Reader Request: Styling Silk Scarves

Portia, Laura, AND lindykatherine all had this request:

Different ways of using scarves! I have a wee bit of an obsession with vintage scarves. I can’t resist buying them when I see them, but never seem to be able to work them into my outfits in a way I feel happy with. So I never wear them. Also when I try them in my hair they always slide out. If you have any ideas on this I’d be so glad!

I began collecting silk scarves before I really had any idea how to style them. There are loads of scarf-y resources out there – MaiTai’s Picture Book and Deja’s video tutorials among them – but here are some of my favorite ways to style and wear silk scarves. And you’ll notice that these images span the seasons and showcase many hair lengths … I dug deep into the archives to make sure I had visuals for each example!

As a belt

Longer silk/vintage scarves make fantastic belts, if you’ve got a couple in your collection that can comfortably fit around your waist. Wearing a belt draws attention to your waist, but wearing a bright or patterned belt – as is often the case when belting with a scarf – is even more effective at accentuating your waist. Rectangular scarves are a natural for belting, but large squares can be folded into a triangle and rolled into a snake for easy waist-cinching.

Cowboy style

Already Pretty outfit featuring Alexander McQueen skull scarf, Gudrun dress, printed leggings, John Fluevog Heidi boots

It took me a while to get comfortable with this style since it’s SO floppy and seemingly messy, but now I just adore it. To emulate this look, take a square silk scarf, fold into a triangle, and tie two of the ends behind your neck. You can arrange the fold a bit, but it’s easiest to just let it dangle where it’s gonna. This tie is ideal for scarves with interesting or intricate patterns.

In your hair

Portia asked about this one specifically, and I’m happy to oblige! I don’t do scarves as headbands often, but I adore the look. For my hair and head, it works best to create a roughly head-sized loop, tie a loose knot at the nape of my neck, slide the loop over my forehead, and then tighten and adjust the knot. I know some folks tie the knot on their foreheads and slide it back toward the nape, but that just creates all kinds of coif mayhem for me.

As for keeping a scarf in place in your hair, mine is thick and bushy enough that I’ve never had migrating headband troubles, but I’m sure that securing it to your hair with two bobby pins at the nape of your neck and one behind each ear would go a long way toward keeping things stationary.

With a necklace

I’ve only tried this once myself, but I love the look on others. A cowboy-tied scarf and chunky necklace make wonderful partners, creating an artfully-messy look. This will probably work best with a scarf and necklace that share a color or other design element, but play around. Disparate elements may end up feeling harmonious. Other variations include weaving a necklace in with a scarf, or layering a longer necklace beneath a tied scarf.

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  • Great post Sally! I love the examples with your different seasonal pictures. My clients are always asking how to tie scarves, so I’m going to send them here for additional ideas. Thanks!

  • Oh yes, shoes and scarves – both things that are always easy to buy because they fit at any size 😀 I have more scarves than I wear, and it looks like I’m not alone with it… My favorite of your versions is the “scarf as a belt”, but I never succeeded with this one yet. I guess the scarves I own are all too big and voluminous for that (but thanks to that, I could do this with one of them: This is a scarf around my waist!)… So if I want to get serious about the “scarf as belt” thing, you know what that means? More scarves! Yay! 😀

  • All great ideas!! I loved the look with the necklace and these do make stylish belts!!

  • A

    LOVE these scarf looks! I just went over to my grandma’s (who used to be the most stylish women I know) and passed on probably 30 beautiful vintage/designer scarfs. I think I will have to go back and get those now that I have some ideas to wear them! What great timing?!

  • bonnie

    Thanks! This was so helpful. I too have a big pile of scarves and am all thumbs when it comes to tying them or arranging them in any way. These are all great ideas-can’t wait to try them.

  • It’s so funny- for awhile I was so shy about my fashion, even using a silk scarf (which is goregeously eye catching) seemed like “too much of a statement,” but I find that reading your blog helps me come out of my shell to feel confident in my little add pieces of silky flair.

    I used to buy silk scarves for my Gram who loved to use them to hide what she thought was an “old looking neck” lol…they were gorgeous and vintage. I’ve had them since she passed but didn’t have the guts to use them myself…I think it might be time to bust them out! 🙂

  • Thank you, thank you for this! I have a ton of vintage scarves but always fear looking like an idiot trying to wear them. Seeing them on someone else helps me see how cute they can be–I fear I am far too hard on my own reflection in the mirror!

    I love the look of scarf-as-headband, but I do fear my face/hair were not made for that style. Looks adorable with your yellow outfit though!

  • you have amazing timing. i was literally JUST in the bathroom at work — trying to style the silk scarf i threw around my neck this morning in a rush into a decorative belt because the colors just happen to match perfectly. now i have guidance. thank you!!

  • Donna

    Great visuals on scarf styling. Recently I wore a scarf cowboy style but it was a little skimpy to tie without choking myself. I used a small bow shaped pin to secure it. I have short hair so the pin was visible and it seemed like a good solution.

  • I have 3 or 4 silk scarves that I’ve picked up recently and I have to admit, I’ve been stumped on building outfits around them. Thanks so much for the awesome tips – I think I may have to do a Scarf Week next week!

  • Very nice! I love the way you tied the scarf casually and with a necklace 🙂

  • Eliza

    I know a few girls who tie scarves around a bicep.

    I use small (hankerchief size) scarves over a ponytail. To reduce the “bunny ears” effect, double knot on the underside of the ponytail, rather than the top.

    I use them all winter as my regular scarves. They look partcularly great peeking out from a leather jacket!

  • Gorgeous Sal! I adore the yellow skirt outfit. PLEASE WEAR MORE SCARVES! The scarf as belt can really tie a look together – I even wear them through belt loops!

    You might like to have a look at how I wear my scarves (I have a LOT!). http://www.misfitsvintage.com/2011/04/hello-my-name-is-sarah.html

    Sarah xxx

  • What a timely post. Spring time is the perfect time to break out those breezy gauzy silk scarves. I love all your ideas and I admire the effort that went into puting all this photos together from your archives! Must have taken you quite some time.
    I’d like to add another simple alternative: tying the scarf to your handbag, a simple and tres chic alternative. As well as another quite original way to wear it: http://catspajamas-dogstuxedos.blogspot.com/2011/03/nifty-scarf-styling-technique.html

  • I gotta admit I have a TON of scarves and I don’t wear that many of them! I kinda forget about them I think because I have them stashed in a drawer in the bathroom so I only think about them in the headband/turban aspect of an outfit! I must try some of these!

  • Patty

    i’m wearing a scarf in my hair today! i use two bobby pins right above my ears to anchor it down, and i also don’t tie it super-duper tight so it won’t slide off my head. i was actually just looking for a scarf to either wear as a belt or maybe tie to a purse as an accent to a wedding guest outfit i’m trying to put together.

    i took a pic of my scarf, hopefully it’s OK to link in comments: http://tinypic.com/r/2li7pms/7

    • Sal

      Of course! Looks GORGEOUS, Patty!

  • Diane

    Great ideas! I like to tie them on a handbag strap. It’s nice for smaller scarves and oversized prints. You get the effect without actually wearing it. Another idea: string it through a buttonhole or belt loop and let it drape.

    • Sal

      Oh my gosh, SO using the belt loop trick. Brilliant!

  • spacegeek

    I love scarves. When you had longer hair, though, did you ever feel that your hair (as accessory) and scarf were competing for attention? I sometimes put my hair up when I wear a scarf loosely around my neck, but am just curious if others feel this way.

    OTOH, I like the scarf and necklace combo, and am now thinking I should do scarf-as-headband more often!

    Thanks for the post!

  • Your tutorials are always so well-timed and thorough! Silk scarves are lovely for this time of year, when we are missing the style element of their warmer counterparts but don’t need all the heat. I donned one today, as well! 🙂

  • Sally,

    Thank you SOOOOO much for this post! I have about a million (ok that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but a lot) of scarves. It is always good to have other ways to style them. I love it! You look wonderful in all of these pics.

  • Victoria

    I like to take my long, skinny scarves and tie them like a men’s tie but leave the knot midway down my chest rather than snugged up against my throat. (my Dad taught me how to tie a tie in defense of his Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes.) I also like taking the fold-in-half-and-pull-the-ends-through style and leaving it loose then using one of my brooches to secure it into a low V-necked arrangement. I like the combo of a colorful scarf combined with a large solid metal tone brooch.

  • I think one of the best things about silk scarves is that they can really be worn all year around – very useful for our 8 months of summer!

    I have also tried tying a scarf as a choker – don’t remember if I saw that on this site? I think it looks very classy.

    Sal, I so love that picture of you in grey and yellow. You are dressed to perfection and just look so lovely with the headband and the snowy backdrop!

  • I worked in a lab a few summers ago and had to be really careful about what I wore. I got tired of wearing t-shirts and slacks to work every day, so I bought a couple of square silk scarves, folded them in half diagonally and double-knotted them close around my throat so they wouldn’t get in the way. Worked great, and made my wardrobe infinitely less boring!

  • Here’s a fantastic tutorial that you can download, from the very House of Hermès 🙂

    http://usa.hermes.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/PlayTimeView?storeId=10202&catalogId=10052&langId=-1

    Great post, as usual!

  • Lindy Katherine

    Appreciate the answer, Sally! I love your looks, especially the first two. Scarves are a blast!!!

  • Lola

    Thank you very much for all those brilliant ideas – great! Hugs,Lola

  • Rachel HB

    This site has nice tutorials: http://www.texeresilk.com/cms-scarf_tying_guide.html

    I too have many scarves, but the smaller square ones are particularly challenging. Thank you for reminding me to branch out– I used the “cowboy” style today to great effect!

  • Thanks for this post Sal! You’ve inspired me to add some scarves to my wardrobe!

  • PK

    Holy cow, I have to try the pretzel knot today!

  • Oh my gosh, that red dress! It looks fantastic! Where did you get it?!

    • Thank you, Laura! Sadly it’s vintage and thrifted … and I know you’re not a Twin Cities gal so telling you it came from Valu Thrift in Sun Ray won’t even help!