Saved by the Scarf

A pinch of salt; the addition of a house plant; opening up the window for fresh air. It’s often the small things that make a big difference. When it comes to dressing, the scarf is arguably a misprized constituent. Humble in form but rich and intricate in detail, a scarf adds flavour, vim and vigour to a modest wardrobe and behaves as the proverbial cherry on top to an already vibrant one. Most recently, a string of designers are exploiting the full potential of the scarf to construct new forms. Last season, scarves plagued the runways as both an accessory and an extension of a garment. At Dries Van Noten, for example, silk scarves were draped down the shoulder or the waist to form asymmetrical silhouettes. This Autumn/Winter season, designers such as 3.1 Phillip Lim, Self-Portrait and Toga have taken a similar approach, exploiting the full potential of the scarf to create new silhouettes. Somewhat architectural in nature, the shapes at 3.1 Phillip Lim and Self-Portrait are a result of employing draping methods or a cut-and-paste approach that treats the scarves as if they were bricks, and thread as the mortar that combines the pieces to construct a whole. At Toga, the scarf may not be the star, but plays the equally important supporting act. A baroque-style scarf is deftly woven beneath a sheer coat as its lining, spilling out at the anterior to add volume and variety within a single garment.

It’s not always about innovation. Scarves of a ‘straightforward’ variety continues to reign thanks to designers such as Montero, Pierre-Louis Mascia and Faliero Sarti. Presented in all their glory — solitary and simply in a square or rectangular format, the scarf in its ‘authentic’ and unfettered form leaves plenty of room for improvisation and personalisation. Yet apart from its fashion accessory status, early uses of scarves also carried different connotations. During his reign in 230 BC, Emperor Cheng used scarves to identify the rank of his warriors. In ancient Rome, it was worn for hygiene purposes by military personnel as a “sweat cloth” to keep clean. In antiquated Egypt, Queen Nefertiti — an ancient icon of feminine beauty — frequently styled a silk scarf beneath her famous flat-topped headdress as a social status symbol. Elsewhere, royalty like Queen Rani Lakshmibai battled an army of British troops dressed in a sari and with a scarf tied around her head to keep her hair out of the way. These early ways of wearing a scarf have since been stripped of their symbolic significance and co-opted into a mere fashionable style, as reflected in the various iterations we are currently familiar with. Be it around the head (a la Jackie Kennedy), around the neck (a global favourite catalysed by Parisian women and men), or even as a top (we have early Noughties Beyoncé to thank for that), the scarf in all its variety adds a breezy elegance to any look.

Please note that not all styles may be currently available.

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