History of Scarves: A journey into the evolution of the scarf

Trends: They are a strange thing. It’s strange that something we once dedicated a whole Pinterest board to could make our skin crawl just a few years later. Anyone else cringing over their ‘sexy’ ra-ra skirt circa 2004? **Shudders** Or how about that ‘vibrant’ neon piece you treasured just five years ago?

As the years fly by, every fashionista has inevitably tried and tested enough trends to build a fort with. But what about those pieces that seem to stay in your wardrobe? The jeans, the crisp white shirt, the LBD… these our the items that make up the core foundation of our wardrobes, and despite these items evolving with the fashions, they are timeless.

One item that could have been found in your Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother’s wardrobe is a statement scarf. Perhaps your Great Grandmother wore a silk scarf wound around your head to that 1925 New Years dance? Or maybe your mother wound herself up in a giant, boho-print scarf in her hippy-filled youth?

Let’s take a journey into the evolution of the scarf…


Fashion: Welcome to the modern era! Throwing away the dowdy petticoats and heavy blouses of the Victoriana, the youth of the 1920s welcomed the Flapper Era.

The 1920s was the age of the drop-waist hem, over-embellishment and loose, boyish shapes. Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel turned the fashion world on it’s head by designing the first modern, timeless wardrobe staple: the little black dress.


(Photo Source: visforvintage.net)

Silk scarves were commonly worn wrapped around the head in a ‘turban’ style. The above photo shows actress Louise Brooks wearing a soft, satin head wrap.

To re-create her look, take a soft metallic scarf, such as the solid color scarf and tie as a turban around your head.


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(Photo Source: chatterblossom.blogspot.com.au)

Although this look was less mainstream than the typical Flapper style, the 1920s saw an exotic gypsy look come into play, with Paisley, silk scarves being tied around the head. Get your vintage gypsy on with the floral paisley silk scarf.


As World War 2 approached, the fashion of the ‘roaring twenties’ withdrew into something more ladylike and coy. Sleek and tidy feminine forms made an appearance with more drawn in waists and calf-length skirts.

McCall's Magazine cover, Woman wearing scarf

(Photo Source: betsysbaby.blogspot.com)

Scarves in this era were soft and demure. They were draped around the heal and tie underneath in a modest and feminine fashion. Re-create the femininity of the 1930s by wrapping the spring roses wool scarf around your hair.



(Photo Source: glamourdaze.com)

Scarves were also commonly tied in a bandanna-like manner around the neck. Popular prints included classic polka dots and stripes.


By 1940s fashion began to take a more vibrant turn. Bright colors and gloves were all the rage. This femininity was sharply contrasted with the utilitarian tailoring of the decade.


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Scarves were used a statement color pop! Ladies brought their neutral trench coats to life with matching scarves and elegant gloves.

For some 1940s class, team your trench coat with the color scarf in navy blue.


(Photo Source: tumblr.com)

Hairscarves were still a huge trend. The soft, wrapped style of the 1930s had evolved into this knotted style, which was accompanied by a tightly curled fringe. Try the tropical floral scarf for this cute.


The age of the Hollywood screen siren, the 1950s was all about that classy sex appeal. Thanks to Dior it was all about the waistline, and the flouncing, a-line skirt.


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You can’t get much more of a 1950s style icon that Audrey Hepburn! She shows that trends made re-appearances even back then, with the resurrection of the 1930s hair scarf making a huge return.

Audrey opted for feminine, yet vibrant patterns to team with her preppy wardrobe. Re-create by layering a v-neck jumper over your white shirt and tying the artistic print silk scarf around your hair.


(Photo Source: topinspired.com)

We can’t round up 50’s fashion without including Marilyn. The sex-siren rocked a soft, gold, silk scarf  ‘How To Marry A Millionaire’, a 1950s flick in which she tried to ‘look rich’ to attract a millionaire. Why not try the exotic silk scarf in gold?


One word: Mod. The cool kids, led by British model Twiggy, took the fashion word by storm, declaring an era of Youth culture, pop art and the mini skirt!


(Photo Source: flickr.com)

Scarves took an ethnic turn with a pop art twist. This 1965 Vogue shoot see’s the scarf become a statement editorial piece. To get this 1960s mod vibe, grab a bright colored pant suit or shift dress and embellish with the geometric print scarf.



(Photo Source: magdorable.blogspot.com)

By the end of the decade, Mod dissolved into hippy.  Bohemian queen Susan Blakeley rocked the ethnic print headscarf in this 1969 shot. This exotic silk scarf is almost an exact double of hers.


With the Woodstock era in full-swing, fashion turned floaty, printed and ethnic. The bell bottom was the ‘in thing’ and the late 1970s saw the onset of ‘disco’. Hello platforms!


(Photo Source: Pinterest)

This 1973 issue of Vogue shoes the statement, bohemian scarf at its best. To escape from the sun like a chic traveler, wrap a Moroccan tile-print scarf around your head and drape over one shoulder. The Mixed Print Scarf is perfect for this.


Vogue, 1973


(Photo source: theyroaredvintage.com)

Seventies super model Jean Shrimpton mixes animal prints and tassels to perfection in this 1970s issue of Vogue.


Colorful and sporty, the 1980s was a strange mish-mash of borrowing trends from the past and attempting to be futuristic. Giant turtlenecks and neon leggings? Erm, ok…


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Princess Diana was undoubtedly a style icon of the 1980s and this shot captures her elegant, feminine style perfectly. To look like royalty, drape the solid color scarf in red over your shoulders.


(Photo Source: pleasurephoto.tumblr.com)

The eighties was known for it;s over-the-top colors and this 1988 Vogue photograph shows that colorful wasn’t always necessarily brash. Go for the geometric print scarf in green for some class-meets-brash.


The flashy-ness of the 1980s took a strange, sporty turn. Mix a bit of grunge in here and some Calvin Clein-esque minimalism here. It’s fair to say the 1990s was a meshed mixing pot of trends.


(Photo Source:  www.stylebubble.com)

A young Kate Moss rocks a tropical, yellow hair scarf in this ‘Versus’ ad. Get this colorful look by tying the tropical floral scarf around long, straight hair.



(Photo Source: 80s-90s-supermodels.tumblr.com)

Versace took the vibrant hair scarf to new levels with clashing prints. Copy Linda Evangelista’s 1992 look with the exotic silk scarf.


The new Millennium was met with a plethora of glitter, metallic and crop tops. As the part died down, a number of trends were resurrected in this period, including boho, hip-hop and grunge


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Noughties superstar Jennifer Lopez teams her hip-hop style crop with a printed, silver bandanna. To inject some 00’s into your look, wear the solid color scarf in silver folded thinly across your forehead.


(Photo Source: dailymail.co.uk)

In 2004, the then un-heard of Sienna Miller brought back the bohemian trend with ethnic patterns and floaty shapes. Enter Rachel Zoe and her ‘it girl’ clientele to solidify the trend. Steal Miss Miller’s boho look with the stripe scarf in red.


I wonder if we will still be wearing scarves in 2050?

Rachel Holliday

Rachel Holliday

Interior design and fashion contributor at Banarsi Designs. Writer and Aussie-based fashion and personal style blogger at www.thedailyluxe.net