I’ve had an on-again, off-again thing with scarves. Let’s just say that our relationship has been a stormy one. When I love them, I do so with foolish, reckless abandon. When I spurn them, we don’t speak for months.
On the one hand, scarves are perfect for me in so many ways:
- They are a low-commitment way to play with color,
- They help me get maximum mileage out of a limited number of tops in an even more limited color palate,
- They are often cheaper than jewelry, and
- I think they express the casual, breezy, creative vibe that I like, while still being considered chic.
However, my experiments with scarves have traditionally involved protracted sessions in front of the mirror at 6 am — tying and re-tying, swearing, tying again, attempting several different looks — until I finally make it out the door (late!) to work.
And still, after all that, I wind up fussing again in front of the mirror at work because the scarf has “settled” badly. The knot looks like it was tied by a first-grader. Or the ends are scraggly and wrinkled. It looks sloppy…… or else too prim, like I’m being swallowed by a fussy series of knots.
Often, I decide that I look like I’m choking. Or wearing a neck brace. Whiplash Chic? Not my look.
The Rut: Uninspired Scarf Tying
As I result, I’ve gotten into the habit of wearing exactly one style with my scarves: The knot.
Even this I didn’t quite master until I was taught exactly how to tie it (this video shows how, at the 1 minute mark). Before that, when I first started wearing oblong scarves, I wore them like this:
No, I’m not joking. Hey, it’s easy! No knots to fuss with.
Of course, I dabbled with other techniques. At one point, I even experimented with different shapes and sizes — large and small square scarves, for example. But let’s put it this way: manual dexterity? Not one of my strengths. And so-called “spatial intelligence” is not high on my list, either. Most of the time I need very clear instructions, and visual aids, before I figure out how to do something. So out of necessity, I’ve wound up with a very short list of styles.
There’s this one:
I still like this look, but I do find that, as they day goes on, I start to feel like I’m choking or being treated for a neck injury. It also only works for heavyweight scarves, not floaty silk ones, because they fly off if you try to walk too fast. Which I do.
There’s also the ubiquitous and easy loop technique:
I learned it from a lady at Chico’s, years ago, but you can see it demonstrated here, at the 2 minute, 15-second mark. It’s useful because it fills in an open neckline while also giving you length.
But I must admit that I’ve never loved this technique, because I think the loop itself looks too stiff and bulky for my taste. I don’t find it graceful. It tends to fall out of place — sort of like it is in that photo, come to think of it.
I also find that both the knot and the loop are unsatisfactory for scarves any longer or bulkier than the one I’m wearing in the pictures. Meanwhile, though, huge scarves are everywhere these days, and I love them! I even own a longer one, already: a silk scarf that my parents bought me while traveling in Italy:
It’s lovely, and probably cost more than any other scarf I’ll ever own, but I’ve never been able to wear it well because a) it’s so long, and b) the silk is so lightweight that it floats around rather than lying flat.
So in classic Rut-Buster fashion, I’ve decided to try to bring this scarf to life.
Of course, I must confess that I also cheated a bit, and bought a new scarf that’s even longer and bulkier:
just because I wanted to. Look at those colors!
The Research Phase
In an attempt to find new scarf-tying techniques, I checked YouTube and a lot of my favorite fashion blogs. There are a million videos on YouTube; in addition to the one I already linked to, I liked this one as well.
However, it was when I browsed some Fashion Blogs that I hit the mother lode. My best finds were these:
- Sally at Already Pretty presents this video tutorial, which tells how to tie a “Pretzel Knot.” Sally graciously didn’t take full credit, since she learned the technique from another blogger, but her demo is great.
- Another blogger, Zovig over on CallaStyle, did another scarf post which featured some tips from our friends at Hermes (you know, the fancy French scarf makers?) At the Hermes website, you can download a PDF file with ideas — although you may need to be more mechanically oriented than I am, since these are diagrams, not videos.
- But my hands-down favorite is this video posted on the Eileen Fisher company website. This is fabulous — so many techniques, in so little time! If you visit only one of the links in this blog post, this is the one. It even has the pretzel knot that I learned from Sally’s video, plus cool variations on many of the other techniques already referenced in this post. Thanks to “Carrie,” whoever you are, for telling us about it in your comments on Sally’s blog post!
My plan? Try a new scarf technique every day for a week. Or as many as I can, as soon as possible.
Here are my favorites.
Look 1: The Pretzel Knot, with the new multi-colored scarf.
I don’t think it looks quite as good in the photo as it did when I wore it, but I have been loving this technique. I wore it around town — out to dinner, shopping — and I was very happy with it. I didn’t have to fuss with the knot at all; it stayed put! And I thought it looked good all evening.
Look 2: Same knot, different scarf
You can see that it looks very different with a thinner silk fabric. I wore this one to work and, again, I was pretty happy all day. While there were moments when I glanced in the mirror and thought it looked different than I’d remembered — maybe a little messier, or a little less substantial — I didn’t fuss with it all day. This was by far the most successful style I’d ever tried for this scarf. Well, at least until I tried these:
Looks 3 and 4: Infinity 1 and Infinity 2
These techniques are from the Eileen Fisher website. They are probably familiar to many of you, but I had never tried either one, astonishingly enough. I really, really like them! But I cannot tell a lie; I haven’t worn them out of the house yet.
Look 5: The Twist Loop
I was thrilled when the Eileen Fisher site showed me this variation on the easy, familiar, but not-quite-satisfactory loop technique. Check this out:
Love! Twisting is something that just never occurred to me, and this website shows several ways to do it. There’s even a pretzel twist which I tried and, although I didn’t love it on me, I think it’s definitely worth trying. All of the twist techniques are great for those scarves that have a crinkly, accordian-like texture (if you know what I mean). They cut down on bulk and add some textural interest.
I wore this one out to do errands, and plan to wear it to work as soon as I possibly can.
Usually I end each Rut-Buster post with these questions: How did I look? How did I feel? Did anybody notice? Now, I haven’t had time to wear these looks as many times, or to as many different places, as I would like. But I’ve felt really festive, colorful, and (dare I say it?) even somewhat stylish in all of them.
As for compliments….. well, um….. Mr. Frump said I looked nice. But I did notice — call me crazy, if you like — that lots of people have been smiling at me the last few days. I’d like to think it’s because I look so darned cheery in these things!
And as an extra bonus: I’ve managed to wear some very similar outfits — at least as far as the tops, bottoms and jackets go — while having completely different looks. Score! This is the very purpose of this series, so I’m pleased.
So there you have it. I hope that some of my readers — the similarly scarf challenged — may find something inspiring and/or educational in this post. For those of you who are already scarf experts: well, consider this just further validation that your scarf-tying energies are well spent.