Nineteenth Century by Anna Worden Bauersmith (2015)

Another much-over-due review from my winter reading list.  Ms. Bauersmith has written a thorough (nearly encyclopedic) introduction to shawl styles and varieties c. 1840-1865.  Like From Field to FashionPaisley, Plaid and Purled delves into manufacturing practices and deals extensively with written sources from the period.  However, it also includes a large number of pictures (of original shawls, as well as historic images featuring shawls), and even project instructions from period sources.

The main narrative covers half the book (63 pages), and details the author's research methods and results.  She looks at how shawls are described and referenced in the period, who was wearing them, what kinds were available (including common sizes), and how shawls were made and worn.  Some 27 period photographs are included, with discussion of the shawls featured therein.  Modern color images of two original shawls, in all their colorful glory, are also featured.  This section ends with period instructions for homemade shawls: quilted, embroidered, knitted, netted, and crocheted.

To aid in one's further research, there is also a seven page bibliography, as well as a lengthy appendix of useful information.  In addition to longer quotation from period sources (including more shawl instructions, and manufacturing information), there's a glossary of terms, a helpful table of shawl prices, extensive charts detailing shawl manufacture from around the world, descriptions of shawls in advertisements, and seasonal references to shawls, etc.

There's very little I would change about this book, as I'm busy swooning over the footnotes and gazing covetously on the original pictures.  A lot of the information is from publicly available sources, but the amount of work that went into assembling this information, and explaining it is tremendous, and definitely worth the cost of an e-book.  Those looking for explicit project instructions might be frustrated, as the ones featured here are all from the period, and thus spare in their instructions.  However, I don't know of any other source nearly this comprehensive which also translates the patterns for modern use.

Score: 5 Stars.

Accuracy: High. Extensive use of period material, fully cited.

Strongest Impression: I would recommend this book to anyone participating in costumed historic interpretation or interested in historic clothing.  Yes, including men.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the beautiful review of PP&P. I am glad you enjoyed the book and found it useful.


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