The paisley teardrop: eternally chic



On the AW15/16 runways it featured prominently in Burberry Prorsum print dresses, on a wonderful Mary Katrantzou purple kick-flare skirt and also appears on Masscob’s print dresses and Rockins scarves.  It turns up regularly translated into lush brocades but works just as well in a “prairie-style” cotton sundress.  The ancient Persian word was Boteh, meaning a bush, the Brits call it “Paisley”, after the town where textiles were woven, others call it a teardrop or pear-shape print.  It has become a classic, used repeatedly by designers, not least because a gorgeous Kashmiri stole is a great way to liven things up in the dead of winter and the print clashes beautifully with tweeds, brocades and flower prints (just keep colours tonal so that things don’t look too randomly selected).

So where does it come from? The motif features in ancient Persian art and might represent the Zoroastrian tree of life and eternity. Other theories are that it might represent a flame, blossom or a cut-open fig.  IMG_1564After the Muslim conquest of Persia, the design was adopted as a regal motif, eventually becoming a popular motif of the Mughal empire on everything from jewellery to interior design.

What do we find so compelling about this motif that has inspired ancient priests and empire builders and continues to inspire global design movements today? Whatever it is and whether I’m mixing it with my tweeds, my leather jacket, or clashing it with flower or animal prints, I like the idea that the Zoroastrian tree of eternity continues to inspire designers and artists today.   If it was good enough for Hendrix’s hippy-military chic or as the name for Prince’s recording studio, then that’s a regal enough heritage for me.


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