The most humble accessory

For those who only think of scarves as something your grandma knits to keep your neck warm in winter, you are missing out. 

Though humble in design, this accessory can be one of the hardest-working pieces in your closet — if you know how to use it.

Fashion scarves have seen an incredible surge in popularity over the past few decades — from the '90s grunge look of a checkered rag casually wrapped around the neck to exquisite designs rendered in silk. 

They can be used in such a multitude of ways to add colour, texture, and pattern to any outfit, especially when used with neutral basics. 

First, a primer. The most common shapes are square, rectangular, or long and skinny. Square scarves can come as small as 17” x 17” for a neckerchief, but most practical sizes are 35” square and larger.

Rectangles come in all variety of sizes and proportions, while skinny scarves can be as small as 2” x 12” for a ponytail wrap or as large as 10” x 63.” 

Less expensive scarves are typically made of polyester or synthetic fibre blend. When possible, I prefer paying extra for natural fibres such as silk, cashmere or cotton; they are more comfortable to wear, drape better and last longer. 

Silk can be spun into near transparent chiffon or a heavier weave commonly called twill. One hundred per cent cashmere or cashmere/silk blends make for luxurious cool-weather accessories, soft and insulating.

Of course, the most common way to wear a scarf is around the neck. And there is a multitude of ways to actually tie a scarf depending on its size, shape and material. 

Some of the best scarf-tying tutorials can be found at https://maitaicollection.com/pages/tutorials, created by an impossibly chic French woman, and https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5LYAEz777AU, a fun video from fashion blogger WendysLookBook.com

Also, consider using scarves beyond the neck. I love to use square scarves to create a top, shrug, or as a belt. Large scarves can be fashioned into skirts or pareos for beachwear. 

Some use scarves as head coverings or follow the Japanese art of furoshiki, fabric folding, to create a simple handbag .

Top picture, left to right — 55” square silk chiffon as a shrug, 55” square silk twill as a top, cashmere shawl in a friendship knot

Where to buy? 

The ultimate scarf source has always been Parisian couture house Hermes. If you are willing to spend $400+, you can have an impeccably-crafted silk or cashmere creation that will be a wardrobe staple for your lifetime. You can shop online at Hermes.com, but I highly recommend visiting a boutique to try on designs and colourways before investing. 

British designer Alexander McQueen has become synonymous with his cult silk chiffon skull scarves. Pick your favourite colour combination at alexandermcqueen.com or Canada-based e-retailer Ssense.com, or in-person at Holt Renfrew. 

Another British label, Liberty London, is famous for their colourfully-patterned fabrics and sell a range of scarves in various shapes and fabrics. 

If you believe Mother Nature is the greatest artist, you will love Richard Weston’s designs featuring blown-up images of minerals and constellations screen-printed onto silk satin. Visit westonearthimages.com for discounted prices. 

Locally, I’ve found the best scarf selection at The Bay and Winner’s; just always check the label if you want quality fabric. The wonderful independent boutique KoLu in London Drugs Plaza also carries many beautiful scarves, especially the swoon-worthy 100 per cent cashmere Vintage Shades brand. 

You can also support the education of women in Nepal by scarf shopping at unako.ca. Each purchase helps with the incredible work of local charity herinternational.com

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About the Author

Marla is best known for her 19-year career in the local charitable sector as a fund development and marketing manager with the Okanagan Regional Library, United Way, UBC Okanagan, and Kelowna Community Resources. 

In 2014, Marla and her husband decided to take a break from the work world, and, four years, later they are still enjoying Okanagan summers, winters in Mexico, and extensive travel. 

Marla has had a life-long passion for fashion, designing her own graduation dress and formal gown for the 1990 Miss Interior competition before age 20.

In 2014, she was named one of nine Style Ambassadors for a year-long marketing campaign at Orchard Park Mall. Her motto is “Life is short...you might as well go through it looking good."

If you have a style question or topic you’d like Marla to cover in this column, contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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