Scarves are intimidating. Much like belts, they belong to a family of accessory that most women admire on others but fear themselves. Many are given scarves as gifts, inherit them from family members, thrift or purchase them on whims, and end up with a confusing collection of pretty, diaphanous thingies and no idea how to wear or style them.
Most experienced scarf wearers have identified a style, shape, size, and weight of scarf that they prefer. Experimentation with ties and configurations helps us suss out which scarves are ideal for our personal styles and unique figures – silk squares, knit infinities, long narrows, thick cowls. If you are struggling to understand how to wear the scarves in your collection, honing in on YOUR ideal scarf style is a great place to start. Here’s how:
What is your favorite scarf tie?
Another way to think about this is to ask yourself how loose or tight you like your scarf to be. Do you want it up close to your neck for warmth? Draped lower, toward your bustline? Do you prefer something compact or loose? Worn long? Since this question may beg some serious experimentation and exploration, I’ve compiled a list of tie resources below. Play around, and see which ones suit your taste, style, and figure. If you can land on a favorite scarf tie, you’ll be able to start figuring out which sizes, shapes, and weights lend themselves to that tie.
Any ties you hate?
Still focused on ties, but from another angle. If you have no idea which ties you like, you still might know which ones you hate. Do wrapped ties choke you? Do loose ones obscure your bust or add bulk? Which types of scarves lend themselves to the ties you dislike?
In which season(s) do you wear scarves?
If you’re a year-round scarf wearer, thinner materials will appeal. I sport scarves all year and have pretty much eliminated thick ones from my arsenal. A thin scarf that is very large will keep you just as warm, and can also be styled more loosely when the weather heats up. However, if you only do scarves in the cold, thicker weaves might be just the thing. Seasonal use patterns may also influence the colors and fibers you select for your ideal scarves.
Which types of outfits do you think work best with scarves?
Are you a casual scarf wearer? More on the work/formal side? Do you tend to like your scarves as the main accent? Prefer them paired with blazers and jackets? Again, which sizes, shapes, and weights seem to work best with your preferred scarf-based outfits?
If you’re able to answer even two of these questions, you’ll be able to begin narrowing down the field. Since examples are often helpful, I’ll give you my answers:
- Although I do love the Pretzel Knot, I definitely use the Fake Infinity tie most often. The former is warm and I do use it in winter, but the latter works year-round because it’s lofty enough to work for warm summer days but can be tightened up for cozy warmth on cold winter days, too. I also love the look of a big, voluminous scarf. THIS MEANS: That squares don’t work terribly well because they can’t be used in either of my preferred ties, so rectangles are best. Small scarves can’t be used for Pretzel Knot or Fake Infinity and don’t give the impression of volume, so large scarves are best.
- I don’t really dig ties that leave the scarf ends long and loose, and I don’t love ties that keep the entirety of the scarf very close to the neck. THIS MEANS: That super long, skinny rectangles aren’t ideal. Neither are small scarves of any kind.
- I wear scarves in all but the hottest/humidest weather, so year-round. For this reason, heavy materials aren’t terribly useful or versatile. THIS MEANS: Thick knits and dense weaves won’t get much use. Lightweight fabrics or open weaves are ideal.
- I will occasionally work a scarf into a dressy outfit, but most of my scarf outfits are either casual or arty-casual. THIS MEANS: Classic silk squares, evening-appropriate styles like velvet burnout or metallics, and other naturally formal styles are right out. My scarves should be at least somewhat casual.
Over time and with lots of experimentation, I’ve determined that oversized rectangle shaped scarves made from very thin, lightweight material are my ideal. I can use them for my preferred ties, they work all year, and they create a more casual look. I’ll admit that just answering these four questions wouldn’t have been sufficient to figure this out – I needed to play around and experiment – but the questions create a helpful process of elimination.
That’s my hope anyway! If you’re struggling to figure out how to incorporate scarves into your own looks, give them a go and see how you do. And! If you’ve no idea where to start when it comes to ties, cruise through some of these links and see what appeals:
Scarf tying resources
- Academichic’s scarf tying bibliography
- Wendy’s Lookbook 25 ties in four minutes
- Une Femme’s series on scarves and ties
And from me:
- Scarf Styling Secrets
- Pretzel Knot Scarf Tying Tutorial
- Fake Infinity Scarf Tie Tutorial
- Twisted Rope Scarf Tie
- Reader Request: Styling Silk Scarves
- Reader Request: Scarves for Busty Women
- Reader Request: How to Wear Smaller Scarves
- How to Train Yourself to Accessorize
Want to learn a few scarf ties? Find out which ones work for your style and figure? Get some ideas for those tricky silk squares? Love online tutorials but really need to work with someone in person who can answer specific questions? Come join me for a scarf tying workshop in Chicago in March! Details here.