How to up your style with scarves

woman schlepping a large sheer printed scarf behind her

Hermes scarf – a dream in fashion over 40

To own a Hermes scarf is a dream of most fashionable women. Even when we don’t own one does not mean that we cannot use the power of scarves for our outfit. Who can read the label anyway when a scarf is tied? And who can, is too close! Period.

Scarves come in a variety of colors, sizes, fabrics and shapes designed for different purposes. In addition, there are different ways to tie them. How to tie them again depends on the outfit that has to be styled.

Alaskan woman looking stylish with a scarf
Gucci scarf, Jeanne Pierre sweater, Moda International cardigan, INC leather pants, Hermes bangles, Antonio Melani booties, and Seiko watch (all own)
Every beautiful scarf can up your style when you know how to tie it right. #agelessstyle Click To Tweet

Curation of a scarf collection

Let’s start how to get a great scarf collection. When browsing a thrift or consignment store, I always go thru the scarves. I pull out the scarves that are in the colors of my wardrobe and a fabric I like. I prefer silk, wool and cotton over polyester. The latter material is often slippy and hence hard to style/tie. I check a potential scarf for problems like spots, wholes, or pulled yarn. When a scarf is in great condition, has a shape and/or print/pattern that is not yet in my collection, and the price is right, I will buy it. I was lucky to find an Oscar de la Rente scarf for $5 and a very heavy silk Gucci scarf for $20 (see photos below).

stylish outfit with Oscar de la Rente scarf wrapped around the neck Oblong Oscar de la Rente scarf wrapped around the neck and tied in the front
Gucci scarf tying example Gucci scarf folded to a band, tied around the neck twice and knotted in place

Shop the sales for scarves

During sales, I browse scarves when they are 50% or more off. I have a list of brands of which I would like a scarf and I look for these. However, when I see a scarf I like and it fits the criteria I apply for thrifted scarves, I consider buying it. This means I ask to hold it for 24 hours (if possible). In any case, I will come back to buy it if I still want/love the scarf the next morning. The only scarves in my closet that were bought for the full price are gifts.

Which scarf to which outfit?

Scarves can make or break a look. Learn how to make it. Avoid how to break it. #timelessstyle Click To Tweet

The best look can be achieved when the scarf has a similar vibe with respect to style as the dress and the colors pick up colors of the dress. Scarves that have the same color as the dress, but a different shade or saturation may work too. It is worth a try, but before leaving the door for work or play, take a selfie in good light conditions to judge whether the pairing works. Your outfit will look wrong when the shades of the scarf’s colors are just a notch lighter or darker than the color of a solid color dress. In case of a printed dress and solid scarf, you may get away with these slight differences. You can also mix prints and patterns when they are in the same color family.

Scarves permit a headstart on summer dresses in spring

In spring, you can apply the same principal to already start wearing the new summer dress you just bought or to get a headstart on wearing your summer wardrobe. Think of it sort as a Wear it Now – Wear it Later. Of course, the same concept permits wearing your beloved summer dress in fall. In spring, you would add a scarf in a light color or with a print that is associated with spring.

Scarf summer outfit ideas

In summer, thin cotton, silk or polyester scarves look great with a white T-shirt, jeans and sandals or pumps for the weekend, and Casual Friday (if the dress code allows jeans), respectively. In fall, scarves can help to transfer a summer dress into an fall outfit either by using the scarf strategically to cover wide cleavage to stay warm or by adding a matching fall color to the outfit.

Marine Layer Striped T-shirt accessorized with hand paint silk scarf knotted in the back Distressed Loft boyfriend jeans with a silk scarf folded to a triangle and knotted in the back, Ray Ban mirrored aviator sunglasses, smoky quartz flower belt, Anne Klein slingbacks (all own) and triped T-shirt c/o Marine Layer

Nicole of High Latitude Style donning a salmon color cat dress with white scarf Victoria Victoria Beckham cat pleated drop-waist dress, Esprit bag, garnet statement necklace, Bulova watch, Paloma Picasso sunglasses, Hermes collier de chien bangle and DIY-scarf (all own)

#maturefashion 40+ woman in a summer dress with scarf Apart sleeve-less dress with scarf, studded headband, Hermes collier de chien belt, Hermes Medor watch, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Madden Girl ruffle sandals and Chanel bag (all own)

over 50 years old fashion blogger in silk shirt dress with matching belt, bag and heels Banana Republic dress, Kieselstein Cordbelt, Gucci buckle, Nine Westpumps, Hermes collier de chien bangle, multi-gemstone cuff, Gucci bag with dress scarf-belt (all own)fashion blogger Nicole in preppy vacation look Gucci belt, Festina watch, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Kate Spade basket  bag with AMS neckerchief, Esprit neckerchief, Dr. Scholl  sandals, Rafaella dress (all own) and wooden sunglasses c/o Winkwood

over 50 years old fashion blogger in chinos, blazer, sandals, v-neck top Casual Friday fall outfit Oliveo chinos, DIY bag, statement belt, Anne Klein scarf, Vittoria Vernai blazer, Ann Taylor Loft top, Franco Sarto sandals (all own)

Scarf fall outfit ideas

In fall, you go with dark, bold colors to achnowledge the season. Another option is match them with colors of seasonal clothing like the leather dress and leather jacket in the next two outfit inspirations.

over 50 years old fashion blogger in fit-and-flare nappa dress Halogen fit-and-flare dress, statement belt, silk abstract print square, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Nine West Kelly green lizard imprint pumps (all own) and halftee c/o Halftee

blogger Nicole in fall outfit of gray skirt, black leather jacket and boots, hunter green sweater and pops of colors from the bag and scarf Fall work outfit with Eddie Bauer tweed skirt, pantyhose, Anne Klein oblong scarf, Lookbook Store biker leather jacket, GNW cable knit kneehigh socks, Sanchez riding boots, no brand hunter-green cashmere sweater, Coach shearling mini chain shoulder bag with pom poms (all own)

older woman in leather jacket, jeans and head topper James & Graham motorcycle leather jacket, Oscar de la Rente oblong scarf, Loft silk V-neck sweater, Oliveo boot cut jeans, Nicole suede fall sandals, Celine tote, statement belt (all own) and Vienna Scala hat c/o Tenth Street

scarf outfit with summer dress eShakti summer dress styled as skirt with Lookbook Store leather jacket, GNW tight, Jeanne and Pierre sweater and oblong scarf loosely knotted in the front (all own)Nicole Mölders in a fall colors inspired outfit with mixed pattern and print GNW cardigan, G-III suede skirt, Kieselstein Cord belt, ethnic buckle, Calvin Klein block heel pumps, Oscar de la Rente oblong scarf braided as a necklace, pantyhose (all own), Italian designer bag c/o Uno Alla Volta and ruby herring bone front zipper jacket c/o Whistle River

midlife lady in monochromatic outfit with scarf Monochromatic fall outfit with all shades of reds inspired by the Joyita scarf c/o Uno Alla Volta with Sterling silver amber necklace c/o Uno Alla Volta and own Calvin Klein sheath dress, GNW tight, Manolo Blanik booties, and Moda International cardigan

Heavy outerwear fall and winter scarves

In fall and winter, two types of scarves can up our style. Knit scarves of any style (infinity scarf, long 70s style scarf, oblong scarf, buttoned scarf, hood scarf) add style to outerwear. The same applies for poncho scarves and Russian scarves. A main advantage of the latter two types of scarves is that they add extra insulation around the neck and shoulders. This fact permits wearing a light coat longer into the cold season or is much needed when the Polar Vortex extends far down south on the Northern Hemisphere, or far north on the Southern Hemisphere.

Up the style of your outerwear. Add a scarf. #agelessstyle #styletip Click To Tweet

Qiviut is the warmest

With respect to the fabric, qiviut, the under-wool of muskoxen, provides the best insulation. Silk and wool are also great insulators. A tightly weave/knit is better than a loose one as less body heat can escape thru the former than the latter. In humid regions like Southeast Alaska, West Europe, the Pacific Northwest, or the East Coast, for instance, sheep wool may start smelling when humidity gets high, which is always the case on rainy days. Polyester may get electrically charged in cold dry regions. Polyester clothes release sparks when you take them off, when they get in contact with other people’s clothes on public transportation, or when you touch them.

“Qiviut Lace Scarf” by andreakw is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scarves can increase the wear of your wardrobe

In the case of winter indoor outfits, heavy silk or light wool scarves are your best options. They match the heavy fabrics of winter items. A scarf over a sweater can substitute for a turtleneck sweater at the office. A scarf can provide the extra insulation/coverage to wear a button-down shirt under a blazer. The cleavage of a fall or spring dress can be covered by a scarf to make these dresses work on warmer winter days. On weekends, adding a light-weight Russian scarf may up a jeans and sweater with booties look. All these options permit wearing clothes beyond their original purpose. And there are more tips to get more wear out of your wardrobe.

How to tie which scarf

Obviously, the different purposes, types, shapes and materials require different techniques to tie them. I will write a separate how to tie scarves post with step-by-step details on this subject later this winter. Here I will just provide the general guideline which techniques go with which types of scarves.

European loop

The European loop, works best with long small to medium wide knit scarves or oblong wool or polyester scarves with tight weave. It looks stylish both when worn under or over a winter coat.

woman wearing a printed neckerchiefLeopard print silk oblong scarf worn in a European loop over crew-neck sweater for a posh winter work outfit
#styleover50 Winter outfit with shearling motorcycle coat with muffer Long 70s style DIY muffer with fringe tied the 70s way, but styled contemporary for a modern outerwear look

Blanket scarf and alike

A poncho, blanket or large Russian scarf look stylish when wrapped around the shoulder over a wool or shearling winter coat and belted for shape (see photos above). A plaid blanket worn over a winter coat not only changes the look to more casual, but also increases the insulation to stay comfortable in freezing weather conditions.

fashion blogger in coat with Russian stole Russian Pavlova stole over shearling coat belted for shape to look slim and hold the scarf in place
mature style blogger wearing a plaid stole Plaid blanket stole over shearling coat belted for shape to look slim

Pro tip: Belt your blanket scarf for shape to look slim and sleek.#styletip #agelesstyle Click To Tweet

Long small pieces

An oblong knitted 70s style scarf looks great when paired with modern clothes and tied the 70s way, i.e. wrapped once or twice around the neck, then making a loose knot and having the ends hang down in the front (see photo). Be aware that this way of styling a scarf may become a safety issue. The long ends can be caught in the doors of public transportation and cars, by shopping charts, etc. and they also may cause injury in conjunction with car-seat belts.

Street chic scarf tied in a European loop Scarf tied in an European loop by folding it in the middle and pulling the ends thru the loop
#agelessstyle winter coat with silk neckerchief Peacoat with LV silk neckerchief worn as a tie (all own)

Infinity loop

Most infinity scarves look best when tied around the neck twice. Only light-weight fabrics look great with a jeans and T-shirt in summer. Heavy fabric or knit infinity pieces look best with a winter coat, down coat or shearling. When the size allows for it, try to do the second wrap over your head as a hood to skip the hat.

DIY tip: Make an infinity loop from an old silk shirt.

midlife woman looking posh in a long leather coat
DIY infinity scarf with LeatherCoatsEtc long quilt lining leather coat with faux fur accents, SAK bag, GNW tight, Adidas sneakers, eBay leather beret, and shearling gloves (all own)

Pro tip: Infinity loops with secret pockets increase your travel safety while looking stylish.

Square scarf

Folding a square thin silk or cotton scarf to a triangle and knotting the ends behind the neck with the triangle hanging in the front looks best with a jeans and T-shirt in summer.

You can fold the said triangle over the short side several times to create a long neck-wide band. When wrapped around the neck twice and knotted on the side, it keeps your neck warm when you wear a crew-neck sweater in winter. However, go for a silk scarf. Cotton is meant for summer and would not feel right. Furthermore, cotton is not a good insulator, a reason why it is used for summer clothes.

Scarf tied as a collarGucci scarf folded oblong and then over the long diagonal with ends tied to obtain a collar-like look
#agelessstyle Siren scarf worn as a braided necklace India Hicks Siren scarf c/o India Hicks ambassador Tammy Gray braided and worn like a necklace to up a summer dress

Oblong wide blankets

An oblong blanket is full of possibilities. A cotton or silk scarf braided to a necklace ups a solid or color blocked dress. In the photo above, I wore it as a necklace. This style requires to fold the scarf into a loop and braid part of the loop and the two ends. Finally, the ends get secured in a non-visible way in the braid.


Silk neckerchieves look great when folded to a triangle and then folded to a band and tied once around the neck. I use them to fill in the cleavage of a shirt dress or button-down shirt when leaving the uppermost two buttons open. They also look cute this way with a polo shirt and denim skirt on the weekend.

When knotting scarves always make sure the knot looks flat. #styletip Click To Tweet
over 50 years fashion blogger uping a casual look with a scarf Plaid piece knotted in an eight with brooches to up an Oliveo denim skirt with sweater and pumps outfit for Casual Friday (all own)
mature women wearing a scarf as belt Anne klein scarf worn as belt in an OOTD inspired by the color combination of the scarf (all own)

Long oblong cotton or silk scarves look stylish when tied around the neck towards the back and switching the ends in the front. Since the ends are subject to gravity or the wind and since there is no knot, I secure the scarf with pins or brooches.

When you liked this post tweet your friends read how to use scarves to look stylish. Thanks.

over 50 years old woman in work outfit with neckerchief
Gucci neckerchief, Moda International cardigan, INC chocolate brown leather pants, Hermes enamel bangles, Antonio Melani booties, and Seiko watch (all own)

Do you have a scarf collection? How do you wear your scarves? What type of scarves are your favorite? Send me an email or tweet, I am curious.

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Photos: G. Kramm

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