Scarves are a wardrobe essential that can instantly elevate any outfit. Patterned scarves in particular add visual interest and personality to an ensemble. In this blog post, we will discuss the top 5 must-have patterned scarves and provide tips on how to wear and style them.
The Top 5 Patterned Scarves
Scarf #1: Paisley Print
The classic paisley print scarf is easily one of the most versatile and timeless patterned scarves you can own. Typically made out of soft, luxurious cashmere, wool or silk, paisley print scarves feature the distinctive teardrop-shaped design in bold, contrasting colors like navy, burgundy, emerald green and more on an ivory or beige background.
Paisley print has an intricate history originating in ancient Persia, where the pattern represented a floral motif that was hugely popular in Persian art and textiles. The design made its way to Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, where it became fashionable in the Scottish town of Paisley, which became renowned for its textile production. Paisley’s name became synonymous with the teardrop print, making it iconic today.
When it comes to styling a paisley print scarf, there are countless ways to integrate it into your wardrobe. Drape it loosely around your neck for an effortlessly boho-chic look. Or tie it in the front atop a trench coat for a Parisian-inspired ensemble. For more casual wear, fold it into a triangle shape and knot it for laidback flair. The options are endless!
Scarf #2: Plaid
Beloved for its timeless and sophisticated allure, the plaid scarf is another pattern that should be on every fashionista’s radar. With its intersecting stripes that form a criss-crossed grid, plaid makes a striking statement. Typically woven into shades like red, green, navy, black and white, plaid scarves have an innate richness and visual contrast that pair well with muted solid colors.
Emerging from the Scottish Highlands where distinctive plaid patterns came to represent different clans and families, plaid weaving traditions date back centuries. Although plaid fell out of fashion for some decades, it came back with a vengeance in the 1990s grunge era and remains a staple today. Whether made of lightweight wool, cotton, cashmere or silk, a crisply patterned plaid scarf is effortlessly cool.
To style a plaid scarf, opt for relaxed draping around the neck paired with a button-down shirt. Or fold it into a triangle, knot it in the front, and let the ends hang down naturally for a tomboy-chic vibe. Plaid scarves also make ideal accessories for peacoats, imparting a classic maritime feel.
Scarf #3: Graphic Print
If you like making a bold fashion statement, you can’t go wrong with a graphic print scarf flaunting vivid florals, oversized polka dots, Abstract Expressionist-inspired designs or other eye-catching prints. Graphic print scarves allow you to add a major dose of color, shape and visual dynamism into your look.
Typically made of soft, fluid silk in vibrant hues, graphic print scarves became popular in the 1960s and 70s when social norms loosened up and self-expression reigned supreme. Today, these artistic statement scarves continue to be staples for injecting color into solid basics like black turtlenecks or tan overcoats.
When wearing graphic print scarves, it’s usually best to let the scarf be the star of the show. Fold it in half, loosely tie it in the front, and pair it with pared down solid color pieces. You can also drape a graphic scarf around your neck, allowing the ends to hang down naturally to showcase the colors and patterns. For weekend flair, tie one onto your handbag as an eye-catching accent.
Scarf #4: Striped
Quintessentially French, the striped scarf is beloved for its timeless, sophisticated style. Typically featuring bands of color in palette like navy, white, black, red or burgundy, striped scarves have an innate nautical feel. Yet they also pair perfectly with casual everyday wear like jeans and tees, imparting an effortless chic vibe.
Since striped patterns have been used across cultures for centuries, the striped scarf has a rich international heritage. Yet its popularity skyrocketed in the early 20th century with the French OAuth marinière or Breton sailor shirt, which became iconic on style icons like Picasso and Audrey Hepburn. Made of soft, drapey fabrics like wool, cotton, or silk, today’s striped scarves retain a classic sensibility.
To don this timeless pattern, drape your striped scarf casually around your neck paired with everyday pieces like white tees and jeans. Or wrap it tightly around your neck atop a peacoat or trench to emulate a sophisticated French girl look. Let the ends hang down naturally or tie them together gently for subtle flair.
Scarf #5: Animal Print
Feeling bold and wanting to unleash your wild side? Look no further than an animal print scarf flaunting the exotic patterns of the jungle. Leopard, zebra, tiger or snakeskin prints evoke a sense of glamour and luxury perfect for making any outfit feel instantly more exciting.
These graphic prints rose to popularity in the early 20th century, influenced by African and Asian cultures. Designers like Christian Dior later popularized animal prints in the 1940s and 50s as symbols of affluence and glitz. Today, animal print scarves made of flowing silk or synthetic blends carry on the tradition, allowing you to infuse any ensemble with drama.
For chic retro flair, try tying an animal print scarf around your head paired with a black turtleneck and jeans. Or casually drape one around your neck atop a wool coat to let the vibrant colors pop. However you style it, an animal print scarf adds flair, personality and boldness to any look.
How to Choose the Right Patterned Scarf
With so many gorgeous patterned scarves to choose from, it can be tricky to select the right one to complement your existing wardrobe. Here are some tips for choosing a patterned scarf that will seamlessly fit into your personal style:
- Consider your color palette – Choose a scarf featuring colors that already dominate your closet, whether they be neutrals like black, tan or gray or pops of color like red, purple or teal that you wear often. That way, the scarf will effortlessly match many of your go-to pieces.
- Match patterns mindfully – Be thoughtful about how you mix and match patterns. Pairing a bold graphic print scarf with lots of solids is a foolproof combo. Or team up two subtle patterns like a thin striped shirt with a muted plaid scarf.
- Mind the scale – Intricate floral or paisley prints as well as delicate stripes work best on smaller sized scarves. Bolder oversized graphics and plaids stand out more on generously sized scarves.
- Factor in fabric – Light, flowy fabrics like silk chiffon or georgette work well for florals and graphic prints, while wool, cotton, and cashmere lend themselves to plaids and classic patterns.
- Dress for the occasion – Save super bold graphic prints for weekend casual wear. Stick to versatile prints like classic paisleys, plaids and stripes for work outfits.
- Think versatility – Opt for timeless patterns like paisley, plaid and stripes in neutral or basic colors that will match with everything in your closet for maximum versatility.
- Don’t skimp on quality – Well-made 100% silk or cashmere scarves will last for years and hold their shape better. Avoid cheap synthetic blends that won’t drape as nicely.
- Push pattern mixing boundaries – Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and mix wildly different prints and patterns together. Stripes with florals or plaid with polka dots can create an eclectic high fashion look.
- Consider styling potential – Try on different ways to tie, knot and drape a scarf when choosing to make sure it suits your personal styling preferences and flatters you.
By keeping these tips in mind when shopping for patterned scarves, you’ll be able to find the perfect stylish addition to your wardrobe.
How to Wear and Style Patterned Scarves
Once you’ve selected the perfect patterned scarf for your look, it’s time to discover fun ways to style it to transform any outfit. Get creative with different techniques for tying, knotting and draping your scarves to keep your style exciting.
Fold & Drape Casually
The simplest way to wear any scarf is to just loosely drape it around your neck and let the ends hang down naturally in front. This technique suits all patterns and creates a laidback, casual vibe perfect for everyday wear.
To drape your scarf, unfold it, place it around your neck, then gently adjust the placement so the ends are even and hang how you like them in the front. Add a chic trench coat and booties, and you have an effortlessly put-together look.
For many patterns like classic plaids, stripes and paisleys, try styling your scarf with the classic triangle knot technique.
Start by folding your scarf into a long, narrow triangle shape. Next, wrap the triangle around your neck, with the pointed end facing forward. Take the tail ends and thread them through the loop you just created around your neck, pulling them through. Adjust the knot gently so it sits properly on your chest.
The triangle knot works with all sizes and fabric types, creating a tailored finish. Let the knot sit loosely or pull it snug based on your preference.
Drape & Tie
For graphic and paisley print scarves, try draping the scarf around your neck then tying the ends together in front.
Simply drape your scarf around your neck, allowing both tail ends to hang evenly down the front. Then, grasp the tail ends and tie them together gently into a loose knot that rests right on your chest.
This technique creates a tidy, pulled-together look that still has relaxed appeal. The front knot also puts the focus on whatever beautiful pattern the scarf boasts.
Folded Triangle Knot
The folded triangle knot adds textural interest and dimension perfect for showing off plaids, stripes and abstract prints.
Start by folding your scarf into a triangle. Take the base of the triangle (opposite the point) and knot it once. Then, wrap the remainder around your neck, with the knot sitting at the front, and tuck the tail ends into the knot.
The single knot acts as a textured focal point when paired with the draped scarf ends. This technique works with oversized and skinny scarves alike.
Loop Infinity Style
For an easy, fuss-free technique, loop your scarf into a chic infinity style that suits any print.
Simply fold your scarf in half lengthwise. Next, twist the resulting loop once halfway. Then, wrap the twisted loop around your neck, crossing it once in the front and back. Adjust so the loop sits smoothly around your neck.
The infinity loop creates a modern, sculptural look that frames your face and works with all scarf patterns. It’s quick, easy and always chic.
Drape Like a Shawl
Transform your scarf into a shawl by casually draping it over your shoulders. This style allows you to highlight graphic prints.
Start with your scarf fully open and expanded. Place it over your shoulders allowing the edges to hand down over your front torso. Adjust it so the edges are even.
Pair your draped scarf with a simple tee and jeans or dress it up over a cocktail dress. The voluminous shape shows off dyed patterns and embellished details.
Head Wrap Style
Use your scarf as a head wrap to add retro flair or pull your hair back stylishly. This works best with graphic prints and bold florals.
Simply fold your scarf into a triangle. Drape the triangle over your head, allowing the pointed edge to hang down over one shoulder. Take the tail ends and tie them together at the nape of your neck. Position the knot where desired.
The head wrap technique is perfect for showing off bright, artistic prints. Keep the rest of your look minimal to let the scarf print pop even more.
An easy way to incorporate a graphic or floral scarf is to use it as a handbag accessory. Just tie the scarf onto your bag handles or strap.
To start, fold or loosely drape your scarf as desired, then tie the ends together in a knot or bow that lays flat. Place the scarf knot over your handbag’s handles or strap, adjusting it to sit centered as a pretty focal point.
This allows you to get extra mileage out of your patterned scarves. It also enables the scarf print itself to take center stage.
Patterned Scarf FAQs
How do I wash patterned scarves?
It’s best to hand wash scarves gently in cold water using a mild detergent or soap formulated for delicates. Avoid twisting, wringing or pulling the fabric which can stretch it out of shape. Gently squeeze out excess water, then lay the scarf flat on a towel to air dry to prevent water marks. This helps scarves hold their shape and colors stay vivid.
How do I get wrinkles out of silk or cashmere scarves?
First, lay your scarf flat on a clean, lint-free surface. Use a garment steamer held about an inch above the fabric to gently release wrinkles and relax the fibers. Move the steamer slowly and evenly across all areas. You can also iron silk or cashmere scarves by placing a cotton cloth over them and ironing on low heat. Avoid direct contact between the iron and scarf.
Should I wear scarf patterns that match my outfit?
Matching your scarf print or colors to your outfit is optional – feel free to mix and match patterns and colors however you like! Contrasting and complementary patterns can look equally chic. Don’t be afraid to pair stripes with florals or combine different scales like polka dots with plaid. Let your creativity run wild.
What knot or fold should I use with oversized scarves?
Oversized and wide scarves look best with knot and fold techniques that don’t add too much bulk. Try loosely draping them around your neck and letting the ends hang open and free. Or fold into a long, narrow triangle then wrap once around the neck. Avoid huge knotted bows or pancake folds that may overwhelm your frame.
How do I keep my scarf from coming untied?
Certain knots and ties can come loose throughout the day. To keep your scarf tail ends firmly in place, use a slip knot technique where you loop the ends twice instead of once before tying. You can also try tying a tight double knot or adding a second loose knot on top. For infinity loops or cowl styles, gently hand-stitch the fabric together at the twist point.
Patterned scarves are a fun and stylish way to instantly elevate any outfit. From classic plaids and stripes to bold graphic florals, there are endless options to suit your personal style. Learn how to best tie, knot and drape your scarves to keep your looks fresh. With proper care for the fabrics, your scarves will stand the test of time. Check back for more posts on styling scarves in creative new ways!