By: Blair Rhodes
Over time, the name "pashmina" has become a catch-all name for almost any shawl, wrap, stole or scarf. It is this generic use of the term that creates confusion among would-be buyers and wearers.
Pashmina is actually the type material itself, which is a type of wool harvested from a specific breed of goat found naturally in the high altitudes of the Himalayan Mountains. Because they live approximately 14,000 feet above sea level, these special goats grow a thin, inner coat of hair that insulates them during the long, harsh Himalayan winters. It is this unique inner coat of hair that is used to produce pashmina. Each hair is about 1/6th the diameter of most other types of hair - but is still surprisingly durable while being stunningly soft and comforting to human skin. For thousands of years, the fleece from the goat has been utilized in the production of high quality fashion accessories such as shawls, wraps, and scarves.
These shawls have been manufactured in Kashmir and Nepal for thousands of years. In Nepal, they were called "pashmina" and in Kashmir, they were typically called "Kashmiri wool shawls". Both are basically the same, just using different names. But during the popular shawl trend in the 1990s, "pashmina" became the most recognized term.
What is known as a pashmina may be an accessory composed of pure pashmina or a pashmina/silk blend. The blend ratio can vary, but the most common is 70% pashmina wool and 30% silk. A pashmina shawl will typically be about 36"x80", a wrap/stole is about 28"x80", and a scarf/muffler will be around 12"x80".
A pashmina is a very versatile accessory, whether it be a shawl, wrap, or scarf. The most popular website showing example of how to wear one is from the television show "Oprah". The link to this is http://www.oprah.com/tows/pastshows/tows_2000/tows_past_20000306_c.jhtml and is worth a visit. The Pashmina Store at http://www.thepashminastore.com offers a variety of pashmina accessories.
Pashmina care is actually fairly easy and with proper care a pashmina can last a long, long time. While dry-cleaning is suggested, you may wash in cold water and a gentle shampoo, such as baby shampoo. Be careful if there are any tassels since they may unwind. Then lay the item flat to dry, do not wring dry. A warm iron is okay, but it is best to put a piece of paper or fabric between the iron and the pashmina. Store your pashmina in a bag away from moisture and light, as well as damaging insects.
Once you have worn one, you will most likely become a pashmina addict. They are truly a wonderful way to dress up even a casual outfit or to accentuate more formal attire. They look great and feel even better.
About The Author:
Blair Rhodes has been involved in the pashmina business since 2000 with The Pashmina Store, http://www.thepashminastore.com, one of the leading online pashmina retailers in North America. After earning an MBA at the University of Texas at Austin, Blair travelled with his family to Nepal and Kashmir, where they discovered the joys of the culture and the traditions of quality pashmina production. This lead to the eventual formation of the pashmina business and the sharing of this wonderful luxury item with North American fashion lovers.
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