We did it first: Paisley

We did it first: Paisley

Did you wear paisley in the 1960s? If so, you'd be bang on trend today!

It’s 1967. The Summer of Love. The Beatles have been officially left in charge and the nation is on a mission to get groovy. So when the mob-topped Fab Four emerge in swirly Bohemian paisley shirts, it instantly becomes the latest fashion fad, beloved of funky men and women alike. And now, almost 50 years on, psychedelic paisley is making a big comeback. 

From boho dresses, to zany headscarves, paisley has well and truly wreaked its colourful havoc on the catwalks, high streets and celebrity fashions of 2016. Yves Saint Lauren, Burberry and Dolce & Gabana have all incorporated it into their latest women’s collections, while it’s already been set as a major menswear trend for autumn winter 2016-2017. 

Meanwhile, model Alexa Chung has revived the paisley print for the Marks & Spencer archive collection, with a beautiful paisley Eliza dress at a price we can all afford and a look everyone can all master. And paisley has already garnered an impressive star following with Jennifer Lawrence, Fearne Cotton and Sophie Ellis-Bextor among the fans stepping out in the swirly look. Kate Moss even went the whole hippy hog when she appeared recently in a floor-length paisley dress completely bare foot – how very bohemian. 


The look has even reached royalty as the Duchess of Cornwall recently wowed us in a series of glamorous paisley dresses, designed by Alexander McQueen, on her tour around India. Paisley turned out to be the perfect match for Kate’s effortless chi, giving her a fresh, summery look with just the right touch of the east about it. 

The paisley story

Not just the preserve of wispy-haired Sixties rock stars, paisley actually has a history stretching right back to ancient times. It originated in Persia – now modern day Iran – where it was called boteh and the figs, mangoes and pickles it depicted represented fertility and the ancient religion Zoroastrianism. 

It soon became such a popular pattern that the East India company who created it couldn’t keep up with demand. So textile printers in Europe started to mass-produce their own version in the mid 1600s. By the 19th century, paisley was really taking off again, as soldiers returning from the colonies brought back these delicately patterned cashmere wool shawls, which UK weavers would copy, especially in the Scottish town of Paisley from which the fabric we know today gets its name. 

Gradually over time, paisley began to be printed rather than woven onto textiles, including cotton squares, which were the precursors to the modern-day bandana. Then William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement claimed paisley into their designs, and it became an emblem of the era’s artsy bohemianism as well as a favourite of Liberty London. Oscar Wilde was a big fan too! 

Then came the Sixties, and paisley stepped up as the perfect fashion to suit this swinging, bohemian decade, made famous by the likes of The Beatles, Mick Jagger and David Bowie.  And soon it was so mainstream, even those wholesome boys of The Dave Clark Five were going wild with paisley patterns!