Updated May 2018

how to wear a shawl

dress: Loft, shawl: Lilly Lionel… (similar scarf here), aqua earrings: Freida Rothman, aqua ring: Freida Rothmangold circle ring: Ann Taylor, bangles: Kris Nations, heels: Enzo Angiolini

As I mentioned in a blog post earlier this month, this summer’s jacket is a large oblong scarf. I’m sure you have noticed that a large oblong scarf is just a technical way of saying a shawl, but the word shawl doesn’t quite embody all the various ways you can wear a large oblong scarf. In fact, a quick online search of the word shawl says it is “a piece of fabric worn by women over the shoulders or head or wrapped around a baby.” I didn’t even know people use shawls so often to wrap up their wee ones that it needed to be included in the definition. Still, let’s just call it a shawl even though we will be wearing it in ways atypical to a shawl. Below, I’ve outlined how to wear a shawl…


how to wear a shawl

dress: Willow & Clay (more Willow and Clay here), scarf: J.Crew, bag: vintage Karen Millen, shoes: Enzo Angolini

How To Wear A Shawl Traditionally

Pictured above is the usual use of a shawl. It is the easiest and most common sense way of wearing one when it is a bit chilly out.

  1. Symmetry: Simply center the shawl at your back.
  2. Elbows: Then drape the ends into the bend of your elbows. I like to show a bit of skin at the shoulder when draping it.

how to wear a shawl

How To Really Wrap A Shawl

An example of wrapping a shawl is pictured above as well as at the beginning of this post.

  1. Asymmetry: Instead of centering your shawl at your back, you’re going to start by placing only one half of the scarf at your back. This leaves you with a scarf end peaking over one shoulder and a lot of scarf left over at the other shoulder.
  2. Wrap Time: Take the long end and wrap it around your front, then toss it over the shoulder that has less scarf.
  3. Adjust: I then like to adjust what I’ve done by pulling the scarf down around the neck. Your scarf should be long enough to do this since you’re supposed to be using quite a large oblong scarf. The one featured here is about 78 inches long.

how to wear a shawl

How To Wear A Shawl Reversed

Pictured above and below, the reverse shawl is not just a clever name. It is basically the reverse of the traditional way one wears a shawl.

  1. Symmetry: Hold one side of the scarf horizontally and centered in front of you.
  2. Shoulders: Place the scarf over your chest and drape about ⅓ of the scarf’s width over your shoulders so the ends flow behind you.
  3. Elbows: This look requires your elbows to be bent to prevent the shawl from slipping down your body. This look is best for sitting or walking.
  4. Adjust: Make sure that the shawl is hooked behind your shoulders so that it doesn’t fall off easily.

how to wear a shawl

How To ‘Throw It On’

If I’m running out the door, I love to just throw a scarf around my neck and go. This involves no tying and no wrapping.

  1. Symmetry: Place the scarf horizontally at the back of your neck with the ends draped over the front of your shoulders.
  2. Bunch: The width of the scarf will automatically bunch up to create the illusion of less width. It will now look like a traditional scarf that dangles at your sides. When you walk, the ends will flow under your arms to trail behind you.

how to wear a shawl

How To Mix Prints With A Shawl

As you can see above, it is so fun to mix prints with scarves and shawls. The key is to choose a printed scarf that has 1-2 prominent colors in common with your dress. In this example, the dress and the scarf have the perfect red and the perfect cream color in common with each other. If mixing prints intimidates you, follow the standard rules: when wearing a printed dress, wear a solid colored shawl. When wearing a solid colored dress, wear a printed shawl.

how to wear a shawl

How To Drape A Shawl Over One Shoulder

This example is pictured both above and below.

  1. Bunch: To create the illusion of less width, bunch the width of the scarf so it can fit in a fist.
  2. Symmetry: Place the now thinner-looking scarf on one shoulder so that the ends are similar in length down one side of your body.
  3. Adjust: Where the scarf is placed on my shoulder I like to tuck the sides of the scarf under the bunched width to create a cleaner look.

how to wear a shawl

How To Tie ‘The Tie’ Knot

When you’re plenty warm and just want to be decorative, I love to do ‘The Tie’ knot with the scarf. I call it that because it starts off similar to tying a man’s necktie. The example is pictured below.

  1. Symmetry: You start by placing the scarf horizontally across the back of your neck with the ends draped over the front of your shoulders, similar to the ‘throw it on’ look.
  2. Bunch: The width of the scarf will automatically bunch up to create the illusion of less width. It will now look like a traditional scarf versus a traditional shawl.
  3. Asymmetry: You then pull on one side to make it about a foot longer than the other side.
  4. Loop: Take the long end and wrap it around the short end once to create a loop.
  5. Insert: Then insert the long end into the little opening of the loop you’ve created and pull it through.
  6. Adjust: Double check that the ends of the scarf are relatively the same length now.

how to wear a shawl

How To Wrap A Shawl Around Your Neck

Pictured below, is the traditional large scarf look for a casual and comfortable look. There are two ways to do it. I will describe the easiest version to put into words.

  1. Bunch: To create the illusion of less width, bunch the width of the scarf so it can fit in a fist.
  2. Both Hands: Lay the now thinner-looking scarf across both your hands with your palms facing up, like you are holding a snake.
  3. Center: Center the scarf across the front of your neck and drape the ends behind you.
  4. Front: Now take one scarf end and wrap it around the back of your neck and place the end over the opposite shoulder. Do this with the other scarf end as well. When you’re done, each end should be hanging down the front of your shoulders.
  5. Adjust: Pull down the loop around the front of the neck a couple inches so you can see all of your throat. I also like to make sure that the ends are somewhat symmetrical.
  6. Note: Mine looks a bit sloppy below. I didn’t have a mirror when I was on location going from one scarf look to another. I would have made the ends more symmetrical and I would have tucked in the fringed sides around my neck for a cleaner look. I also would have centered the loop around my neck a bit more.

how to wear a shawl

Photos by Dayley Photography

Location: San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre