2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to wear silk scarves (and links have been updated below); you may also want to check out our more recent discussion of how to wear scarves to work in 2018.
Today’s reader mail is all about how to wear silk scarves…
I’ve got two silk scarves I bought because I fell in love with them, and one black tie. I never wear them, because I’ve no idea how one is supposed to wear it! Besides, can a woman in her early 20s even pull off that look without looking like an in-flight attendant? If yes, are they supposed to go on the neck under the shirt (I’ve seen that look a few times), over the shirt and under its collar? Does one knot them or just let them hang down, if one knots them – does it matter how?
We used to work with a woman who always wore the most beautiful Hermes scarves — her wardrobe was primarily black, white, and gray, and the scarves were a rich addition of colors and patterns. She had one that had elements of a beautiful, almost hot pink, and it was incredibly flattering on her, particularly so close to her face — but because it was just a scarf, and amidst other colors, no one ever would have said that the scarf was too pink or girly or feminine. We asked her about her scarves once, and she confided to us that she wore them because she found tags at the nape of her neck to be itchy. Her scarves absolutely worked for her — and although she was at a senior level, we think the fact that they worked had more to do with her body type: tall and slender. (Specifically, she would wear them with a collared jacket and collar-less sweater or tee, worn between her jacket’s collar and her tee’s collar — they were unknotted and, while we think they were generally square scarves, she wore them folded into an oblong shape.) (Pictured at right: Tonal Hydrangea Silk Scarf, from Brooks Brothers (no longer available) — Nordstrom also has a great selection of silk scarves for work.)
Our own body type is the opposite — petite and curvy — and we’ve had trouble making scarves work for us, although we’ve fallen in love with (and bought) far too many. (In fact, the last time we can remember wearing one was when we wore a DvF dress and realized too late that it was WAY too low cut for the office — we tried to tuck the scarf into the neckline of the dress — faux blouse! — and wound up annoyed at how much we had to readjust throughout the day.) Readers, we’d love to hear from you — how do you wear silk scarves as a young professional? What are your favorite styles, fabrics, styling tricks and more?
Social media images via Stencil.
My mother– an upper level executive at a small medical journal– wears scarves all the time. She knots them or uses these gold or silver holders that the ends fit through. They definitely help in the effort to look both feminine and professional. I’ve struggled with how to wear them myself. I think they look nice with a collarless knit top and a blazer, especially if the rest of your outfit is dark or conservative. Don’t forget they’re also functional, covering the salad dressing on your blouse, or diverting attention from your breasts or stomach if you’re self-conscious. Also good for business trips, because you can take one plain suit, three basic tops and as many scarves as you like to change the outfit.
I’m short and curvy as well, but I like the way I look in turtlenecks, and I find I can make a scarf turn any top into a turtleneck in winter. I fold the scarf into a 2-3″ wide long ribbonish thing and then wrap it around my neck and tie a tiny knot on the side of my neck. Something like this look without the rosette.
I had a scarf I loved to wear with one suit in particular (a more “casual” suit I no longer own). It was one of the long, skinnier scarfs, though – not a square one. I would wear it over my suit jacket, under the collar, so the middle of the scarf was covered by my collar and lapel but the ends showed from the bottom of my lapel to about my waist. Sometimes I would knot boths ends, too, because it kept the scarf from flying around too much on windy days. I use to get a lot of compliments on the outfit.
Absolutely! I’m a young professional with a collection of Hermes scarves and shawls that I wear all the time to add color and interest to my conservative business uniform (and to beat the chill of airconditioned office buildings!). I highly recommend the attached link which leads to two PDFs from Hermes on how to tie your scarf. As I often wear button-down shirts, I do not like having the ends of my scarves hanging down into my cleavage or looking like a tie. I most often fold the scarf into a ribbon (the basic folding on the first Hermes PDF I believe) and do various knots that wrap around my neck twice so that the ends tie in a little knot at the back of my neck. Also a favorite with button-downs is the “cowboy” way (also on one of the Hermes PDFs), as it can nicely fill in a button-down shirt. I also recommend against wearing scarves with an already busy outfit.
I use the long thin scarves and usually wear them in the “undercoat” style or the fake knot style, both shown here: http://www.texeresilk.com/cms-scarf_tying_guide.html
I’d suggest taking a look at this blog http://www.unefemme.net/. The woman who writes it is over 50 (if that even matters) but she is a scarf wearer extraordinaire, and there are many photos of her wearing them. It will definitely give you scarf envy. Some are around the neck, others just draped.
oh corporette. i loved you before, but i love you even more now for this post. thank you!
From Brooks Brothers!–found this, love it, and use it all the time. http://www.brooksbrothers.com/scarfknots/scarfknots.tem
I have an enormous box of folded and rolled silk scarves in every color flattering to me, as well as several extra long ones hanging on hooks. Except for hot and sticky weather, I wear them all the time–they perk up my beige face ( I an a brunette) tastefully and extend my wardrobe wonderfully. I am 5’10” and very curvy. I wear long ones either under blazer lapels on the outside of the jacket, or directly under the lapels on the inside. I halve them and thread the ends through the loop to create a flourish at my neck if it is a shorter scarf or a nice vee if not. I wrap them from the fron to the back and bring the ends back to the front and let them hang or tie them in a knot. (This can also be done with a larger square scarf folded into a thin rectangle per the Hermes instructions). I tie them loosely in a square knot at bustline height to form a vee. A square scarf can be folded in a triangle and tied casually at the neck in a square knot (a single knot looks better but keeps coming undone–I do have scarf clips, but they never seems to work out well) The jacket or blouse or sweater can go over this or it can be tied over them, as you wish–it’s best not to overthink it–French women don’t. Just casually toss a scarf on and tie it. DO NOT make it too precious or clever. Kiss of death. If you are less tall, just keep the scarf doubled if it’s long, or tied more at your neck instead of drooping too low.
ps. i forgot to answer the question: typically, i wear my scarves either betty draper style or as described above in the post (unknotted and between collars), but i’m inspired to try a few other configurations now.
I just wanted to mention how helpful Brooks Brothers was with a scarf issue once (a few years ago). I had an interview at a design firm in Boston, and wanted to add a splash of color to my black suit. I took my emerald green silk scarf in the Brooks Brothers on the way to the interview, and they helped me tie it! (And I got the job.)
great post idea – thanks for the tips, all… I have had a few scarves hanging in my closet for awhile awaiting this advice!
Here’s a link to the Hermes pdfs I think V was referring to:
I was lucky enough to receive a beautiful Hermes scarf as gift. At first, I was faced with the same dilemma of not knowing what to do with it. I went to the store and asked for their help. The clerk I spoke to was so excited to be asked for advice, he gave me a million ideas (including fashioning a pocket square into a bracelet- have not tried that one yet). If you have an Hermes boutique you should certainly drop by- they are probably pretty bored in this economy.
I wear my long scarves typically in the “casual” style and square ones in the “fake knot” pictured here: http://www.texeresilk.com/cms-scarf_tying_guide.html
I love wearing bold scarves as a belt. With casual khakis, and white button down and a black blazer, they give a lot of punch! I’ve even worn a thin tie as a belt and got a lot of compliments…
I hope your reader gets inspired to wear her new pieces!
There are a couple of ideas here too http://www.insideoutstyleblog.com/2009/07/one-scarf-two-ways.html plus one on wearing pashminas as well that you may find useful.
I adore scarves. Sometimes it’s all that’s needed to make a blah suit or dress have that extra flare that really looks professional. One of my favorites scarves (an old Hermes Napoleon scarf) looks great with every color in my wardrobe. I don’t always wear them, but when I do, I always feel great.
The best look is just easy – around the neck, untied under a jacket, or looped once around the neck over a dress . But for some more dramatic looks as a loose Windsor knot around the neck of an open-collared white blouse, take the diagonal ends tie around neck, then other diagonal ends and tie around waist for a quick shell under a jacket, and any number of ways around your head, headband, neck.
There’s a cool little “Playtime with your Scarf” on Hermes site here: http://usa.hermes.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/PlayTimeView?storeId=10202&catalogId=10052&langId=-1#
A scarf can become a professional woman’s staple and should definitely be included.
Some of my clients say they don’t know the first thing about how to tie a scarf much less how to shop for one. However, they do admit that they love the way scarves look on other women. So, let’s address both of these concerns, shall we?
If you can tie your shoes, you can tie a scarf. Seriously.
Complicated, over-under-around Houdini-esque maneuvers are absolutely unnecessary. Truthfully? The most effective and comfortable way to wear a scarf is to not tie it at all!
For example, imagine you are in Paris, sitting at a lovely little sidewalk café on a fabulous warm spring day. You are sipping a glass of champagne [at lunch, no less] and a handsome stranger walks by. You catch his eye as you toss one tail of your gorgeous Hermes scarf nonchalantly over your shoulder.
As I said, no need to tie your scarf.
Unsure about choosing the right scarf? Never fear, it will choose you. Like a treasured piece of art, you must be drawn to its color, texture and visual effect upon your senses.
Trendy colors are fine as long as they are the colors that flatter your skin tone, hair color and eyes. Remember, a scarf is usually worn up close and personal around one’s face. And what about shape? Honestly, you can make any shape work for you, but I like a long skinny rectangle best. I can wear it like a necklace making it any length that strikes my fancy.
[exerpt taken from newspaper article I wrote this past spring]
nancy k. pipal
executive presence and personal style consultant
Try a small piece of Hollywood fashion tape (double sided tape that doesn’t hurt fabric) to help a scarf stay in place and decrease the fuss factor. You will forget all about the scarf and get on with the important stuff and still look great.
The links you’ve all provided are great. Thank you.
One other idea is to fold a big square scarf into a tube, lay it along the edge of a cardigan you’ve folded down to tie over your shoulders, and make the tie with the cardigan sleeves and scarf combined. It adds color and pizzazz to a plain twinset.
Liz (the one who asked the question)
Ohhhh Corporette I love you and your readers!
I didn’t see this post before because I was out of the country, but now that I did, I can’t wait to go try all the suggestions out!
Thank you so much!
My grandmother was French and grew up in the south of France. She was well traveled and had several friends who had their own design houses. She had exquisite taste when it came to clothes and accessories. When she got older she moved to the states and in with my parents. I have always loved wearing silk scarves, with Hermes silk being my fave. When I would visit them, and if I happen to have on one of my nice silk scarves, she would immediately get her tiny monogrammed gold scissors and carefully clip out the design label. She said it is tacky for one to have a label showing, so it is always best to just clip it out. Several older stylish women I mention this to agreed with my grandmother. My grandmother is no longer with us, but I now have her tiny gold scissors, and each time I buy a new Hermes, Chanel or whatever kind of scarf, I immediate get out her scissors and carefully clip out the label.
I’m in my early 20s and LOVE silk scarves, too! I completely understand the stewardess/waitress dilemma. That being said, I just rewatched INCEPTION yesterday and realized that Ellen Page/Ariadne wore many silk scarfs. They were all tied ‘cowboy’ style, but she kept it young and interesting with the way she layered the rest of her clothes :)
I wore scarves all the time around my neck with a black suit and was labelled the “scarf girl”. I started to get gifts of scarves from female colleagues. Now that I can upgrade my wardrobe to investment pieces, I intend to save to buy an Hermes scarf–again, wear with my black wardrobe and black and white tweedy suits. Am usure of whether to get the giant Hermes square or the “pleated” one not shown with dimensions. Either way I would consider wearing around my neck and waist. Hermes’ site only lists rectangular scarves in their very very limited “vintage ” line. But at the Hermes boutique they had way more choices. Go to a boutique!
Does that slideshow really have 1,391 scarves? How much time do you think your readers have?
I have a colleague (in her 30s) that wears scarves all the time. she some times wears them in some really cute ways – as a belt, a skirt, a top etc. i think it’s because of her, now everyone in the office starts to wear scarves :) she (and now me) buys scarves from http://www.silkseasons.com, i think on this site, there’s even a pdf download of all the ways you can wear a scarf.
well i use my companions kerchiefs as neck scarfs while i play cricket as they suit me very well and know i am addicted to them with over quite a lot of collection.i basically use them as sweat absorbers and know my companion usually helps me in choosing the right one for the occasion. usually she ties the butterfly knot which is quite tight around my neck and gives me a good feeling. i just love these neckerchiefs
Maybe this is a cultural issue, but I never, ever, wear a scarf to a conference. Ever. At the office, sure, if there’s no meetings. At a conference, however, there is no more surefire way to be treated like a hostess/secretary/admin than wearing a scarf. The women who actually have those jobs are all colour-coordinated, but that doesn’t help. All people see is scarf or no scarf.
I think it’s a real shame, as I like scarves and the femininity they bring to an outfit. Instead, I’ve settled for statement suits, or a skirt or shoes that “pop”.