A scarf is the easiest way to add a chic finish to any outfit. And there are so many ways to wear one, from a simple, timeless knot at the neck to an intricate loop-and-twist design. With the variety of techniques available, it can be overwhelming to figure out what works best with the many shapes and sizes currently popular. Here we walk you though our favorite ways to style different scarves, with suggestions from the book How to Tie a Scarf: 33 Styles.
From Chapter 2: “Square”—Kerchiefs & Silk Squares
Step One: Use the bias fold to begin. Position the scarf in the center of your neck and wrap the ends around, crossing them behind your neck and then pulling forward.
Step Two: Bring the ends together in front, crossing them at the base of the neck.
Step Three: Tie one knot in the center of the scarf, pulling the ends in opposite directions.
Step Four: Double-knot the scarf and the the ends hang loosely. Twist the knot to one side of your neck so that it rests slightly off-center.
Tip: This classic style pays homage to iconic Parisian chic. Worn in the spring, summer, and early-fall, the Montmartre looks best with bateau tops and blouses.
Tie the Montmartre with the Quail-and-Magnolia Silk Scarf.
From Chapter 3: “Oblong”—Skinny & Wide Scarves
Step One: Drape the scarf around the neck, allowing one end to hang one-third longer than the other in the front. Wrap the longer end of the scarf loosely around the neck.
Step Two: Continue wrapping the longer end of the scarf around the neck until it lies on the front of the chest.
Step Three: Cross the ends of the scarf under the wrapped portion at the base of the neck.
Step Four: Pull one end of the scarf through, creating a knot. Loosen and pull the wrapped portion of the scarf over the knot to hide it.
Tip: This classic style looks best under a peacoat or winter jacket, with the top knot peeking out for additional color.
Tie the Greenwich with: Mixed-Geo Wool/Silk Scarf and the Black-and-White Tassel Scarf.
From Chapter 4: Embellished, Sequined, Ruffled, & Tassled
Step Two: Wrap the longer end around the back of the neck.
Step Three: Pull the longer end of the scarf forward and wrap it loosely around the neck, slightly on top of the first layer.
Step Four: Keep wrapping and layering the scarf until only a small portion remains.
Step Five: Tuck the remaining end of the scarf into the front and the opposite end into the back, hidden in the folds. Adjust the front layers so that the pom-poms are evenly spaced.
Tip: When styling a scarf with pom-poms or other trimmings that line the edges, creating a layered look that displays the embellishments (like the Oslo and its following variations) is ideal. Keep the rest of your outfit relatively simple; you don’t want to overwhelm or detract from the embellishments on the scarf.
Materials Used To Make Scarves
Cashmere & Merino Wool
Most affordable-but-still-high-quality scarves for cold weather are made in cashmere and merino wool. Lambswool scarves and fleece round out the lower end of the quality spectrum, whereas a rare, exceptionally warm material such as vicuña reaches the upper echelon of scarf quality. This also affects price, as you might imagine.
Fun fact: a vicuña scarf can retail for around USD$1500.
Alpacas are native to the Andes and are technically a “camelid” as opposed to a sheep. The point of this is to say that alpaca scarves are not, in fact, wool, but rather a high-quality material that keeps you warm with the added benefit of being hypo-allergenic. The latter point is due to its lack of lanolin, a wax secreted by wool-bearing animals (such as sheep) that, while adding water resistance, causes an allergic reaction in some people.
The material has an incredible hand, resembling cashmere in how it feels. Peruvian alpaca is widely regarded as the best in the world, so be sure to pick up one or two scarves before you summit Macchu Picchu.
Cotton & Linen
Cotton and linen scarves are ideal for warmer weather but can work well for warmth maintenance in air-conditioned rooms. Beautiful as they can be, cotton and linen scarves are much less popular than their cold-weather counterparts. At the end of the day, men really are utilitarian!
Silk or silk satin is a common material used for dress scarves, which are typically worn only with semi-formal and formal garments such as tuxedos or full dress suits. Neckerchiefs are also a version of silk scarf. These are an excellent way to jazz up the neckline of a tie-less ensemble, but seem to be the territory of men of middle age or older.
Foulards are scarves or neckerchiefs made from a light silk that are made in abstract motifs in different colors, often shaped like teardrops. These tend to be worn more with suits than anything else. At left, Bespoke Unit founder Paul Anthony sports a silk foulard casually.
The word foulard is French, and to a Frenchman, the term refers to any silk handkerchief.
1. As a hair accessory
Use the scarf as a headband or hair tie to give your look a more feminine flavor. You can use a square scarf to achieve this style. Pick one that is small to medium in size.
Evamaria of Lost In The Wardrobe (Blog Offline) styles her funky black-and-white outfit with a ladylike twist by wearing a scarf as a headband
Kate Spade New York Wedding Belles Just Married Silk Square, $100
2. As a bag candy
Not quite sure how to use your favorite extra for the day? Or perhaps you find that it’s too hot outside but you still want to take it out for spin? Then take a cue from Nina Dobrev and wear it as a bag candy. So easy, right?
Nina Dobrev enjoys the streets of New York City while decked in a super short jumper dress and a scarf-styled purse, on June 11, 2014
3. As a lightweight last-layer
Just because it’s warm outside doesn’t mean you can’t wear the scarf the usual way. Lightweight pieces trimmed with interesting details make for the perfect last-layer. You can top the scarf over a simple but sexy tank to add polish.
Yuka Iwasaki of Pretty In Leather dresses up her baby-doll top with a pompom-trimmed scarf in the same hue for that super cool laid-back summer look
For days when it’s cooler than usual, put a printed scarf over whatever outfit you’re wearing to add a pop of color to your look.
Maren Elizabeth of Bureau of Chic (Blog Offline) adds a pop of print to her summer ensemble by using a printed scarf that matches her jacket
La Fiorentina Cashmere Wrap, $138
4. As a neck-tie/neckerchief
Use your scarf as a neckerchief or neck-tie to give your outfit a striking accent. This is best achieved using a beautifully printed small square scarf.
Sonya Esman of Class Is Internal coordinates her strappy sandals and keeps her look extra polished with a printed neckerchief
Anna of Oh My Blog takes inspiration from the boy-scout knot for her scarf-styled outfit
5. As a wrap
Summer is a season for bikinis, tank tops, short shorts, and skimpy dresses. You can use your scarf to complement such pieces. Use it as a wrap to glam up your look, or tie the ends together and wear it like a kimono.
Jennifer Wang of Sustainable Siren adds polish to her sexy micro-mini outfit by topping it with a pretty printed scarf in the same hue
6. As an arm party
It’s no secret that you can actually use the small square scarf as an arm party. This is also a great way to give your wrist a break from all those heavy bangles.
Denisia of Polishing Colors gives her skirt ensemble a refreshing twist with a “scarf bracelet”
7. As a dress
This you can do using a large scarf. You can even create different necklines with your extra, such as strapless, halter, or one-shoulder. If you need tips on how to work up the scarf into a frock, let Elle Evans show you how!
Maria De la Cruz of Haute and Rebellious turns her scarf into a cute strapless dress that’s perfect for the summer weather
Felicia Eriksson from Sweden wears her oversized scarf as a halter dress for a beach outing
8. As a sarong
You can also use your whispy throw as a sarong if you’re beach-bound. This is very similar to #5, only, very location specific. If you want to try wearing your scarf as a skirt for, say, a party, you can also do that, but it will require a few other materials like a pin or brooch to hold it in place.
Isabelle H. of Style With Isabelle covers up her bikini with a sarong wrap
Miraclesuit Aloha Gardens Scarf Pareo, $64
Born Free Urban Zen Scarf, $120
9. As a top or vest
Don’t know what to wear or can’t find the perfect top to go with your jeans? Why not turn one of your scarves into a top instead?
Tamara of Tamara Chloe Style Clues spices up her all-white outfit with a belted scarf vest
Sandra of More Style Than Fashion wears her red scarf as halter top to the beach
10. As a head wrap
Another great way to fashion the scarf during summer is by using it as a headwrap. There are so many ways you can do this, you can even go for a retro rockabilly look.
Madeline P. Jean Greige keeps her look boho and funky with chunky sandals and a printed headwrap
11. Lay over
Wear a sheer scarf like a simple shawl by laying it over your shoulders. Use a printed scarf in earth tone, and top it over a dress printed in the same color family. Mix with lace-up boots, socks, and round-rimmed sunnies for a touch of retro.
Outfit inspiration from Elle-May Leckenby of STYLISHELLS
Vince Camuto Graphic Wrap, $48
12. Hanging Halter
Great for wearing at the beach!
Use a rectangular scarf, fold it in half, then wrap the ends (of one side) behind your back to create the hanging halter effect. Too complicated for you? Then simply wrap the scarf loosely around your neck then spread a portion of the fabric over your chest to create the same effect.
Go with a tasseled piece that’s richly printed. Best worn over your bikini top and a pair of denim cutoffs. Don’t forget your sunnies!
Outfit inspiration from Konstantina Tzagaraki of Serial Klother (Blog Offline)
Halogen Chevron Print Pompom Scarf, $38
13. Pseudo Vest
This is basically short for “throwing it over any outfit”. However, it works best on a look that is bohemian and Western inspired. It is also best to use a shorter scarf (less than 60″ long) to achieve the “pseudo vest” look.
Layer the piece over a loose white top and some sexy denim cutoffs. Don’t forget to accessorize with a floppy hat, some cowboy boots, and a pair of uber-cool eyewear.
Outfit inspiration from Kristine G. of Heteroheroine
14. Sexy Bo Peep
A fresh take on cowgirl style with a hint of Little Bo Peep drama. Wear a denim shirt over high-waist black shorts and decorate the combo by tying a colorful silk square around your neck — not over your shirt’s collar, but under it like the way guys do neck ties. Complete the getup with a floppy hat and sleek ankle boots.
Outfit inspiration from Rachel-Marie Iwanyszyn of Jag Lever
Jonathan Chinoiserie Horse Silk Scarf, $98
Wear it like the cowboys do, only, with a hint of edge. Use your favorite white (or gray) t-shirt with a short black leather skirt, then work a bandana into a triangle and tie the ends behind your neck. Cap off the mix with a pair of Converse Chucks to give it a laid-back feel.
Outfit inspiration from Margarita of Deadly In Love
16. Skinny (Reverse) Bandana
Not quite an Axl Rose just yet (we will get to that one later), but we think this one’s a great look to try this summer, especially if you enjoy wearing black.
Use your silk square or bandana with a long black maxi and a denim jacket. Wear it skinny and slim around your head, and make sure the knot is done at the side of your forehead instead of behind the head.
Infuse a laid-back vibe by pairing the mix with one of summer’s top stories — the leather slides. Of course, don’t forget your eyewear.
P.S. Best to use a small square or skinny scarf for this look.
Outfit inspiration from Sophie of Moda Vitae (Blog Offline)
Kenzo Scribble Letter Silk Scarf, $290
17. Like Axl Rose
Wear your scarf the Axl-Rose way, which is short for saying, wear it like a thick bandana with the scarf covering majority of your forehead.
Now don’t go overboard by styling it like a rock star. Instead, piece it together with a laid-back outfit consisting of a white tank top, some loose trousers, and a pair of flat sandals. You can top it all off with a leather jacket and some aviators to keep the edgy flavor going.
Outfit inspiration from Vita of Vita Dinamita
African Sun Scarf, $78
18. Rosette on Your Head
Not quite the skinny bandana nor the Axl Rose, but it’s a head wrap that will give your look a different flavor. Don’t worry, this one is easy to do. Once you’ve knotted the scarf around your head, just twist the ends, wrap them around the knot you made, then tuck the twisted ends under the knot in order to create the rosette effect.
In order to offset the very feminine detail, wear the piece with simple separates such as black skinny jeans, a white blazer, and a yellow top; then cap off the mix with edgy booties and blue-lense sunnies.
Outfit inspiration from Elen Ellis of Elen Ellis
19. Summer Cap
Another great way to sport the summer scarf is by using it as a “cap” with one of the season’s top trends — the overalls. Simply work your square scarf into a triangle by folding it in half diagonally. Starting from the bottom, wrap the scarf around your head with the ends facing upward. Tie the two opposite ends into a knot, then tuck the center end under it. Cap off the mix with a pair of loafers or sneakers and you’re all set!
Outfit inspriation from Milk Teeths
20. The Tower
We’d like to call it the tower, but you can name this style however you like. This is perfect for dressier outfits and will work best using a large silk square. You basically need to wrap the scarf close to the neck, tie it into a knot, then let the ends hang.
The tower actually has a slimming effect, so it’s great if you want to look slimmer. Wear it with wide-leg trousers and a cami or blouse, then top the mix with a blazer or jacket. Don’t forget to wear high heels and sunnies.
Outfit inspiration from Hana of The Czech Chicks