One fashion piece that elevates everything. That doesn’t require a wad of cash. That is indifferent to size. And doubles as an evening wrap, beach cover-up, subs in for a new winter coat and (if you’re really inventive) a halter top.
I know that description sounds like some too-good-to-be-true infomercial, but it is a secret fashion element that utterly chic French women have known for years. The humble scarf, more than a mere accessory, can be your wardrobe’s best friend. We show you how to wear it, what to pair it with and even a few tips on how to wear your hair and other accessories to maximize the power of the scarf.
The third piece
The reason a scarf will elevate your look lies in the number three. As in, pants and a top do not an outfit make. To create a look that seems less autopilot and more intentional, you need a third piece. Yes, a jacket is also a perfect third or finishing piece to elevate a pant-and-top (or skirt-and-top) duo. But using a scarf as your third piece works when you can’t, or don’t want to, wear a jacket. And it has tons of advantages. (Scarves are cheaper, they don’t care if you have gone up a size, and they can seem sexy and sophisticated versus buttoned up and corporate.)
Even a math-deficient brain like mine can appreciate that pant + top = BORING! But add a scarf, and suddenly women are sidling up to you at the grocery asking your advice on how to choose the best asparagus. Because a scarf screams, “This woman has it together, people!” in the nicest way possible.
In its most basic function, a scarf is meant to add warmth. But it is also part of a covert fashion operative we super-secret fashion spies like to call The Great Fake Out. Sure, a scarf can keep you warm, but it can also become a great fake out if your coat is less than exciting. A blanket scarf, the largest animal in the scarf family, is meant to add a layer to outerwear. Your practical black wool winter coat seems exciting when you top it with a bold plaid blanket scarf. I mean, when you look at the picture below, what is the first thing you notice? If you answered “a darling red plaid scarf,” you win the grand prize. Okay, not really. But you can pat yourself on the back for your keen fashion observation.
For several seasons, fashion pundits have been trying to see if they can make grown women go out in public dressed as clowns. Well, not clowns, but definitely veering into eccentric Aunt Sadie territory by crowing that pattern mixing is easy and everyone should try it. (And by eccentric, I mean Aunt Sadie wears tartan plaid, stripes and a sprinkling of geometric print all while wearing flip-flops. In the dead of winter.)
Scarves make adding patterns SO much easier. If you never, ever deviate from this formula, you can master it with confidence: Keep your bottom piece (skirt, pant or jean) patterned. Add a solid top, sweater or jacket. Layer a patterned scarf in the same color family as the bottom. Voila! Instant pattern mix that does not have even a whiff of Aunt Sadie.
I’m sure you are nodding your head in agreement that a scarf is in your future. But what kind of scarf? Oh, friend, if only I could choose just one.
A thin, gauze scarf is the most utilitarian scarf there is. It works in the sweltering summer as a wrap. It can sub in for a beach cover-up, and is fine for layering in the winter. They are also the easiest to tie, wrap, twist or drape, since they are thin and pliable. Even an oversize gauze scarf can be minimized by twisting it tightly to compact the fabric. This is helpful if you are on the petite side and don’t want to look like you have been eaten by a giant fabric swatch. A gauze scarf can be bent to your will pretty easily.
Also known as the scarf for the chronically late (I own half a dozen), this is the piece that you never have to download a You Tube tutorial on “how to tie a scarf” for. You throw this endless loop of love over your head and dash out the door. (That is the part that helps when you are time-challenged.)
I bought a faux fur scarf last November, and it became my cocktail attire for the holiday season. Paired with a silky, white blouse and black pants, this plush scarf was perfect. With my LBD, the fur factor gave it an instant update. And when worn with my old camel coat and black boots, the faux fur scarf made a Russian princess statement.
The last crumbs of fashion wisdom you need to know before you scoop up scarves and instantly become French chic?
- Scarves are perfect for bad hair days since they demand all the attention. Pull your hair back in a low ponytail or up in a ballerina bun. Long hair gets in the way of the glory of the scarf and reads messy, not charmingly disheveled.
- Wear stud earrings or no earrings with a scarf. Same principle as the messy hair. Nothing says awkward, overdressed moment like a dangly earring getting caught in a scarf.
- If you are rocking a boho look, then you can add thin, layered necklaces. In no uncertain terms should you wear a scarf with a statement necklace. That is called accessory overload, and the fashion police will be on you like white on rice.
- If you are petite or have a voluptuous chest, forget chunky, knit scarves and opt for tissue-thin gauze scarves. No sense in having people fear you have been eaten by the scarf monster.
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