There was once a time when the most coveted accessory in your wardrobe was the shoe or a bag. Who could’ve thought that scarves – once worn by dames of the erstwhile – will soon replace them to give a polished and prim look to any outfit? From the advent of iconic brands like Hermès offering their signature equestrian designs to the innumerable videos promising to make you seamlessly stylish with a single piece of an all-purpose scarf – simple, sleek and just so versatile – style makers are increasingly understanding its DIY spirit.
Interestingly, scarves originated in ancient Egypt and the first-recorded scarf was worn by an Egyptian Queen as a headdress. After that, scarves were just used for their utility – first by Chinese emperors to mark ranks and then as a cloth to wipe sweat. They were also used as a war propaganda tool during the Second World War, but it was only during the 19th century that they got popularised as a fashion accessory. Celebrities like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn made scarves a symbol of glamour, power and independence.
“A dupatta is nothing but a long scarf, which has been a part of Indian wardrobes forever” —David Abraham, fashion designer
Fashion designer David Abraham says, “Traditionally, a dupatta, which is essentially a long scarf, has always been a part of most Indian wardrobes. It’s an important accessory that can be tied in multiple ways and can look great if done in an intelligent manner.”
The greatest thing about a scarf is how it cuts across the fashion hierarchy. A luxe-looking scarf will do the same for your ensemble that your grandmother’s vintage find will. All you need to do it is start knotting!
The turban scarf
Tie up androgyny with style
The turban-style scarf, which originated in the sub-Saharan Africa and was worn by men and women as a form of identification, will give a glamorous edge to your outfit.
Occasions to sport the turban scarf: “Whether you’re having a bad hair day or the Indian summer is getting to you, a turban scarf is seen as a sartorial expression across many cultures and continents,” says celebrity stylist Rishi Raj.
Wear it by: “Wrapping a light, super-soft fabric (like mulmul) on your head,” he says.
Pair the turban scarf with: “A colour-coordinated ensemble or wear contrasting colours to have fun with the look,” says Rishi.
Remember to: “Not use a fabric that does not have any hold on the hair,” he says.
The cowboy neckerchief
Ride ahead of the herd with a slice from the Wild Wild West
From Gigi Hadid to Priyanka Chopra, you’ve seen the renaissance of cowboy fashion. Take a cue from a Clint Eastwood film and drape it around your neck to get a headstart!
Occasions to show off the cowboy neckerchief: “A high-fashion gala. Neckerchiefs are rapidly replacing the statement necklace,” says fashion designer Nida Mahmood.
Wear it by: “Tying the scarf into a small knot in the side of the neck or even draped loosely around the neck,” she adds.
Pair it with: “A sexy evening dress or a printed bohemian dress,” she says.
Remember to: “Use a handkerchief-sized scarf for a side-knot and a large printed scarf for the loose drape,” she says.
The gamcha knot
Flaunt it around your neck or drape it around your shoulders for understated elegance
Inspired by the humble gamcha, this scarf can instantly add life to any dull outfit.
Occasions to flaunt the neck knot: “On a summer holiday or everyday to work,” says fashion designer Rina Singh.
Wear it by: “Lightly draping it around your neck or your shoulders in handwoven fabrics like cotton, cotton silk or even linen,” she says.
Pair the neck knot with: “Short dresses or light linen trousers,” says Rina.
Remember to: “Use something lightweight for summer. It should be long enough for you to drape it in other ways. Khadi is also a great sweat-absorbant fabric for summer,” suggests Rina.
The braided scarf
Style your braid with a colourful scarf to save your hair from harsh sunlight
Additionally, you can easily tuck it under a hat if you plan to wear it for your vacation.
Occasions to pull off the braided scarf: “It works well across various sartorial themes, Indian and non-Indian, and fits in quite well with any social event,” says Rishi Raj.
Wear it by: “Taking fabrics that are soft like cotton or even a sheer fabric like net. A stiff fabric can make strange shapes and stand at strange angles. Silk or a super slippery fabric is a bad idea too,” adds Rishi.
Pair it with: “A summer dress, a denim romper or even salwar kameez, depending on the textile used for the scarf,” he advises.
Remember to: “Keep the colours coordinated,” says fashion designer David Abraham.
The bun wrap
Frame your face while channelling old-school Hollywood glamour
You’ve seen these sumptuous scarves while looking at the picture-perfect frames ofDownton Abbey. Now replace your statement necklace with a scarf.
Occasions to wear the bun scarf: “For a fun day out. It’s suited for casual occasions,” says fashion designer Rimzim Dadu.
Wear it by: “Tying it on a top-knot or even a bun in fabrics like silk, cotton or mul. But, do not use an overwhelmingly long scarf. It can look bulky. Keep the colours fun or one can even opt for prints,” she says.
Pair the bun scarf with: “A neutral-toned outfit. A scarf worn on the head is like a statement accessory so it can jazz up even a simple outfit,” advises Rimzim.
Keep in mind: “To not wear too many statement accessories. Let the scarf be the focus of the look,” she concludes.