Cultural and Sexual Symbolism of Pagnes

In Senegal, a second, knee-length pagne, called in Wolof a bethio, is worn as an underskirt and seen only in intimate meetings with a lover or husband. A focus of erotic fantasy and innuendo, the bethio plays a strong role in the art of seduction, for which Senegalese women are famous. It is also a product of women's craft. Usually in solid colors, and often white, the bethio is made of various handworked fabrics. One such fabric is a factory silk, or more often polyester, with hand-cut eyelet patterns and silver or gold embroidery. Another fabrication is made of percale, hand embroidered with heavy thread in bright colors. For a third fabrication, women crochet the bethio in fine yarn.

But most important, the pagne or wrapper, as an endlessly versatile piece of cloth, is symbolically fundamental to human culture itself. In Wolof, the principal African language of Senegal, the word for pagne is séru, which means simply "cloth." When a child is born, it is immediately wrapped in a pagne, and as an infant it is carried on its mother's back in a pagne wrapped around her upper body. When a woman in Senegal marries, her friends veil her head in a pagne before they take her on her journey to her husband's house. When a person dies, he or she must be wrapped in a white percale pagne. A symbol of wealth, sexuality, birth, death, and marriage, the pagne is a rich focus of visual aesthetics and multiple meanings.

See also Africa, Sub-Saharan: History of Dress; Boubou. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Boilat, P.-David. Esquisses sénégalaises; physionomie du pays, peuplades, commerce, religions, passé et avenir, récits et légendes. Paris: P. Bertrand, 1853. Eicher, Joanne Bubolz. Nigerian Handcrafted Textiles. Ile-Ife, Nigeria: University of Ife Press, 1976.

Eicher, Joanne Bubolz, and Tonye V. Erekosima. "Why Do They Call It Kalabari? Cultural Authentication and the Demarcation of Ethnic Identity." In Dress and Ethnicity: Change across Space and Time. Edited by Joanne B. Eicher. Oxford: Berg, 1995. Heath, Deborah. "Fashion, Anti-Fashion, and Heteroglossia in Urban Senegal." American Ethnologist 19, no. 2 (1992): 19-33.

Mustafa, Huda Nura. "Sartorial Ecumenes: African Styles in a Social and Economic Context." In The Art of African Fashion. Edited by Els van der Plas and Marlous Willemson. Eritrea: Africa World Press (1998). Perani, Judith, and Norma H. Wolff. Cloth, Dress and Art Patronage in Africa. New York: Berg, 1999. Picton, John, and John Mack. African Textiles. New York:

Harper and Row, 1989. Picton, John, Rayda Becker, et al. The Art of African Textiles: Technology, Tradition, and Lurex. London: Barbican Art Gallery; Lund Humphries Publishers, 1995. Rabine, Leslie W. "Dressing Up in Dakar." L'Esprit créateur 37, no. 1 (1997): 84-107.

-. The Global Circulation of African Fashion. Oxford: Berg,


Leslie W. Rabine

PAILLETTES. See Spangles.

PAISLEY The paisley pattern, though derived from Kashmir shawls and their European imitations, is a variant of an ancient and versatile design theme. The teardrop, or elongated oval with one end tapering to a point, can be traced back to Pharaonic, Chaldean, and Assyrian stone carvings, ancient Greek ceramics, and medieval Coptic, Central Asian, and European textiles. It features variously as lotus bud, tree-of-life, ivy or acanthus leaf, cone, palm frond or cypress, occasionally with the bent-over tip that is the paisley's defining characteristic.

As we know it today, however, the paisley emerged much later, in the shawl design of Kashmir, and perhaps contemporaneously in Persia, in the termeh, the woven shawls of Meshad, Kerman, and Yazd. It developed out of the single, somewhat naturalistic bloom, a restrained and graceful form that in the seventeenth century became the favorite motif of Mughal courtly art. Applied to the shawl fabrics for which Kashmir and Persia were already famous, the single flower evolved into a bush, or a bouquet of flowers, growing ever more elaborate and stylized. By about the second half of the eighteenth century, it assumed its characteristic shape, becoming, in myriad variations, the predominant motif of shawl design. In Kashmir it is usually called buta (Persian boteh, a shrub); and one version is still called shah-pasand, or "emperor's favorite," indicating that royal patronage may have played some part in popularizing it. It was quickly incorporated in textile design elsewhere in India, where it is known as kalgi or kalga (plume), badam (almond), or ambi (mango).

By the end of the eighteenth century, imported Kashmir shawls had become high fashion in Europe—as accessories to women's attire rather than shoulder mantles for men, Indian-style. British entrepreneurs started experimenting with "imitation Indian shawls" in the last decades of the century, first in Edinburgh, then in Norwich, copying or adapting the Kashmir designs.

As demand grew, Edinburgh shawl manufacturers started outsourcing work to Paisley which, as home to a long-established textile industry, had a pool of skilled weavers capable of drawing on the experience of Norwich, Edinburgh, and various shawl-manufacturing centers in France, and could take advantage of technological developments, particularly the Jacquard loom. This adaptability, together with good management and easy access to imported raw materials through the ports of the Clyde made Paisley shawls so competitive that in time they eclipsed those of the other British centers. By the mid-nineteenth century, in the English-speaking world, the term "paisley" had become synonymous with shawls, and by extension with the buta design, whether used on shawls or elsewhere.

The paisley retained its popularity even after the shawl fashion came to an end in the 1870s, partly due to the famous London store Liberty's, many of whose trademark printed fabrics used designs derived from shawl-pattern books. In the twenty-first century, it features textiles destined to be made up into clothes—from saris and shawls in India to dresses, ties, and scarves in the West—as well as on furnishing materials, bone china, and indeed almost any item that calls for a "traditional" form of decoration. Its popularity has endured across the board, from high fashion to high-street kitsch (especially in Scotland). But it does seem a pity that it has come to be known by the name of a town whose weavers—though responsible for popularizing it—made no significant contribution to its development, rather than by any of the names indigenous to the region where it originated.

See also Asia, South: History of Dress; Cashmere and Pash-mina; Shawls.


Ames, Frank. The Kashmir Shawl. Woodbridge, U.K.: Antique

Collectors' Club, 1986: 2nd ed., 1997. Clabburn, Pamela. Shawls. Risborough, U.K.: Shire Publications, 2nd ed., 2002. Falke, O. von. Decorative Silks. London: B.T. Batsford, Ltd., 1922.

Reilly, Valerie. Paisley Patterns: A Design Source Book. London:

Studio Editions, 1989. Rossbach, Ed. The Art of Paisley. New York and London: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1980.

Skelton, Robert. "A Decorative Motif in Mughal Art." In Aspects of Indian Art. Edited by P. Pal. Leiden: Brill, 1972.

Janet Rizvi and Jasleen Dhamija

PAJAMAS Pajamas are a garment for sleeping or lounging worn by men, women, and children. Pajamas may be one-piece or two-piece garments, but always consist of loosely fitting pants of various widths and lengths. While pajamas are traditionally viewed as utilitarian garments, they are often a reflection of the fashionable silhouette and the image of the exotic "other" in popular imagination.

The word pajama comes from the Hindi "pae jama" or "pai jama," meaning leg clothing, and its usage dates back to the Ottoman Empire. Alternate spellings include: paejamas, paijamas, pyjamas, and the abbreviated pj's. Pajamas were traditionally loose drawers or trousers tied at the waist with a drawstring or cord, and they were worn by both sexes in India, Iran, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Pajamas could be either tight fitting throughout the entire leg, or very full at waist and knees with tightness at calves and ankles. They were usually worn with a belted tunic extending to the knees. Although the word is Hindi, similar garments are found in traditional costume throughout the Middle and Far East.

Pajamas were adopted by Europeans while in these countries, and brought back as exotic loungewear. Although the wearing of pajamas was not widespread until the twentieth century, they were appropriated as early as the seventeenth century as a signifier of status and worldly knowledge.

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