The shawl is a vestment worn by all Aes Sedai as an official garment of their rank as full sisters. "Raised to the shawl" is a colloquialism indicating that an Accepted has been elevated to full sisterhood. Although the Great Serpent ring is more widely acknowledged as the symbol of an Aes Sedai, the ring may be worn by Accepted, full sisters, and even women trained by the Tower but who were not raised to sisters for varying reasons. Only full sisters may wear the shawl.
The shawl is commonly described as a piece of fabric edged with a long, silky fringe in the color of an individual sister's Ajah, and with the Flame of Tar Valon set forth in white, which hangs in the center of a sister's back when the shawl is worn. The shawl is worn around the shoulders of an Aes Sedai, or looped over her arms. The shawl is also described as being embroidered with grapevines and flowering apple branches, but the actual color of the fabric from which the shawl is sewn was never revealed.
Before the White Tower Schism, the shawls were rarely worn except on formal occasions. A sister dressed formally would be expected to wear her shawl along with a dress in her Ajah colors. Newly raised sisters also are prone to wearing the shawl frequently, even outside of official occasions. It is speculated that they wear them to demonstrate to their former instructors that they now share a common rank, or that the individual sister wearing it is wearing it as a bit of celebration.
In the wake of later events in the White Tower, with its openly hostile relations between the Ajahs, the Aes Sedai still in Tar Valon wear their shawls whenever they are in mixed groups as a blatant demonstration of their Ajah loyalties, as well as a bit of almost jingoistic pride.