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How to Style a Scarf (Outfit Ideas)

The scarf is the quintessential accessory, the one item that everyone seems to have and yet, you probably can’t remember the last time you wore one. Add a scarf to any outfit to add a pop of color, to pull an outfit together, to show off your stylish side. You can use a scarf to show off your wild side, your elegant side, your sophisticated side or any other facet of your personality, too. When you know how to style a scarf, you will never run out of ways to use this accessory with all your outfit ideas. Master this accessory and you will always have a way to dress up any outfit and create all kinds of different, amazing looks. 

What is a Scarf?

What makes a scarf a scarf? It’s a fair question because honestly, there are just so many different types of scarves. They are made in all shapes and sizes and types of fabric. Some are long and narrow, others are square in shape, the list goes on. By strict definition, a scarf is any broad band of cloth that is worn around the neck, shoulders or over the head. A scarf can also be a military sash that is used to indicate rank. 

Scarf outside neutral colors

A scarf can be a lot of things and that means there are many, many ways to style it.

History of the Scarf

The scarf is seen often in modern fashion but it has a pretty big place in retro fashion, too. Everyone’s seen those glamorous style mavens from the 1960s and 1970s wearing amazing scarves. But the scarf isn’t modern and it isn’t even retro. Neck scarves are actually ancient. Like so many other things in history, scarves got their start in places like Rome and Egypt.

The first neck scarves appeared on Roman soldiers. These accessories were known as Sudarium, which means “sweat cloth.” The scarf was worn tied around the waist or the neck. Queen Nefertiti in Egypt is said to have worn a scarf around her head because it made it easier to display her fabulous jeweled headpieces. 

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The practice of outfitting soldiers with scarves caught on. After Rome did it, the practice was seen in ancient China and appeared much later in western Europe in the 1600s, proving that the scarf has some serious fashion staying power. 

Thanks to Nefertiti, scarves had already been worn by royalty at this point. For scarves to catch on in modern fashion and become popular with non-soldiers, it would take another historic royal woman to make them popular.

The Empress of Fashion

During his conquest of Egypt, French Emporer Napolean gave many Egyptian scarves to his wife, Empress Josephine, as gifts. She developed a fondness for them and collected more than 400 scarves very quickly. The town of Paisley, Scotland learned of her fondness for the accessory and started making their own scarves featuring a distinct print that is still one of the most recognizable patterns in fashion.

Once the scarf was popular with the Empress of France, everyone else wanted scarves, too. The accessory became popular with women everywhere and they have been a big part of modern fashion ever since.

Modern Fashion

Scarves persisted throughout history as a common accessory worn around the head, neck and even around the waist as a belt. Glamour icons of the 1950s and silver screen legends wore them. Scarves continue to be popular in fashion and they continue to be worn by style icons of all types. Knowing how to style a scarf can be the difference between an ordinary outfit and one that stands out as true fashion. 

Modern scarf fashion is all about different sizes and styles of scarves, different materials and patterns and colors. It’s also about how you wear the scarf. Are you doing to use a scarf knot? Can you even wear a scarf knot with silk scarves? Learn more about the types of scarves to learn how to wear them the right way.

Types of Scarves

There is no one kind of scarf. In fact, there are many different types of scarves you can wear. By playing around with different types of scarves in different sizes and designs, you can style all kinds of different outfits. Learn how to wear the different types of scarves and you’ll learn how to style all kinds of different outfits that feature the scarf, that historic fashion accessory that will never go out of style. 

Blanket

Womens Winter Scarf Cashmere Feel Pashmina Shawl Wraps Soft Warm Blanket Scarves for Women

The blanket scarf is a large, square scarf that is large in size. The large size is why the square blanket scarf has this name. This scarf can be worn in all kinds of ways. You can wear it like a shawl if you like and wear it large or fold it and experiment with different ways to wrap it around your shoulders, your waist, your neck or anywhere else on your body. A blanket scarf tied around the waist adds a great layer to any outfit and it gives you a more unconventional way to wear a scarf, which is a lot of fun. It can function as a head scarf, too. Play around with different places to wear a scarf on your body and you’ll discover even more ways to style a scarf. 

Infinity

Corciova Light Weight Black Solid Colors Infinity Scarf Endless Loop

The infinity scarf is relatively new on the fashion scene compared to other types of scarves. This design is starting to be seen more and more because they’re easy to wear and attractive. These scarves are designed to be put on, looped around the neck once or twice and you have a simple, easy way to wear a scarf. The infinity scarf is named before it has no ends. It’s just a circle, so there are all kinds of different ways to wear it and experiment with this scarf. Infinity scarves come in different sizes so you can wear them in different ways. There are no loose ends, so this scarf is different from many of the other styles out there. Pick a favorite way to wear your infinity scarf or try a different style every single time.

Pashmina

Sakkas 70" x 28" Paisley Self-Design Shawl/Wrap/Stole - Black/White

An authentic pashmina is made with the wool of the Kashmir Pashmina goat. These goats are found n the Himalayas and produce very fine, soft wool. There are many synthetic pashmina scarves on the market, so be sure to check to see what the item is made of. Traditional pashmina scarves are large and rectangular in shape, big enough to cover the head. You can wear them around the shoulders, around the body, around the neck and head. Who knows what you’ll end up coming up with? 

Rectangular

Womens Winter Scarf Cashmere Feel Pashmina Shawl Wraps Soft Warm Blanket Scarves for Women

Also known as a long scarf, the rectangular scarf is one of the most popular and recognizable types of scarves. This scarf can be tied in a number of ways, looped around the neck multiple times and worn in all kinds of different designs. You can let two ends trail behind you, drape one long end over your shoulder, loosely tie the ends together low in front of your body to create a scarf necklace. The long length of the scarf allows you to play around to wearing this type of scarf in all kinds of different ways. You can even loop it around the neck several times and tuck the ends in to cover just your neck. The more you play with this type of scarf, the more ways you’ll find to wear it.

If you’re going to experiment with different ways to tie a scarf, working with a long rectangular scarf is a good way to get started. Once you’ve mastered a few different types of knots, you can start playing with shorter lengths and other types of scarves. 

Shawl

QBSM Womens Large Pink Silky Shawls and Wraps for Bridal Wedding Party Evening Dresses

Shawl scarf designs are square scarves, usually folded in half along a diagonal, that are worn like a shawl. These scarves as somewhat large in size due to the shawl-like design. As the name suggests, these scarves can be worn around the shoulders or around the body. Tie it around your waist to add some pizzazz to your lower half, if you want. The shawl is big enough to be worn around the neck and the shoulders, in fact. Fold it, wear it large, do whatever you like. A big shawl scarf can even work as a wrap or shrug-like garment if you need a little something to protect against an evening chill. 

Snood

Facecozy Winter Hats for Women, Warm Hooded Scarf Hat for Women Balaclava Pullover Knitted Beanie Hat with Drawstring (Coffee)

The snood is typically worn around the neck, though it’s made with enough material that it can be pulled up over the head as well. The snood is a circular scarf with a closed design, but the circle is much smaller in circumference than the larger infinity scarf. The snood is made to be a warm garment worn in cold weather. It’s usually made with a knit material for warmth in a thick design that insulates the neck against the temperature. 

Square

FREE SOLDIER Scarf Military Shemagh Tactical Desert Keffiyeh Head Neck Scarf Arab Wrap with Tassel 43x43 inches (Amber Brown)

A square scarf can be small or large but it is always square in shape. This can be a square silk scarf, a square cotton scarf or any type of material. Smaller versions are just large enough to tie around the neck, while larger designs can be looped around the neck and worn in a variety of ways. This is a classic scarf style that can be worn in a number of ways on a number of different places on the body. The square scarf can be folded in all kinds of ways to change its shape or tied in a number of ways to create a great, eye-catching accessory to any outfit. 

Scarf Materials

Scarves can be made in literally any material. Fashion designers and creative stylists have experimented with every material you can think of, from plastic to leather to any type of fabric you could name. Different material definitely creates different looks and textures and it can even determine how you style and wear your scarf. A leather scarf will not have the same flexibility and cannot be tied the same way as a silk scarf, for example. The look and the scarf drape of the material will be different, depending on the type of fabric or textile it’s made from. 

The different materials make a big difference in how your scarf looks and feels on your body. It makes the difference in whether you have a high quality scarf or one that’s itchy and doesn’t look as good on you.

Try wearing scarves made in all different materials to see what you like and to play around more extensively with scarf style. The more you know about the most common scarf materials, the easier it will be for you to choose scarves to wear and style.

Acrylic

Acrylic is a synthetic material that creates a smooth, silk-like fabric that is often used in scares. This material is highly moisture-wicking. It also retains heat well, which makes it a great scarf material. However, acrylic is a rather delicate material. It can be damaged by heat, it’s prone to piling and it’s more flammable than other types of fabric. This is the easiest way to get a scarf that feels like silk while paying a very non-silk price.

Cotton

Cotton is a natural fiber that grows out of the ground. This material is very breathable and soft to the touch. It’s non-irritating, not itchy on skin and durable. Cotton is machine-washable, which is another bonus. However, cotton can pile and it can tear and rip through regular use. 

Because it’s durable, cotton is a good scarf material if you want to try different types of knots. Whether it’s a loose knot or a complicated one, cotton will retain its shape and resist the twisting and stretching that can damage other materials.

Polyester

Polyester is a synthetic fabric that is made to be highly durable and breathable. It’s machine-washable and resistant to wrinkles. Polyester is a very low-maintenance fabric that’s easy to care for and resistant to wear and tear. Because it’s lightweight, durable and easy to wash, polyester fabric is good summer scarf material.

Silk

Many synthetic fibers are treated to feel and look like silk. But real, authentic silk is made by silkworms. This material is prized for its smoothness, its breathability and its beauty. Silk is the strongest natural fabric there is. It has a gorgeous natural luster and a natural softness. It’s one of the most prized fabrics and one of the most popular for creating scarves. A silk scarf is pretty and looks luxurious, too. You can find many creative ways to wear a silk scarf, from using it as a hair accessory to styling it to complement a specific outfit.

Wool

There are many types of wool fabric. Cashmere, fleece and tweed are all types of wool. This is an ancient fabric because it is a natural one. Wool is made from the hair of various animals, commonly sheep and goats. Wool is naturally insulating and flame-resistant. This fabric has been worn since ancient times and it is still prized in carves today because it’s so warm and soft. Different types of animal hair and different types of snit determine how wool looks and feels. Many longer scarf styles designed for winter wear are made with wool.

Scarf Outfit Ideas

So you know about the different types of scarves, the sizes and styling. You know about all the most common materials used to make scarves, how they feel and look. You might even know a few ways to tie and wear a scarf, the different loops and knot designs you can make to create different looks. But how do you wear a scarf with the outfit ideas you want to try? Learn a few simple scarf looks that will really set off and pull an outfit together.

Fashion outfit with scarf outside

Play around with these different outfit ideas to get comfortable with wearing a scarf and before you know it, you’ll be creating your own unique looks that come just from you and no one else. Start with some classic outfit ideas to become a style master who knows how to play around with all kinds of different scarf looks.

Autumn Glam

Create a look that’s perfect for autumn with a long scarf and a narrow belt. Start with a simple sweater dress and closed-toe heels or high heeled boots. Wrap the scarf around just the back of your neck and drape it down over both shoulders, down the front of your body. Spread the scarf out and put on a belt, holding the scarf down and in place. This creates a glamorous finished look that’s chic and stylish.

When you want a great seasonal scarf look, J. Crew has got you covered. You will find many different trendy and seasonal styles here, as the website is frequently updated with all the latest looks. The storefront has scarves in all sizes and styles. J. Crew is a famous name in fashion that’s associated with both high style and high quality. The online store also has frequent sales so you can get your fashion at a discount. 

Business Casual

Put together a stylish business casual look with a scarf by wearing it with fitted slacks and a sweater. A pretty silk or satin scarf is just the right way to set off this outfit. Tie it around your neck to add just the right amount of elegance and show a little pop of style. Finish it with close-toe high heels.

Look for beautiful scarf styles at Anthropologie, a name that’s well-known for providing the latest in style and the utmost in trendy fashion. You can find many different scarf and bandana styles here so you can start playing around with this accessory easily. Anthropologie has scarves available in multiple color schemes, so if you find a style you like you can still change the color. The prices here range from affordable to high-end and there are new styles showing up all the time, so you can usually find something different every time you shop online here. Use the storefront to shop for scarves based on color, material, style or price, so you can be sure to find exactly what you want. 

Casual Sophisticated

Create a look that’s casual but still sophisticated and stylish. Start with straight leg jeans, ankle boots and a long sleeved blouse. Finish this with a scarf and you’ve got a great fall or spring outfit that’s perfect for a day date, a girls’ day out or just looking your best while you shop, browse a museum or run errands. 

Look for something classic and sophisticated at Everlane. This online store has gorgeous scarves that definitely look and feel high-end. Browse the selection of cashmere scarves and other knit scarf styles to get the perfect addition to any casual sophisticated look. Shop for scarves here based on color or price. The prices are in the mid-range and frequent discounts make it easy for you to find a good deal on your next favorite fashion accessory. 

Cool Weather

To look stylish and totally chic in spring and fall weather, start with skinny jeans and knee-high boots. A form-fitting hip-length sweater and a scarf complete the outfit. This is a great look for going shopping or running errands, for a day out with friends or a lunch date with a love interest. This is also a great nighttime look if you have something casual to do in the evening. 

Shop for high end style at Coach, a name that is associated with luxury fashion. The storefront does not disappoint. You will find scarves in all different sizes and styles and materials here. Different types of scarves are available in multiple color schemes, so you can shop for particular styles and then pick the perfect color to match your existing wardrobe. Coach is associated with luxury and quality, so the price tag does match the famous name. However, you can find deep discounts and great sales at the online store. The best part? You don’t have to tell anyone that you got your Coach scarf at an amazing 50 percent discount. 

Edgy

Place a woolen scarf on top of a leather jacket, skinny jeans and ankle high boots to create a great edgy look that’s perfect for fall weather, too. Style the outfit perfectly by making sure the boots and the jacket match. Add the final touch with a handbag to match the boots and jacket.

Finish your edgy style with the perfect accessory thanks to Loft. You’ll find great scarf designs here. This online store is full of scarves featuring different patterns and styles. There are scarves here for all seasons and styles for all different personalities. The website offers all kinds of discounts and sale items, so you can always get good bargains here. 

European Chic

Top a shift dress with a large, colorful scarf. A handbag and matching ankle boots will complete the look. This is a simple, elegant outfit that looks worldly. Add a pair of dark sunglasses and people might think you’re a European movie star.

Find the perfect scarf to complete your European outfit ideas at Eileen Fisher This online store is full of high-end scarves made with luxury fabrics in lots of different designs. Shop for scarves made with organic cotton, gorgeous silk, cashmere or several other material types. When you want to top off your style with something luxurious, this is the perfect place to start shopping. The prices do reflect the high-quality materials and stylish design but some items are greatly reduced during sales events, so you can always shop wisely and wait for these deals to arrive. 

Glamorous

Channel your inner screen goddess with a look ripped straight from the glamorous Hollywood dames of the 1940s and 1950s. Wear a silk wrap blouse with a pencil skirt, a pair of dark sunglasses, high heels and a scarf wrapped around your head. You will ooze Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn vibes with this glamorous look that’s perfect for a date, an important meeting or any other time you want to make a good impression and get heads turning.

Shop for glamorous scarf looks at Vida. You will find many gorgeous designs here in all different styles. There are enough scarves here to inspire you to create all sorts of looks. The storefront has scarves made from silk, cashmere, merino wool and more. The online store is full of artistic patterns, beautiful colors and amazing designs that will help you create perfect glamorous looks. The prices are mid-range and there are several discount opportunities available through the online store, so you can get the high-end looks you want for less. 

Layered

Skinny jeans, tall boots, a long-sleeved shirt and a cardigan create a cute, layered look. Now add a pretty scarf and the look really soars. Finish this off with a pair of statement earrings to make the outfit truly pop. To style yourself like a pro, make sure the earrings and the scarf match.

T.J. Maxx has enough scarf styles, colors and designs to keep you busy shopping for quite a while. There are all kinds of different scarves here made from all different materials. The best part? They’re all reasonably priced. T.J. Maxx is a favorite name in fashion that’s known for not only providing trendy style but affordable style as well. You can find everything you need to create a layered outfit here, from the scarf to all the other pieces that make up the look. The store is updated frequently with new styles and designs that reflect all the popular trends and you can even see the scarves as pictured on models with outfits that can work for all kinds of different looks. Shopping here can give you the inspiration to start inventing all kinds of different scarf outfits. So play around here for awhile and soon, you’ll be styling your scarves like a true fashion expert. 

Retro

Create a super cute retro look by putting your hair in a ponytail and your body in a classic swing dress with a flaring circular skirt. The ponytail should be right at the crown of your head. Tie a lightweight scarf around the ponytail to add a pop of color and to pay homage to a popular fashion look dating to the 1950s.  That’s right. Even your hairstyles can be styled with a scarf! If you have short hair, tie the scarf around your head to create the same effect and get the retro look you want.

Start looking for pretty retro-style scarves at Talbots. This online storefront has lots of pretty scarves made in the right colors and patterns that evoke classic, fun retro style. You can find several different styles of scarves here, including all the traditional popular scarf types. Some scarves here are available in different colors and patterns and all the scarves here are reasonably priced. Items here are often discounted, so you can always wait for a sale. Talbots also hosts seasonable sales events, so you have the opportunity to get even more bargains. 

Professional

Look professional and still fashionable by wearing your scarf with a structured blazer on top of a blouse. Pair this with fitted slacks and loafers and you have an amazing office look that’s highly professional and very trendy, too. Remember to stick to a more muted color palette when you’re dressing for the workplace. Even your accessories should be in shades of brown, navy, gray and black. 

Express has lots of beautiful scarf styles that are perfect for any professional look. Shop here for scarves in all sizes and styles. You can search for scarves made in different materials, patterns and colors here. Some styles are available in multiple colors, so if you find something you love you can always get it in multiple colors. With the frequent sales and bonus discounts for online shoppers this site offers, you’ll be able to shop here often and get all kinds of great items. There’s a great selection of very affordable scarves here, so there’s nothing to stop you from playing around with all your outfit ideas that are built around this fun accessory. 

Sexy Daywear

Create a look that’s a little sexy and still suited for the office by wearing a small silk neck scarf with a pencil dress. Match the scarf to a pair of closed toe heels and you’ve got an outfit that’s great for a business meeting or for meeting friends for drinks after work. To really put the look over the top, add a pair of earrings that match the scarf. Keep necklines high whenever you’re dressing for the office. 

Find the perfect addition to any outfit with the scarves from Kate Spade. This famous fashion designer is known for her elegant looks. You can find all the trendiest and hottest fashions here, so you won’t go wrong at this storefront. The trendy patterns, colors and styles seen in popular fashion are determined by designers like Kate Spade, so you can find some of the hottest fashions here first. There’s a nice selection of scarves in all different colors and patterns at this storefront. Remember that because Kate Spade is designer fashion, you will pay a designer price. 

FAQs

Scarves are an ancient clothing item and over the years, they’ve been used for all sorts of different fashion ideas. Soldiers and royals have worn scarves to complete their outfits for all kinds of different reasons. Scarves can be practical, they can be fashionable, they can add a lot to any outfit. They’re made in all different patterns and materials and colors and sizes. It’s a lot to take in! So if you’ve still got questions, no worries. We’ve got the answers to all the most frequently asked questions about how to style a scarf and how to wear it like a real style pro. Get the answers and soon, you’ll be able to get all the looks you want with scarves. 

Scarf with vivid colors

Can you wear a scarf in summer?

There’s no reason why you can’t wear a scarf in summer to add flair to any warm weather outfit. A simple bandana at the neck is a cute way to accessorize any outfit. This is also a great time of year to wear a scarf tied around your ponytail. You can also wear one around your head. 

There are lots of different ways you can wear a scarf in summer. Play around with different looks and develop your own scarf summer style. 

Should your scarf and hat match?

When you want to create a matching look that’s coordinated, it is a good rule of thumb to pair a hat and scarf that match. If you’re quite confident when it comes to color mixing and matching, you can get more experimental and wear a hat and a scarf in a mismatching look. Fashion s entirely up to you and you are free to create your own style. However, wearing a matching hat and scarf is a nice winter look and a stylish way to accessorize any outfit. 

There is more than one way to match your hat to your scarf. You can always get a scarf/hat pair that’s made in the same color and the same fabric, designed to function as a pair that you wear together. However, you can also match your scarf and hats separately by matching a solid-colored hat to a patterned scarf. If the hat is one of the colors in the pattern, it’s a brilliant match. You can also make a match by matching a scarf to the hatband on the hat. 

Get creative and add a flower to the hat, then match the scarf to this. Look for little ways to make a match when you want your hat and scarf to match. When you don’t, match the hat to something else you’re wearing and match the scarf to yet another item you have on. Fashion is about expressing your own style and creativity. And if your style and creativity contrast rather than match, let your hat and scarf express that. 

When can you wear a scarf?

You don’t have to save your scarves for winter weather. Lightweight scarves are great additions to spring and summer outfits as well. You can wear a scarf any time with any outfit. A scarf can be used to add color and style to a casual outfit, a semiformal look, a professional look or just about any other type of look you’re trying to create. 

The only time you might have trouble getting away with wearing a scarf is at a formal event of any type. However, even this can be done if you’re stylish about it and confident enough to make it work. Remember, fashion can be anything and there really are no rules. 

In warmer weather, leave the knit scarves in the closet. Choose a scarf made in a lightweight material, like a chiffon or a silk or even a loose-weave cotton. Any of these are perfect for spring and summer wear. 

What is the advantage of using an infinity scarf?

The infinity scarf is designed to be very easy to wear. That’s because the ends of the scarf are already joined together. The infinity scarf is named because it’s a circle, which just goes around and around for infinity. It’s pretty easy to loop a circle around your neck. Put it right around your neck and let it hang, loop it once or loop it twice. Have fun playing around with it because that’s what the infinity scarf is designed to do.

The clear advantage of wearing an infinity scarf is how easy it is to wear. You don’t have to worry about creating a fancy knot or tying it in a certain way. You don’t have to be careful about how you loop it around your neck. You literally just throw it on and go out the door. 

You can also play with the styling of the scarf. Wear it around your shoulders, around your neck or around your head. The infinity scarf can be worn in all kinds of different ways. 

What type of scarves are in style?

Scares have been worn since ancient days and even back then, people were experimenting with different ways to style them. It seems that by now, people would have run out of scarf ideas. Wrong! Fashion is always evolving and changing. Some styles go out of fashion and then return, maybe even hundreds of years later. To stay up-to-date with what’s in style in the world of fashion, check out the popular celebrities on Instagram. Follow fashion personalities to get a look at the latest looks. You can often get an idea of what’s trendy in fashion by looking at what’s trending on social media. Many celebrities use social media to display their latest outfits, which gives you plenty of ways to find ideas for your own fashion. 

 

Sources:

Gentleman’s Gazette – Men’s Scarves Guide

Good Housekeeping – 14 Stylish Summer Scarves and How to Wear Them With Anything

Hat Realm – 5 Tips for Combining your Hat with a Neck Scarf

Her Style Code – 11 Cute Cozy Fall Outfits With Scarves

Live About – Ways to Wear a Scarf and the Different Styles

Love to Know – How to Wear a Scarf

Merriam-Webster – scarf

Pretty Designs – 14 Outfit Ideas with Tartan Scarves

Reader’s Digest – The history of scarves

Sewport – What is Acrylic Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where

Sewport – What is Cotton Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where

Sewport – What is Polyester Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where

Sewport – What is Silk Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where

Stylishly Me – Ways to Wear a Scarf & How to Tie a Scarf: The Definitive Guide