How to Choose a Scarf to Match Your Outfit and Look Your Best

By: Orvis Staff

Scarves are such a practical and appealing wardrobe accessory, it makes sense to have a large and varied collection of them on hand. Not only are they stylish, adding a dramatic effect to any outfit, scarves can keep you warm and provide protection from wind, sun, and rain. But you may be among the many people who wonder how to ‘match’ a scarf with clothes. Perhaps you lack confidence when it comes to pairing scarves with outfits, worrying that they won’t match. We say it’s time to stop worrying and start boldly wearing those beautifully colored and patterned scarves with whatever you want.

Spoiler Alert: the Scarf Doesn’t Have to Match

Many of us have been brought up to believe there are rules against mixing and matching certain colors and patterns. These rules can hinder us, especially when it comes to choosing a scarf to perk up a dress, a top, or an entire outfit. Some of us feel a pang of anxiety doing something so seemingly simple as figuring out what scarf to wear with a black or camel coat or jacket.

We’re happy to report those old-fashioned rules no longer apply. You can mix non-complementary colors and patterns with patterns—with impunity. So go ahead and choose that beautiful scarf you’ve been admiring. We have some recommendations to help you make it work so you look your best.

Your Scarf Should Flatter Your Face

The most important consideration when choosing a scarf to wear around your neck or on your head is whether it flatters your face. That means choosing colors and patterns that complement your skin tone and hair color. The good news is that choosing the right scarf lets you wear an outfit in colors that don’t normally suit you. For example, if you long to wear black to achieve a chic look, but don’t because you believe black makes you look pale and washed out, go ahead and pair that cute black dress or other outfit with a scarf in your special color(s) and you’ll end up looking fabulous. It’s the color next to your face that makes the ensemble work.

Don’t Shy Away from Printed Scarves in Bright Patterns

Of course, a brightly patterned scarf will perk up any plain or monochromatic outfit. But don’t be afraid to wear patterned scarves with other patterned apparel. For example, just as men can wear a patterned tie with a striped or checked shirt, anyone can pair a patterned scarf in a similar fashion.

Scarf Fabric and Texture

In addition to different colors and prints, scarves come in varied materials, each with their own benefits. For example, wool scarves keep you warm and can be a lifesaver in frigid northern winters. But they also provide a classic, timeless look—think “Harry Potter”—particularly paired with a chunky sweater and boots. And scarves made from fine wool like Merino and cashmere are so soft and cozy, they will make you feel good even if you’re having a bad day. A plaid scarf is a wardrobe must-have, especially during the holidays.

Silk scarves, with their soft sheen and alluring drape, add a touch of elegance to any outfit. And they’re light and comfortable in a wide variety of climates, making them an excellent travel accessory. Silk scarves also represent a classic look, notably worn by iconic movie stars including Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Susan Sarandon in Thelma and Louise.

Interesting Ways to Tie a Scarf

There are myriad ways to tie a scarf around your neck for the best effect. You can style the scarf into different shapes employing a variety of knots and loops. With the help of one of one of the many online tutorials that abound, you can create chic twists, braids, ‘necklaces’, shawls and wraps without much effort. In addition to a simple loop whereby you double the scarf and hang it around your neck, pulling both ends through the “loop” in the front, here are a couple of other easy styles to get you started:

  • ‘Pretzel’ Loop – As a variation on the simple loop above, double the scarf and wrap it around your neck. This time rather than pulling both ends through the loop, only pull one end through the inside of the loop and pull the other end over the loop and through the other side.
  • Simple Knot– Hang the scarf around your neck. Tie a knot near one end of the scarf and pull the other end through the knot, making it even with the knotted end.

Depending on the shape of your head and neck and your hairstyle, these different styles can be more or less flattering. And the heft of the scarf should relate to the rest of your outfit. For example, wearing a bulky, intricately tied scarf with a skimpy summer outfit would look unbalanced.

So go ahead and wear that gorgeous scarf that looks so pretty against your face and don’t worry about matching it to the rest of your outfit. Or, rather than trying to match a scarf to your outfit, maybe you want to match your outfit to your scarf!

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