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What Is the Difference Between a Stole and a Shawl?

Shawls may be worn to provide warmth and insulation.
Silk fabrics may be used to make stoles.
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  • Written By: N. Phipps
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2014
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While in the fashion world, the stole is oftentimes confused with the shawl, there are differences between the two. Although each can be used as an accessory to a party dress or gown, stoles are commonly used to cover the shoulders. Shawls, however, are usually designed specifically as a means of warmth in addition to complementing an outfit.

Rather than warmth, a stole is often worn to show off a particular fabric, like satin, or fur, such as white mink. The major difference between stoles and shawls lies in the size and material. Stoles are usually rectangular and range between 2-4 feet wide (61-122 cm) and 5-6 feet long (152-183 cm). Shawls are generally triangular and larger in size—about 3 feet wide (91 cm) and 7 feet in length (213 cm). They are also constructed with heavier material.

Stole material generally includes lighter fabrics like chiffon, silk, and satin; or fur, which is lined with one of the lighter fabrics. Shawls may also be seen in silk fabrics, but are most often knitted or woven from cashmere or pashmina wool. Both of these fashion accessories are available in various sizes, styles, patterns, and colors. Stoles and shawls share similar uses throughout history, but in different ways.

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Stoles were originally used as a scarf that hung down the front, often for religious purposes. These were typically dyed or embroidered to denote a particular event, such as the ordaining of a priest. Prior to adding glamor to clothing, fur stoles were actually worn to protect from fleas and lice, enticing them to the fur rather than the hair or body. Like stoles, shawls also served as a protective device, though for the purpose of keeping the body warm. In addition, these too could be seen in religious ceremonies, such as traditional Jewish funerals and weddings.

Additional uses for stoles and shawls exist today. For instance, a stole may be used to indicate the honors or academic achievement of graduates. Crocheted shawls are popular pastimes for many people, especially those wanting to help others. Also known as prayer shawls, these gifts are knitted by caring individuals and then passed onto to others to help ease their suffering with prayers and blessings.

While there are many similarities between stoles and shawls, there are also many differences. Learning how to decipher between the two isn’t difficult; just remember that stoles resemble scarves, only bigger. Shawls resemble triangles most of the time.

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aviva
Post 2

@MsClean - I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. You should consider yourself fortunate that your mother cared deeply enough for you to have left you with something so personal and so valuable as as a single cashmere shawl, let alone dozens of them.

Now to answer your questions. There really is no difference between cashmere and pashmina wool. Pashmina is actually the name of the Himalayan goat that the wool comes from. To put it simply, cashmere comes from the wool that the pashmina goat sheds naturally every spring.

Pashmina wool doesn't cost more than cashmere because as I've already mentioned, they are one in the same. However, the labels that pashmina wool manufacturers use when producing their textiles can be misleading.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission does not recognize pashmina as a term for labeling products in the United States. When it comes to labeling garments made from the Himalayan goat, they must clearly state what percent is cashmere.

That doesn't mean that a shawl labeled seventy percent pashmina and thirty percent silk isn't a true pashmina wool shawl. It's just that the Wool Act does not recognize pashmina as a fiber because it's actually a type of goat.

MsClean
Post 1

I inherited dozens of scarves and shawls from my mother after she passed away. While I was sorting through them I noticed a price tag had been left on one of the shawls that was labeled one hundred percent cashmere.

The amount in U.S. dollars was three hundred and ninety eight dollars. I couldn't believe it as I'm pretty sure the shawl was purchased several years ago. There must have been forty five pieces in all and most of them had a silk, cashmere or pashmina wool label on them.

My mother had exquisite taste so I don't doubt that any of these items were not authentic. What I want to know is what is the difference between cashmere and pashmina wool? Is this pashmina worth more than cashmere?

I'm sorry for all the questions. I'm just trying to get an estimated value on all of my mothers assests, including her wardrobe.

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