Traditional Russian Wool Shawls in Moscow.
Walking through one of the markets in Moscow, I saw the most beautiful Russian wool shawls. They vary in print, size and color but it was the bright red ones that caught my eye immediately. They can be used as shawls or scarves and are made from 100% pure wool and is not exposed to any kind of technical processing.
We visited a lot of religious sites and churches and I didn`t see women wearing these scarves. They wore normal everyday scarves like the ones I had in my cupboard. I was wondering about these Russian wool shawls. Why are they being sold to foreigners as souvenirs? What history do they have?
Shawls from Pavlovsky Posad.
What I didn`t know at the time, was that the scarves I saw at the market, were in fact Pavlovo Posad scarves. Pavlovo Posad is a small town just outside of Moscow. It is known all over Russia for its shawls and scarves factory. The factory has been operating since the 18th century and even today their beautiful, bright, floral decorated shawls and scarves are in great demand.
In the 18th century shawls were woven of yarns. It took up to 18 months to make a single shawl and they were very expensive.
In the 19th century the printed woolen shawls replaced costly color woven shawls. Over the years , the factory has received International recognition, as one of the best scarf and shawl makers in the world.
Russian scarf babushka.
I have seen these brightly colored scarves in many older Russian movies. An elderly woman or Babushka normally had one of these scarves covering her head, draped over her shoulders or wrapped around her waist. How come I didn’t see women in Russia with these scarves or shawls?
Well, times are changing in Russia. Traditionally women, old and young, wore scarves in the countryside and rural areas. In the old Russian empire women used scarves to stay warm when they left the house. But there is more to the story. It showed their social and marital status.
In cold weather the scarf keeps you warm and in warm weather it “breathes” and keeps the skin cool.
Remember I spoke about the different colors and prints? Well, various embroideries on the scarf, prints and fabric also represented social status and background. Women didn’t leave the house without a scarf. Even to this day my mother-in-law always puts a scarf around her head when she leaves the house.
They were also passed on from generation to generation and it was a great honor to receive a scarf from an elderly family member.
Russian scarves and the modern woman.
The reason why I didn’t see women wearing traditional Russian scarves is because the younger generation don`t wear them. They lost their appeal and is now reserved for the Babushki. But not all is lost. It seems like they are gaining popularity especially when you look at street photography where the woman is wearing a traditional Russian shawl or scarf.
There is a lot of emphasis on fashion in Moscow and women like to wear beautiful clothes. The Pavlovo Posad shawl and scarf is now worn as a fashion statement and because it is so versatile. These scarves and shawls look elegant and add that extra touch to your outfit.
Did I buy one? No! Next time I will make sure to buy that gorgeous red Russian Wool Shawl that I saw. I know it will come in quite handy here in Argentina and I will have a beautiful Russian souvenir.