What are Evening Wraps?

Brendan McGuigan

Evening wraps are fine shawls or outer coverings worn at night, usually to formal occasions. Evening wraps typically serve as a replacement for a coat, when one is wearing a fine gown or dress underneath. Where the coat would be too heavy, and would clash with the dress, an evening wrap is meant specifically to be worn with a dress, and so features lines that complement the more gentle lines of formalwear. Evening wraps might also be used if the weather is going to be too warm for a coat, as it offers some covering and some warmth, but is still suitable for more temperate evenings.

Woman shopping
Woman shopping

One of the most popular evening wraps is the evening shawl, which may come in many different forms and price ranges. Shawls originated in Persia, and took advantage of the advanced textile technologies there to be incredibly fine pieces of clothing. Early shawls were made of wool, but were so fine that a full shawl could fit through a small ring. Modern shawls may be made of any number of materials, but often are made of very fine wool or of silk. They are meant to be extremely lightweight, and are usually intended to be decorative more than functional.

In the 1810s, specific evening wraps appeared in China, and made their way to America and Europe, where they was known as the Chinese crepe shawl. This shawl included embroidery and fringes, and was quite popular among the upper classes. In the late-19th century their use declined dramatically, but they were adopted by the Romani people in Spain at the time. In the early-20th century they again became popular, reclaimed from the Romani by European aristocrats, but now they were known as Spanish shawls. The Spanish evening shawl, worn by the lead in Carmen, remains one of the most popular forms of evening wrap, especially for those going out to the theatre or the opera.

Pashmina evening wraps are another very popular form of evening wrap, and are the type most often seen for sale in the United States. Pashmina wraps are made from cashmere wool, from the changthangi or pashmina goat, and hand-crafted in Kashmir. A pashmina evening wrap usually refers to the middle size class of pashmina, between scarves, which measure approximately 12 inches by 60 inches (30cm by 150cm), and true shawls, which measure approximately 36 inches by 80 inches (91cm by 203cm). The pashmina wrap generally measures 28 inches by 80 inches (71cm by 203cm), making it ideal for covering much of the upper body, but not suitable for covering the head as well.

There are so many different types of evening wrap that approximating a price range is virtually impossible. Cheap wraps of synthetic materials or sub-par wool can cost as little as $20 US Dollars (USD), while designer wraps made of luxurious materials can cost in excess of $5,000 USD, with good quality pashminas falling somewhere in the $200 USD to $500 USD range.

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