Cashmere A French Passion 1800-1880

Monique Lévi-Strauss

A revised and expanded edition of Monique Lévi-Strauss's classic 1987 book on French cashmere shawls with superb photographs and a wealth of archive material


The delicate beauty of the cashmere shawl was first brought to Europe by the East India Companies and Napoleon's campaigns. Woven in Kashmir, its fabric was so light that, according to legend, a whole shawl could be passed through a finger ring. Exquisite and expensive, by the nineteenth century these shawls were highly sought-after in France; enterprising French manufacturers soon saw that there was a market for more accessibly priced versions and started to create their own.

Here is the story of French cashmere shawls of the nineteenth century. At first, the shawl-makers strove to imitate the traditional hand-made designs using modern techniques of mass production, but then they began to explore and innovate. As weaving technology evolved, motifs grew increasingly complex, expanding from the decorative borders and extending across the whole surface of the shawl and filling it with jewel-like colors.


Readers will be enchanted by the treasure trove of archival material and over 250 color illustrations.

— At Home in Fairfield County

For the fashion minded who enjoy a much more intellectual approach …The reproductions and the quality are superb.

— New York Journal of Books

Say what you will about Napoleon, it was because of his campaigns that exquisite shawls, originally from Kashmir, were brought to Europe by the East India Company.

— Woman Around Town

A wide variety of shawls are featured here, with lavishly intricate and colorful patterns.

— Women's Wear Daily

Chronicles the French love affair with these exquisite textiles.

— France Magazine

Beautiful. The textured cover, the multitude of photographs and illustrations, and the fascinating history of these shawls make this a book that draws the textile lover into its depths.

— Shuttle, Spindle, and Dyeport

The author is an expert on French cashmere shawls of the nineteenth century, and what a labor of love writing the text and assembling the wealth of illustrations must have been for her…The evolution of techniques, patterns, and popularity is indeed an esoteric discussion, but Lévi-Strauss's enthusiasm buoys the text to meet the vibrancy of the full-color photographs capturing the shawls' intricate details.

— Booklist


Monique Lévi-Strauss


Monique Lévi-Strauss has spent more than thirty years collecting and studying these shawls and gathering rare documents to preserve their forgotten history. She lives in Paris.