Scarves are an essential part of any wardrobe. A simple accessory that is easy to store, the scarf is probably your best value clothing item ever.
Fall is the start of scarf season. Get them all out and see how you can quickly update your outfits and when necessary add a little warmth to what you wear.
French women use them all the time to give a chic look to ordinary outfits. And women across the world wear scarves for cultural, religious, health, warmth and fashion reasons.
And for us older women, they are especially useful because they can highlight our good points and hide our less good areas.
As we get older our skin dries, our figure is no longer as good as it used to be and our arms lose tone. So here are the ways to use your scarf this Fall and help counter the effects of age.
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What type of scarves are worth buying?
Think silk, satin, fine cashmere and synthetics for Autumn. Add wool and cashmere as cold weather heads your way. Use cotton in Spring. In Summer you’ll fold all your scarves away for three months – a good time to launder them too.
Scarves are so small to store that it’s really not worth getting rid of any when you do your seasonal or annual closet update.
Bring your collection up to date by including a variety of sizes and shapes. They all have slightly different uses. Try to invest in one or two really beautiful pure silk scarves that you will love for decades. Then buy extra inexpensive scarves when you purchase a new outfit. It must look just right for that outfit but you will find it can work well for many other outfits you already have. Especially if you organize your clothes using the Capsule Wardrobe method.
A scarf is the perfect way to get a splash of the on-trend colors for the season. These go in and out of fashion so it’s easy to look dated a year or two down the line if you buy a whole outfit in this season’s colors. But a scarf is just the right amount of a color to make classic clothes look bang up to the minute.
1 Use a scarf to hide a wrinkled neck
If, like me, your neck has lost tone and can look a bit scrawny a scarf can mask this. Any scarf wound around your neck will do this. However my favorite style is to use a small silk square, folded in half into a triangle then folded over two or three times from the point to give a long band. Tie this round your neck reasonably tightly. Depending on the size of the scarf it might go once or twice around your neck. Make a knot in the ends.
Wear the knot to the back (smart) or side (jaunty). Tuck the ends under your neckline (smart) or leave them out (sporty). Try all the different ways with the ends and the position of the knot and note how each style adds just a slightly different vibe to your look.
If you have problems raising your arms these days then knot the ends at the front and slide the knot to the back, keeping the scarf as close as possible to your skin.
A tight scarf tied this way elongates the neck and gives a ‘finished’ look to what you are wearing.
2 Tie a scarf to cover a lined chest or fill a neckline that’s too revealing
Sun damage over the years gives many of us a very lined chest. If you prefer to keep this area covered then a scarf is perfect.
Marry up the thickness of the scarf with the outfit. Here I’m covering a scrawny neck and filling in a neckline that’s too low. The jacket is lightweight so I’ve chosen a long silk scarf that’s almost transparent. I want to add some bulk (because the jacket is quite wide cut and my hips are large) but not warmth. Long scarves in very fine materials are good for this.
Double the scarf lengthwise, then push the free ends through the loop on the opposite side of your chest (casual).
Or wrap the scarf twice around your neck leaving the loose ends to the front. Lap the loose ends loosely over eachother and splay out the ends to look pretty (smart).
Try making the neck wider if you don’t need to mask the skin directly below your chin. You can also make a knot with the loose ends then splay them out (smarter).
Or you can wrap the scarf around your neck, loose ends to the front, and simply tuck the ends into your jacket or top (smart). This can make you look taller and slimmer if the jacket has a low neckline.
3 Drape a large scarf to camouflage a big waist
If, like me, you’ve got a round tummy then here’s a good way to wear a standard silk square (3 ft square or 90cms x 90cms). Fold the square in half diagonally then knot the tips together behind your neck and let the scarf drape into a V down your front. A good weight pure silk scarf works best for this as it’s heavy enough to drape well but not too warm.
Although I’ve shown this style here with a dress it actually works best with a top and pants as it also slightly elongates your figure.
4 Use a pashmina or blanket scarf to cover upper arms
As you can see from these images, at 71 I now have quite droopy arms. So when I was Mother of the Bride I made sure to buy a lightweight pashmina. These are easy to wear either covering the upper arms or covering down to the lower arm. As it was a summer wedding I chose the lightest weight pashmina I could find.
Put one end of the scarf over your right shoulder and hold it there whilst you swing the other end loosely over the other shoulder. Leave it to drape loosely (casual) or pin it at the shoulder to keep it reasonably taut (smart). Either way you’ll need to reposition it from time to time as moving your arms tends to slowly dislodge the scarf.
In winter this style looks good with a blanket scarf – usually in wool or cashmere. Your face and neck are highlighted and you look elegant however warm the scarf is.
5 Fold a scarf to make you look slimmer
Anything that draws the eye up and down your figure rather than across will help you look slimmer. You can simply pop a scarf under your collar and leave the ends to hang straight down to around your waist level (casual).
If you don’t want to just go for the parallel lines you can knot the scarf tightly near the ends. The knot helps to pull the scarf down so you get a good line and the ends aren’t always fluttering away to the sides (smart-casual).
You can knot the scarf just like a tie and slide the knot higher or lower depending on your outfit. I would avoid placing the knot at the largest point of your bust though.
If you choose a scarf with a contrasting color this will emphasise the long lines and give you the look you are aiming for.
6 Choose a scarf to make your skin tone look better
If you read my post about wearing beige at 71 you’ll know that I struggle with this color. It looks great until I put it next to my face. Then I look washed out. The answer is to wear a scarf to break the continuity from beige to face tone.
Any top that doesn’t enhance your skin tone should be worn with a scarf at the neck. That probably includes most reds, oranges through to yellows unless you have very dark skin – in which case lucky you, you can wear almost any color next to your face.
The only way to choose this scarf is to hold it up to your face. I find a mix of colors rather than a block color works best for me. If it includes your eye color or lip color that can make your face look especially attractive without anyone quite knowing why. You’ll need to experiment to get the right colors for this scarf.
Black is more difficult to wear next to your face as you get older so here I’ve added a standard silk square in black, pink and silver to highlight my skin tones. The scarf is just loosely draped across the shoulders and tied in front. This emphasises my top to help give me the inverted triangle silhouette I need to balance the size of my hips.
If you find the scarf slips around too much then pin through the back of the knot and into your shirt or top.
7 Use a bright colored scarf to turn a plain outfit chic
If there is one thing that distinguishes everyday French chic it is a willingness to take a little risk. British and American women look smart but compared to their French counterparts they can look a little plain or overly safe. One way to add that little risk is to be very bold with color. Instead of working with tones or blocks that traditionally work well together you can use a small item like a scarf to introduce a surprise color that makes people take a second look.
Here I’ve tied a red pleated scarf to the back. It’s just unusual enough to make people notice me.
Make a place in your Fall wardrobe for one of this season’s on-trend colors or even a splash of unusually bright color that will lift a plain outfit to chic. These aren’t colors you would want to wear a whole outfit in. The idea is to use the scarf to introduce a little risk. Have fun.
8 Wear a silk scarf to make a casual look more elegant
If you want to upstyle a dress to a smarter look then a scarf is the way to go.
Drape a shiny scarf over your shoulders to give a fifties/sixties look and pin it in place with a nice brooch. Suddenly your safe old dress looks ready for the evening.
Tie a long, not too wide, scarf in a flouncy bow at the neck of a shirt and you immediately look more polished.
Drape your pashmina off the shoulder and you look feminine and stylish.
9 Wear a big scarf to look stylish in athleisure wear
The silhouette for athleisure this Fall is the inverted triangle with clumpy sneakers (trainers). Wear leggings or jogging bottoms over platform sneakers. Add a tee. But to big up your top wear a very large (but fine) square scarf that’s folded to a long narrow shape then doubled, twisted as you place it round your neck and the loose ends pushed through the loop. Result – a very large statement on your upper body giving you that inverted triangle.
Or instead of the tee wear a generous-sized sweatshirt. Add a stylish touch by winding a large scarf around your neck and looping the ends over in front. Who said you can’t wear a pashmina to the gym? Make the most of the fringe by arranging the ends just so.
This Fall I’ve bought a lightweight padded jacket. It’s in one of this season’s on-trend colours – a soft pink that’s almost beige. Yes beige!! So of course I need to wear something at the neck. I’ve just tied my small silk square neckerchief style with a knot at the back and left it to drape to a V at the front. And what a difference that makes.
Hopefully you’ve found a few ideas to inspire you to get out those scarves you’ve had for years and start mixing and matching them with your current outfits.
If you really get into wearing scarves for style not just warmth then you’ll love learning all the ingenious ways there are to tie them. I’ve just used really basic tying styles here. The important thing for me is how we can improve our appearance by using just a little care over how we style our scarves rather than just pulling them over our shoulders before we put our coat on.
If you found this post useful you might be interested in these ones too:
How best cardigans for women over 50 and how to style them
I really like your blue dress. Where May I find it? Thanks!
Hi Jean. I bought this dress 10 years ago from Jaeger (now owned by marksandspencer.com). I like the blue too, mainly because it has a slightly dropped waist which disguises my natural – big! – waist! Thanks for commenting. Joni x