Hitchhiker’s Guide to Glamour
They say the devil is in the details, especially when it comes to fashion. What looks perfect to us today will look “omg so 20-teens” to us in a few years (when we probably won’t say omg anymore either). But one fashion rule remains a constant throughout the ages: accessories, the simplest of which, and most enduring, is the scarf or shawl.
Scarves and shawls are my favorite souvenir when I travel. You can never have too many of them, they keep forever, and they’ll always remind you of where you’ve been. The silver silk paisley square I bought at the foot of Mont Blanc, the long blue wool rectangle I got in Paris, the hand woven raw silk basketweave I got in Delhi, and the glowing orange and yellow silk/cotton cross dye I got in Bombay all have an irreplaceable niche in my wardrobe and my heart.
It wasn’t until I took up handweaving that I really learned to appreciate the true value of a scarf or shawl, but ever since then I’m rarely seen without one. Of course, Humboldt County practically requires a scarf at all times (unless you’re in a hoodie) just because of our perpetually crisp weather. And for that reason, we may be one of the scarf capitals of the western US.
There are countless ways to wear a scarf. The double wrap, the Euro loop, and the twist & braid are probably the most popular, and if you google “how to wear a scarf” you will come up with thousands of hits linking to an infinite number of variations on those themes.
I submit to you, however, that it’s almost more important to know WHY to wear a scarf than it is to know how. Here are some not-so-secret secrets I learned in India. After all, they’re a country whose primary fashion IS a scarf – a really, really big one called a saree. If anybody in the world knows about scarves, it’s the folks in India, and that’s where my current love affair with scarves really began.
Yes, a scarf can keep you warm. It can also make you look just as elegant, carefully arranged around your neck, and give you a long slim line simply draped over your shoulder and cascading along your body, both front and back. You can wear it as they do in India, over a kameez, with both ends trailing behind you creating a “necklace” of fabric in front. You can use your scarf to accent or add a dash of color, tame your hair for a ride in a convertible, and fend off the drizzle. Scarves are indispensable when traveling internationally, since there are many places where custom and respect dictate that you cover your head.
But did you know your scarf is also a jacket and a tote bag? Yes, if you know a little of the Japanese art of furoshiki (say “foo-rosh-kee”), you can instantly transform your scarf into other useful items like these. Need a jacket? Tie the corners together at the short ends, and use those loops as armholes. You’ll find your scarf is now a cocoon jacket. Need a tote? Fold your scarf into a square, then tie the adjacent corners together. Now you’ve got a tote. Need a blanket on an airplane? ‘Nuff said. Need a beach cover up? Tie your scarf around your hips and it’s a sarong. Back tired? Roll it up and it’s a lumbar support or a pillow.
Douglas Adams was nearly right when he wrote in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” that you should never leave home without a towel. What he really meant was, never leave home without a scarf!