Sunday, February 27, 2011

Reader's questions - How to choose a scarf

Questions by V.O. and Chiarina:
I'd love to know how you pick a Carré from so many tempting options at one time -- your selection process so to speak. Your selections are so carefully made and harmonise so well with your colouring and wardrobe, so I'm sure there is a "logic" to your process. I'm looking forward to acquiring one or two new ones this year, but find it challenging to narrow down the options as I browse the designs, so perhaps you have some tips? ( by V.O. via email)
Love your scarf choices , always suit you so well.
I wish I could choose so well, can you share any tips ? Apart from coup de foudre , that often results in beautiful scarves that don't work with any outfits ! (by Chiarina via blog comment)
Before reading on, please keep in mind that the 'golden rules' below are based on my personal selection process only, they evolved over time, and derived from my needs and preferences. I am aware that others might apply completely different criteria. There is no right or wrong, the main thing is to enjoy the journey of finding your own preferences, discover what you love most, and what works best for you.

#1 The scarf should flatter you and illuminate your face

#2 Be in love with the design!

#3 The design also needs to work for you when the scarf is knotted

#4 Be in harmony with your wardrobe/other accessories

#5 Be open and flexible :)

#6 Never buy anything that does not feel 100% right!

In more detail...

Re #1 This rule is non negotiable ~ the scarf has to be in harmony with your features and complexion. If the scarf washes you out, or dulls your complexion, it is absolutely wrong for you. In my view, it is essential to try the scarf on, as a folded up scarf gives no indication which colours will end up framing your face. When placed around your neck in the basic bias fold, a glance in the mirror will tell you if it is the right one...if it illuminates your face it's a yes, but if it doesn't, don't buy it.

Re #2 You are going to fold and unfold this scarf hundreds of times, so it is important that you enjoy looking at it!

Re #3 Some designs have a lot of details, others are generously spaced, corners can be empty or rich... Try on as many scarves as possible, and observe carefully why you like some better than others ('If only this would be less busy!', or 'I wish this one would not have so much empty space!', etc..) If you have a favourite knot, try it with the scarf you are considering buying, and make sure you like the way the design comes out.

Re #4 This determines how often I reach for a scarf, and is therefore an important point when considering a purchase. Scarves that have a correlation with my clothes and/or accessories are the ones I wear most, I just love how it ties an outfit together. Matching patterns is often tricky, and limits the use of a scarf. Finding a match through colour is much simpler, just make sure there are some colours within the scarf that correspond with some of your staple clothes or accessories. This however, is my personal approach and I have seen many stylish and chic women who wear their scarves as a splash of colour, with great panache and completely unrelated to rest of their outfit. Whatever makes you feel comfortable and good, is definitely the right way!

Re #5 This is the most fun rule, as it is about experimenting with new and unfamiliar things. One can get almost too good at knowing which scarves pass rules 1-4, and therefore happily keep buying similar scarves over and over again. Nothing wrong with this of course, but it is also great to explore and discover new things. Some of my most cherished scarves I never considered 'on paper' or when seeing them folded up in the scarf drawer, but completely changed my mind when trying them on 'just for fun'. So keep experimenting and adding variation :)

#6 Only buy a scarf which makes your heart sing!

Online/catalogue shopping: When buying online, simulate the above as much as you can. Print out the scarves you are considering buying, and fold your 'paper scarves' in the basic bias fold. Observe closely which colours would end up next to your face, and if they generally go with your skin tone and hair colour. Check how the patterns comes out when the scarf is folded. You could also place your paper scarf on a photo of you, or hold it against your favourite wardrobe pieces .If you can't print the scarves out, imagine a diagonal strip like the basic bias fold, and contemplate the arrangement of the colours and pattern around the centre (the part that will frame your face) and near the corners (as in most knots, they will show most).

As with all things in life, mistakes are also part of the process. They ultimately help us to refine our selection procedure, and I hope some of the above will too.

Many thanks for inspiring this post, dear V.O. and Chiarina.

Coming next: checking my latest scarf purchase against the golden rules ;-)


  1. Dear MaiTai, this post is gorgeous: I smiled all the time as I was thinking about past times and my purchasing procedure pains. Once upon the time, SA actually made me buy a "coldly" coloured scarf, which obviously did not fit and later on, I cried when arrived home and then returned it...You are so right, some rules are not negotiable...then, again, the Cent Plis des Miao does not fit me best in the colourway I have bought (you know how painful process it was lol), but the design is so overwhelming in that particular cw and I will never be sorry for that purcahse. However, such rule-breaking behaviour is affordable after a while, when the scarf drawer is already filled with scarves or at least there are some scarves in it. When forming the basic collection, your "handbook" is perfect. So sorry I did not have it to assist me in my painful beginner's steps. I am very much looking forward to the next post. Hugs, Lilian

  2. Perfect advice and TIA with it all! I especially liked that you mentioned not to be afraid with sticking to the same colors. This goes hand in hand with rule#1. I love that feeling when you hold up something new and your face lights up in the mirror! It's a high LOL!

    I have bee watching borders, edging and corners for quite some time, but it took me years to learn.

    Thank for writing this all out. It is invaluable advice for all!

  3. Dear Mai Tai, I am preparing for a European trip this summer and have taken inspiration from how you wear your scarves. I have not decided whether I will indulge in a Hermes scarf yet - I may wait til Paris! Are there other scarf brands / vendors you might recommend at a lower price point? I'm interested in the 70 Carre and 90 Carre sizes. It seems that most of what I find in stores are the rectangular scarves, not the square ones. Thank you!

  4. Dear generous Maitai: Thank you so much for addressing Chiarina's and my questions re: smart scarf selection! I couldn't agree with Lilian more about the value of this informative post and its elegantly described set of golden rules. I have a limited scarf budget and must think carefully about purchases, so I will commit these rules to memory. I am still a beginner, but I feel much more confident about what it takes to think well about a selection.
    Yours ever so truly and with gratitude,

  5. What great and invaluable advice! It's not always easy to choose amid the wide array of designs and cws. And given the price point of a scarf mistakes can be very costly. This will help me feel more confident next time I choose a scarf.
    I need to work on rule #5.... I tend to take the safe road when it comes to choosing a scarf...
    Thank you for this post dear MT.

  6. Lovely post, MaiTai. When it comes to clothing, there's nothing like trying it on, especially for scarves that you wear close to your face. I also really like Sharon's question in this post about lower-priced scarves, but I fear once you go H, you never go back!

    Very much looking forward to the new scarf :-) and finally, FINALLY wore my shoulder wrap yesterday! It wasn't flawless but it still look pretty good!

  7. What a SUPERB post, Dear Mai Tai! Such good advice in every respect, with perhaps the most important item being #6, where you say that the scarf in question should "make your heart sing"! That is the Golden Rule for me in ALL such important decisions, and truly what I wish for us all: that we find those moments, people, and items (Hermes!!!) that make our hearts burst into song!
    Thank you as always, Mai Tai, for sharing your heart with us!
    Teresa! xo

  8. This really answered my question, thankyou so much for the great checklist. Like gracekelly it suddenly dawned on me that borders, corners and central strip are the features that one needs to focus on when choosing . I wish I'd known when buying years ago : I didn't even realise that scarf designs were so numerous and so diverse, and often rushed into buying new scarves . [ and I don't know about France but lighting/mirrors in their shops here in England are very dim]

  9. Many thanks for your kind comments of appreciation, my dear Lilian, gracekelly, Sharon, Dr. V.O., booksnchocolate and Frances, so pleased you enjoyed this post x

    Lilian, how I remember the cold colour scarf fiasco, and so glad you exchanged it the next day! Re the CPdM, I should have of course added rule #7, never give up! And you are so right, sometimes it is the collector in us who decides, and then, no rules apply :-) Really happy to be CPdM twins with you.

    High five to you, dear gracekelly, re the ‘high LOL’! Those moments are the icing on the cake, they make everything feel so fresh and new, the equivalent of Spring in shopping..

    Have fun preparing your trip, dear Sharon! I don’t know where you live, but If you go here to any of the big department stores (Galerie Lafayette, Printemps, etc) you will find a vast array of square silk scarves in the accessory department, at different price points. The thicker the silk, the higher the cost would naturally be, so avoid ‘designer scarves’ which are thin and expensive. Also check the hems, and while not hand rolled, some are sewn better than others. I am actually very happy with my cheap and chic scarf, and hope you’ll find something lovely too, good luck! PS. Alternatively, you could always look for pre loved H scarves.

    So true about silk mistakes being costly, my dear booksnchocolate, which is why #5 is such a tricky rule to follow! Wishing you joy and good luck on your journey of finding a scarf with the ‘high LOL’ effect x

    I’m with you, dear Frances, I am definitely a tryB4Ubuy person myself. Re the lower priced scarves, there are so many, and the best buy are those which are pretty and not too expensive. This way, there might even be some change left to feed the H piggy bank! Many congratulations on the shoulder wrap, well done!

    So happy the post made your heart sing, many thanks, dear Teresa! Wishing you too many of this joyous, exciting and wonderful moments to come!!

    My dear V.O. and Chiarina, I am so glad you found the response useful. I am truly grateful you have asked the question, as new impulses bring so much diversity here, enriching this place beyond of what I could ever come up with. So all my thanks to you, dear ladies! PS. H is refurbishing one by one it’s boutiques, the new ones all have a lot of glass, light, white walls etc., nothing beats a truthful mirror, in any shop!

  10. As always, my dear, excellent advice, and I have to admit that I haven't always followed your "golden rules" and have regretted it.

    But, I learned from my mistakes (and, fortunatley, got rid of those mistakes), so now I make sure that the scarf flatters my coloring, and that the corners and borders are interesting when tied.
    As we all know, there are some designs that at first glance appear fabulous but disappear and disappoint when tied.

    Thanks for this invaluable lesson.

  11. I intentionally waited for you, dear MaiTai, to respond to Sharon's question regarding the affordable scarves, as I did not want to hijack your blog :-) If I might humbly say now - I have said soooo many times I will get rid of Hermes, but must sincerely admit that all such my promises actually went down the drain. I have bought two non-H, no-name scarves and yes, they are nice. However, there is something special about Hermes - silk quality (very much visible on 90 carres) and prints! There are certain brands which do have nice quality silk, but I do not know any brand having such the nice, rich, lavish designs, such rich colours, sometimes I put one of those scarves and that's it-no luxury clothing needed, the scarf makes the look. Sorry if this converted into ode to Hermes...have not intended to write it that way. It is particularly true when wearing them as splash of colour, panache - then H is unbeatable. And, when mentioning the brands using really good silk - the price would not be really much lower than H...At least my experience. Hugs

  12. Durdica and H fans, you are so right about the unique qualities of H scarves. Ladies, check out a "New Springs" carre next time you can. Look carefully at how the H artisans have replicated a "painted" image on silk: you see overpainting, palimpsest, dragging of brush hairs depositing the tiniest lines of paint -- like mini-rainbows! I've never seen anything like it. QED, as the mathematicians would say: nice scarves are nice in general, but H scarves are something "beyond."

  13. Wonderful advice; I smiled the entire time I read it. I wish I could be so logical when making my choices; I simply fall in love and must have the scarf! I have quite a few Hermès scarves; I love them all and have never regretted a single purchase. I have many regrets over scarves I admired but didn't buy. I think I enjoy looking at the beautiful designs and gorgeous colors as much as I do actually wearing them.

    I'll keep your words of wisdom in mind as I enjoy browsing the new season's offerings.

    Thank you Mai Tai!

  14. Those are all valuable tips, MaiTai. Thank you. I would like to add that I have been in the same situation as Lilian, so I would suggest not to let an SA push you into anything. I often walk away from the store, and take a break to mull over the scarves before making a purchase. After leaving the store, if I cannot stop thinking about a particular scarf, then I know it's probably right for me.
    Sorry to hear of your bad experience, Lilian, but happy that you were able to exchange it the following day.
    Warm orange hugs. CS

  15. P.S. I am waiting with bated breath to see your most recent purchase, MaiTai! You're keeping us all in anxious anticipation, much like a child on Christmas day! This is so much fun!
    Shall we all take a guess? Is it the Le Pégase d'Hermès in bright pink?

  16. lifeatmyfingertipsMarch 1, 2011 at 7:53 AM

    Valuable advice, and perfect tips to keep in mind. I cannot agree more that certain colours / designs look better against the skin than when imagined =) I've been pleasantly surprised more than once! xx

  17. My Dearest MaiTai,
    What tried and true words of wisdom to cherish and remember in our hearts - you've truly crystalized for us the essence of this wonderful and joyful journey. Thank you to V.O. and Chiarina for their great questions, and I very much agree with all the ladies' insightful comments. This is such an essential list - and if one substitutes the specifics relating to scarves, all the points you've mentioned are universally applicable to everything we select. Thank you so very much for your many shining, golden words, dearest MaiTai. Wishing you a most sunny week, and sending you much love and biggest hugs always xx

  18. I feel everyone is so anxious about the post to come, myself included :-) From the colourway side, my thinking is as follows: the blue one has already arrived home this spring, therefore the another one is expectedly not blue. As you like neutrals, I would vote for Le Pegase in white-taupe (cw07), but then, again, if you wanted to demonstrate full power of colours, there is a range of scarves which might be quite good candidates. Or Metriers, as you are very much rooted into Hermes history, style and background? We should have started betting :-). Hugs, Lilian

  19. Good for you to have got rid of the less loved scarves, dearest Jerrine. A wardrobe (be it scarves or clothes) with too many unwanted items can be one of the most frustrating obstacles in the routine of getting dressed..

    Dear Durdica and Dr.V.O, I am nodding my head in agreement with you, H scarves truly are most amazing, beautiful, well made and fabulous works of art! And with the quality and weight of the silk, the amount of screens in the printing process, the hand rolled hems and the artistic excellence of the designers and colourists, they represent value for money. However, they remain incredibly expensive, which is how I believe the question for more affordable alternatives came up. I very much think of ‘Scarf it Up’ as a general concept, and truly believe that a simple outfit can also be transformed into a chic look with a less expensive scarf, as long as it is beautifully tied, and worn with flair! :)

    The New Springs is such an amazing design, and your astute description has brought the memories I had of it back to life, my dear Dr.V.O. Thank you :)

    Dear Reese, you have obviously skipped all the rules by successfully applying #6 all along! The joys of looking at these beauties and wearing them, are equal for me too, they truly are our treasures..

    Dear CS, such wise words! One does need space to listen to one’s heart, and to take a break outside the store is sometimes all it needs..

    Aren’t those surprises just the best, my dear lifeatmyfingertips!

    My dear Scarf Enthusiast, you have summed it up so beautifully yet again with your magic and doux words, and you are so right in that so many of our other selection processes are based the same principles. Your words are the ones which shine, as you do too x

    Dear Lilian and CS, a guessing game would have been such fun, why did I not think of it before! As tempting as the Pegase is, it did not come home with me. But to help you along, rule #5 was definitely applied!

  20. Oh, MaiTai, the suspense is exciting! Applying Rule #5, I'm going with the Fleurs d'Indienne? With giddy excitement, I await your next post! :-) CS

  21. L'Art du Temari? No, it is not, as the rule #5 would not be strictly followed, I feel.
    Hm...Din Tini?
    Fleurs, as suggested by CS, might be a very good bet...

  22. My dear MaiTai

    Thank you so much for your wise, "golden" rules regarding the purchase of H´s scarves. I loved this post! I totally agree with you when you say "the scarf should make your heart sing". Thank you for everything you give us here, in this little, magic world. Warm and cosy hugs. Manuela

  23. MT, your post made me LOL because I do this thing of print, cut and fold the pictures of the scarves, I thought I was the only one!!!! thank you for your ideas!

  24. Thanks for this post MaiTai. I spend ages deciding whether to buy a scarf and agree with all your advice. It is very difficult to buy online without seeing the scarf in person. Many of the designs look so different in real life, particularly the scale of the design.

    At the moment I am having trouble deciding which sizes to buy. I love the shawls and 140 scarves but they are so much more expensive than the smaller scarves, and I don't wear them as often.

  25. Brilliant advice MaiTai, your trick of printing out a picture of an scarf on-line is inspired! Thank you for this most helpful and informative post xx

  26. Bingo, dear CS and Lilian!! So excited you got it right. The Din Tini is an excellent guess too, Lilian, as it was rock bottom of my list when I first saw pics, but adored it when seeing it folded and tied! There is something so happy about it, it puts a smile on one’s face. The CW wasn’t right though, so I’ll keep looking..

    Happy you enjoyed the post, my dear Manuela! Wishing you many heart sing moments to come :)

    High five, dear Birkinmary, and yay to paper scarves! Loved paper doll games when little, wish I had some cut out H scarves then ;-)

    I agree with you on the difficulties of online shopping, dear A. The scale issue is important, and you might want to try the paper scarf method, it put things into better perspective. Re the sizes, maybe a GM Dip Dye would be a compromise, not only are they less expensive than the CS, but also cost less than a 90 Carré, on a fabric/EUR ratio :)

    Many thanks, dear Blighty! Enjoyed your latest posts, too funny!

  27. Your rules are perfectly right! :-) I've gifted my mother with 3 Hermès scarves so far and choosing the first one was a nightmare. Too many scarves to choose from, didn't know what color to get, if it would please her... It really gets more simple as time goes by!
    About ordering online, it's a good thing Hermès shows she scarves folded on their website. Some look fantastic laid out, but much less when they are worn.

  28. Merci, dear ritournelleblog. What a lovely daughter you are, the scarves you chose must be so very special to your mother. And I agree with you on le voir noué!

  29. Having read this I believed it was extremely enlightening.
    I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this content together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and
    posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

    Feel free to visit my web blog :: auto detailing

  30. Some time ago, you recommended a third party who trades in Hermes scares (I think they might be a friend of yours?). I have some scarves that don't match me, and I'm looking to sell them. Do you recommend that site again? Thanks you. What is name of the site, please, also.

  31. I am truly sorry, but because of disturbing feedback from customers and friends I can no longer recommend the site I previously mentioned on my blog. On the other hand I heard very good comments about 'Ann's Fabulous Finds', also based in the US. Hope this helps, good luck!

  32. Very Good idea to print thé scarf and to make a paper scarf !!!! Great idea