How to Wear Scarves to Work

how to wear scarves to workWhat are your best tips on how to wear scarves to work, readers? What are the best styles — the splurgeworthy brands — and the best fabrics and shapes for scarves? How do you like to style your scarves in 2018 for a modern look? Reader D wonders:

Would you please do a piece on scarves? What are the best brands, materials, styles for the executive suite? Silk, cashmere, blend, wool?

Great question, D! We haven’t had a discussion on how to wear silk scarves in a few years, and I can’t wait to hear what readers say. While readers here have wondered if scarves are professional enough for work, Fortune recently(ish) called scarves the new power accessory for executives. Personally, I tend to associate scarves with style over trend because they really depend on the woman and how she wears them.

For my $.02, these are my best tips on how to wear scarves to work:how to wear scarves to work

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  • First, consider how you’ll use the scarf. If you’re looking for one for warmth it’s probably better to get a silk blend like my beloved Nordstrom tissue scarves (silk/wool will be heaviest, silk/modal will be great for between weather, and silk/linen for summer), whereas a simple silk, polyester or chiffon is best if you’re just looking to add an accent. In general the best scarves seem to be square or rectangular so you can fold them and use them in a more versatile way.
  • how to wear a scarf with a blazerIf you’re looking for status, Hermès is where you start drooling — one of my old bosses had a huge collection of Hermès scarves and loved to wear them long against a blazer and simple t-shirt (as pictured on the right) — it somehow came out one day that she thought tags were itchy so the scarf also served a purpose. (Ooh, I’ve just found Une Femme d’un Certain Âge’s post on overdyed Hermes scarves and now totally want one.)  Among more creative sorts I think the McQueen skull scarf still has a lot of cachet. DvF used to make great scarves with all of her wonderful prints — I have a 100% cashmere one of hers that is super thin (I wear it with lightweight jackets); it looks like the brand only has silk scarves at the moment. If you know what you’re looking for in terms of authenticity you can often find these on eBay and other resale sites, but caveat emptor!
  • Shop vintage. If you’re just looking to play and test scarves with your style and the other things in your wardrobe, keep an eye out for scarves in excellent shape (no loose threads or snags) at vintage stores or your grandmother’s closet. Everyone from mall stores (Ann Taylor, H&M, Uniqlo) to smaller labels like MM LaFleur sell scarves too, so keep an eye out for deals or appealing patterns/colors wherever you usually shop.

I have two additional tips if you’re scarf-shopping for scarves to wear to work:

  • Keep an eye out for a simple black scarf (or another of your base neutral colors). I kept one of these at my office for those days when I got to work and realized, belatedly, that my dress’s neckline was too low for my comfort level. You can either stuff the scarf in your neckline so it looks like a blouse or additional edging for the dress — or you can loop it around your neck like an infinity scarf to cover your dress’s neckline. (If you haven’t seen the classic Youtube video from Wendy’s Lookbook on 25 ways to tie a scarf, you must — lots of great ideas for work, weekend, and your commute.)
  • Get an office pashmina. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: an office pashmina (or wrap, or stole, or ruana) is a really versatile piece to keep in your office, and one way you can use them is to add them to your outfits for warmth either by throwing them over your shoulders or wearing long. They can be a thick for wrapping around your neck, though, so if that’s your preferred way to wear scarves I’d look for silk or chiffon styles instead.

Pictured at very top — interestingly, the bandana style pictured seems to be growing in popularity — what are your thoughts on it for work?

Readers, what are your thoughts on how to wear scarves to work? What are your favorite sizes, brands, fabrics, and styling tricks (bandana, loop, long) for scarves?

Pictured below (affiliate links if item is still for sale): one / two / three / four / five / six.

A reader wondered how executives are wearing scarves these days -- so we rounded up our best tips on how to wear scarves to work, including the best brands, fabrics, and styles of scarves -- and some of our favorite ways to style scarves for the office as well!


  1. Reposting from earlier thread:

    I’ve scheduled a meeting with grand boss to discuss my interest in an opening within my current group which is the next level up for me. I’ve been in my current role for over 3 years and my immediate manager has been promising a promotion but has never actually done anything to vouch for me. Now there is an actual posting and they are interviewing external candidates. The job description is literally everything I’ve been doing. Tips on how I can frame the conversion with grand boss? I’m also 5 months pregnant. My immediate manager is aware but I’m not sure if grand boss is since he’s on a different floor and I haven’t seen him. Should I mention this in the beginning of the conversation?

  2. I usually get scarves when I travel, but not Hermes or DVF… I wear scarves from India or Thailand, often made or decorated by indigenous and/or poorer women. The colors are lovely and the rest of my wardrobe is pretty blah – just solid colors, so I find that the scarf brings my colors together and also I can wear the same outfit again, but with a different scarf, and it looks different. I don’t have much jewelry right now – I have two small children – but a scarf I can easily put on and run out the door, and take off so the kids don’t ruin it. I usually just loop it around my neck – I have a few different tying-styles that I like, some more or less difficult. I don’t like tight against my neck, and I don’t like it around my wrist. But I like different styles of scarves – some large squares, some rectangles, some more like a shawl. I am short and plus-size FWIW – I’ve seen people say only women of a certain height or build can wear scarves, but I find that to be untrue.

    • Do you have a source for learning to tie scarves and recommendations on sizing them? I like how they tie an outfit together, but as a short, busty woman, I struggle with how to pull them off.

    • Senior Attorney :

      I like to buy scarves when I travel, too. They’re often inexpensive and they don’t take up much space in my luggage.

      I remember buying a Burberry-style plaid scarf from a Cambodian woman by the Mekong River and she mused, “we sell a lot of those for some reason!” ;)

    • I started with a loop around my neck, with both ends hanging in front. Like a |0|
      I prefer it loose, like a long necklace.
      I don’t know where I got some of the knots or loops – I do know that Pinterest and Google and YouTube have been very helpful! You could probably even add keywords for what you’re wearing – button down? Boatneck? and add busty and see what advice you get! Scarves are something the fashionistas love to teach about.

    • I have trouble not making them look extremely bulky on me. I think I must not be wrapping them right? I do love the bandana scarf shown in the first photo, though. Would definitely wear it to work.

    • Anonymous :

      I have a short neck and my carriage is not the best, so I don’t wear scarves much, except in winter for warmth.

    • The manageing partner will NOT reimburse me for scarves, ever since he found out how expensive they are. He now says he wants to see my neck, and have my cleints see my neck, and Frank agrees b/c he just wants to see my boobies, which are obscured when I wear scarves. FOOEY b/c it is cold in the winter, and the onley scarves I can wear are WOOL ones when I walk to work. Sheketovits gave me a wool scarf that I still wear. I guess he was good for something, but not much…… DOUBEL FOOEY on him.

  3. I am looking to get laser hair removal on my face. I’ve had it done about ten years ago in another state and the hair is back…with a vengeance. I’m a little overwhelmed this time around. Do I just get a groupon or go to a dermatologist? Any recommendation in the DC area?

    • I’ve been happy with Lumiere Skin and Laser in McLean, VA.

      • I went to DC Derm Docs on a groupon and had an excellent experience. I plan to go back as occasional touch-ups are required.

  4. This is a hard one for me as I have yet to see any professional looking scarves that don’t age me (think Hermes) that stay away from the large scarf trend from a few years ago.

    Any rec for modern looking silk scarves would be most welcome.

    • I think Talbots has some lovely, more modern looking scarves but they are not always silk.

    • Etro has some more modern choices.

      • Nordstrom has its own scarf line, as well as it’s Halogen line, that offer a range of prints and styles that vary from sort-of classic to bright and funky. They change often, so you just have to check back from time to time if you don’t see something you like. I have purchased many and been happy with all of them – they’re not the highest quality silk in that they tend to be the lighter/more delicate silk, but they drape well and compress well to wear with various outfits.

    • Out of the Box :

      Missoni has geometric designs and interesting prints.

  5. Asking for New Job Title :

    Reposting from earlier:
    I just learned through the grapevine that my company will reduce our year-end bonuses to almost nothing due to poor performance last year (of the company as a whole although my segment did well), and our salary increases will be capped to below CPI. So no matter how great my performance review may be, I will not be rewarded monetarily. I expect a good review and would like to ask for a new job title to get something out of it. Right now it’s “Project Manager” which really does not reflect my duties. I supervise and direct 5 teams. All perform similar functions that are operational and financial. I supervise the creation of all playbooks, audit checklists, client-to-business processes, am the end-point approver of all financial data coming out of these teams, and am the budget owner for this service line. I am also fairly known and respected at the company and provide assistance and guidance to other teams on a regular basis. I would like to ask for a Director title. Do the above mentioned duties seem in line with what Directors do at your company? Do you have any general tips (or links to tips) on how to hold this conversation?

    • Manager vs. Director usually varies a lot by organization so I wouldn’t just assume job duty merits the difference. In making your case aside from pointing out your accomplishments and level of responsibility/authority, I would look at whether any of your responsibilities have changed (anything more strategic to the organization–presumably the reason for the change in title?). I’d also look at other title conventions in your organization and see if anyone else is doing similar responsibilities with title that you could point to as reason. And then I’d also look at similar functions in your industry. I work in publishing and typically someone doing a role like that might be anything from a Director or Manager of Operations to a Product Manager (if it’s for a specific product or service line) to a Client Services Director or Manager to a Business Analyst (analyst wouldn’t be what I would desire but might be the norm at a large company). I might point to any one of these titles depending on the particular organization.

  6. Lana Del Raygun :

    I somehow cannot figure out how to tie a scarf so I don’t look like a Young Pioneer, an outlaw, or a flight attendant. :(

  7. I feel like the McQueen skull scarf is pretty played out. Definitely not cutting edge at this point… more like if there’s a basic version of steampunk. Personally, I kind of love the hideous Gucci lion/big cat scarves that are out now, but I don’t think they necessarily scream professional (maybe for that arty/alternative vibe, though, with a monochrome outfit?)

  8. Any good online resources for tying square silk scarves? I love a lot of the prints but never can figure out a great way to tie them. A lot of the links I have found are more for a rectangular scarf.

    • Anonymous :

      maitaicollection has a great blog where she does a lot of tying of square scarves (hermes).

      I’m younger and in biglaw, but I like her tutorials for some knots/tying which are instructional and makes scarves easier to incorporate into every day.

      Also, I’ve seen quite a lot of younger associates wear them around and I love all the scarves. As long as you don’t wear it like Alicia Florrick’s MIL does, I think you’re good.

  9. The Directrice has advice on using scarves as collars here —

    • pugsnbourbon :

      Oh, that looks lovely! I bought a small vintage scarf years ago because I loved the patterns and colors but I never wear it – but I will try this!

    • Wow – I LOVE this use of a small scarf, and have never seen it before. I wonder how hard it is to keep them in place like that?

  10. Anonymous :

    Dr. Google is failing me – if the top of my feet have hurt for several weeks and my shoes aren’t too tight, what should I be Googling? Someone suggested Plantar Fasciatis (sp?) but that doesn’t sound like it. Thanks in advance!

    • Stress fracture. Been there, had that. But see a doctor too!

    • Extensor tendonitis

    • Won’t be PF. That’s heel pain. Occasionally it may radiate up the side if a nerve gets caught in the swelling. But there’s always intense heel pain.

    • Top outside? :

      Top outside? If it’s on the outside of the foot, it could be a tailor’s bunion. For bunions and tailor’s bunions, try Dr. Frederick’s on Amazon. They are silicone pads and revolutionized my life. I went from pain at every step to 80 percent reduction and the ability to walk 5 miles in 1 week. It took another month or two before my gait regularized, but now I can walk for 10 miles without pain.

  11. wish I were a scarf person :

    I like the look of a scarf like this over a solid sheath dress for non-meeting days at work, but I don’t love any of the prints. They’re Ted Baker scarves and the cut doesn’t seem to be all that unique, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere else.

    • wish I were a scarf person :

      • Anonymous :

        maybe a cocoon cardigan like this?

        or more of a kimono type thing like this?

    • KateMiddletown :

      Do you tie it around your back to make it stay? I’m intrigued.

      • wish I were a scarf person :

        No I think you just put your arms through the holes and wear it like a cape

  12. Anonymous :

    Tips for dealing with tween/teen mood swings? Yesterday my darling 11-year-old threw a screaming fit when I asked her to pick up her shoes, complete with “you hate me!,” then fifteen minutes later started sobbing in the car while her dad was driving her to sports practice and begged him to take her home because she missed mommy. I don’t think I can take seven more years of this.

    • I little one on one special time with Mom occasionally on weekends? Go out for brunch/special place….walk to the library together once a month…. walking and talking to a favorite treat place.

    • My now 15 year old grew 4 inches and 20 lbs during the nine months of seventh grade. I realized this when comparing the sports physicals from August and May. Imagine the hormones. At best, we had days like you describe. At worst, we had days like you see on some horrible reality show. There was a scene at the breakfast table that involved a glass of milk that I still do not understand. The good news is that things leveled out and overall, it was a successful year as far as transitions, grades, finding her sport, and making new friends. She was just a complete beast at home. I still feel the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder! Eighth and ninth grades have been more pleasant so far. Hang in there, Mom.

    • Longer reply in moderation but ours lasted 9 months – a very intense 9 months.

    • Anonymous :

      There’s a post about this on A Cup of Jo today. Will link, but google will get you there if I get stuck in mod.

    • The good news is that it does not last seven years!

      A couple of suggestions from the mom of a 17-year old who is thankfully past this: (1) Second the one-on-one time. Do something fun and reconnect; (2) When she is calm sit down and explain that you remember being her age and it is hard and you can understand being angry for no reason and sad for no reason and not knowing how to deal. Talk to her about how her growing and her hormones are impacting her mood and reassure her it will not last forever and that she needs to give herself time. (3) And then tell her that she is allowed to feel however she likes but not allowed to raise her voice to you or refuse to do what she is told. Tell her that you are also sometimes frustrated and angry about things that have nothing to do with her and that you work hard not to take that our on her and she is not allowed to take her bad mood out on you. Tell her very clearly what the consequences will be the next time it happens. Then follow-up.

      I can clearly recall having essentially this conversation with my mother (“I am not your emotional punching bag” was her line) and I had it with my daughter.

      • Thanks, everyone! I think I will try to take her out to breakfast tomorrow before school. The Cup of Jo article is great. I have read the book that one of those moms recommends (Untangled) twice. Maybe I need to read it again. And we also need to have the emotional punching bag conversation.

      • +1 to the “not your emotional punching bag” conversation. I’m in my 20s and don’t have kids, but I think the best thing my dad did for me during that phase was telling me how it makes him feel when I was a jerk to him, and how I can feel how I want, but I need to keep in mind how my actions and words make others feel. And if I wanted to talk through me feelings without attacking anyone or wanted a sounding board about how to handle them, he was always there. I think it was super helpful in being able to consistently consider how others feel and how to empathize.

        We also spent a ton of one-on-one time together, which I think helped.

    • Architect :

      My girls are almost 18 and 15 years old. This type of thing happened just yesterday. They took turns freaking out periodically over the course of the whole day. I guess we should be grateful they took turns. But it was not a fun either way. I have not found that any one thing that helps. It just happens from time to time. Both my husband and I try not to yell back. A shouting match never helps anyone. But I don’t think you can avoid this type of thing with teens. I have heard similar things from parents of boys as well. This too shall pass. Yesterday, I also found that the margarita with dinner helped me a lot. Good luck!

  13. I like to buy scarves from local artists whenever possible. My current favorites are from a San Francisco artist that signs her scarves Jane. They are dyed sheer silk with matching silk satin borders. The sheer part is overpainted with some sort of flexible paint. It’s a very cool effect.

    They are over $100 so I only have two, but they are my target splurge/treat yo self purchase.

  14. Permanent Eyeliner Recommendations :

    Can anyone recommend permanent makeup professionals in the Washington DC area?

  15. Funny enough, it was a (male) partner who got me into Hermès. Some older men in Western Europe wear them to keep their necks warm, so I found myself doing the same.
    Then I got a couple twillies and started wearing them as tiny neck ties. On my days off work, I also like to use a scarf in lieu of a scrunchie to have a loose ponytail.
    I can’t see my capsule wardrobe working without my colorful scarves because I wear solid bland colors.
    The only scarf look I still haven’t tried is the babushka style that women donned in old movies when riding convertible cars… I’m doing this next
    And I don’t think Hermès scarves make me look older than I’d like to be.

    • Ok just so I don’t get called an Ellen wannabe: I meant, an older partner at our firm wore Hermès scarves around the neck and it inspired me to buy some scarves and do the same.

      • I feel like the scarves are our equivalent for mens ties. I prefer scarves to statement necklaces :)

        • I agree. I can’t do costume jewelry because it flares up my urticaria, so scarves are a welcome color touch to an all black outfit

  16. The Echo brand of scarves has a huge variety of prints, colors, shapes and they are very reasonable — best selection is on Amazon but also available through Nordstrom and others. I also like them for adding interest to neutral/solid color basics.

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