From Buteh To Paisley

Printed cloth sample with paisley motifs, European, 1980's. Printed cloth sample with paisley motifs, European, 1980's. TRC 2019.2619

7. Some Western paisley variations

Over the centuries, various forms of the paisley motif have developed in the West. In particular throughout the 20th century, the paisley motif has been creatively transformed accordingly to the contemporary fashion and style of printing.

These patterns include small concise forms (early 19th century), large elongated versions (19th and early 20th century), floral forms (1930’s), abstract blobs (1950’s), negative shapes (1960’s), even an atomic version (1960’s) and op-art versions (1960’s-1970’s). There are also ‘animated’ versions, which include elephants or fish (1980’s). There are even designs that mix paisley motifs with rats (designed by Patrick Moriarty in c. 2017). Basically, the development of the paisley motif will continue with every change in fashion.

Indian and other motifs mistaken for paisley

john lennon phantom v rolls royce julian 5fc14c9c 11f1 45be 9c30 fb6cf2885effjohn L and his Phantom V Rolls Royce, NOT with paisley motifs.Sometimes Indian and some types of European floral designs are mis-identified as paisley motifs. This can be seen on garments such as a kaftan from Singapore, which includes a variety of ornate ‘oriental’ foliate motifs. Another classic mistake is the often cited Rolls-Royce owned by former Beatle, John Lennon, in the 1960’s, which is often said to have included paisley motifs. The car is decorated with European scrolling foliage, but not the paisley motif!


Most of the samples below are taken from the collection made by the French artist and designer, Professor Yves Cuvelier (1913-2005), part of which was donated to the TRC. For more information, see a TRC blog, 'A glimpse into the post-war Parisian textile world', 28 March 2020.


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