Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Scarf

A colleague of Audrey Hepburn’s is quoted as saying that when she was young she owned “one skirt, one blouse, one pair of shoes, and a beret, but she had fourteen scarves” and that she wore those scarves so cleverly that she always looked chic.

Some women just know how to wear a scarf. My mother was like that when she was younger. She always looks glamorous in old photographs and when I was a child she had a drawer that was filled entirely with scarves. She knew what to do with them, how to wear them to brighten an outfit or draw attention to her face. So I have always associated scarves with women who really understand style, with a certain level of sophistication.

I wear scarves, but not memorably. More often than my peers perhaps, and not only in winter (practical, wooly winter scarves don’t count). I have a drawer filled with diaphanous squares of fabric and long slender rectangles of silk. I find I am so uncertain how to best wear them that most of them stay in the drawer, much loved but never seen.

When I was young, my mother made me walk up and down the hall with an encyclopedia on my head. She bought me books about table manners for formal dining. She even taught me that a lady should select one perfume and wear it her entire life as it becomes her signature scent. These things are more remarkable considering that I come from a background where... well, let’s just say that during my childhood I was never required to identify one fork from another. My mother just had an idea of what a lady should be, and wanted very much for me to be one. As a result, I have excellent posture and have been wearing the same perfume for almost two decades - since I was first old enough to wear perfume. She managed, however, to skip the lesson about wearing scarves.

I wrap them about my head or neck and fiddle around with the ends or drape them over my shoulders and 9 times out of 10 I leave the house sans scarf (this is because 9 times out of 10 I end up looking like a swami in a turban or a mental patient who thinks she is wearing a superhero cape). On those rare occasions that I get it “right” and it looks presentable, I leave the house with a lighter step. It's funny how the things we learn as a child stick with us so. On days that I wear a scarf I feel I am somehow a bit closer to being the lady I was raised to be.


  1. Try living in NYC... you pick up fashion "to do" and "not to do" tips just walking down the street.

  2. I bet you do! There are a lot of Scarf wearing women in NYC. When I visit there I feel far more obligated to make the effort to attempt the scarf thing.