Beautiful and vibrant pieces of fabric that you wrap around your upper body - it may seem that scarves and shawls have plenty in common, but actually, these two different fashion pieces have a world of difference between them. From fabric choices to how to style and even the cultural history of these finished pieces of cloth, we take a look at the differences between shawls and scarves.
Defining Shawls and Scarves
What is a Shawl?
A shawl is a large piece of the finished fabric. A shawl can be rectangular or square and is often worn draped over the shoulders or the upper body. Shawls come in many different materials, but you can often find them crafted from wool, pashmina, or silk. Highly versatile, shawls can be worn over formal attire, they can be used for added warmth, or they can also be worn as part of religious or cultural dress.
What is a Scarf?
Scarves can also be rectangular, but are often long and narrow ad are designed to be wrapped around the neck as an outer garment. The blanket scarf can be bigger and more similar to a shawl. Scarves come in many different materials, and you will often see them made from wool, cotton, silk, and even synthetic blends. They are often used as a fashion accessory or take a more practical approach by being wrapped around the neck for warmth.
Key Differences Between Shawls and Scarves
Size and Shape
One of the main differences that separates shawls and scarves is the fact that shawls are larger pieces of fabric and cover both the shoulders and usually the arms, too. The size of scarves tends to be narrower and longer and often smaller than traditional shawls.
Material and Texture
Even though shawls come in a range of fabrics, they tend to veer more toward heavier, more luxurious materials. You can find them in silk, cashmere, wool, and other types of fabrics that suit formal occasions. Scarves, on the other hand, take many different approaches - from the classic silk scarf to the typical winter wool scarf and the elegant evening scarf; there are so many different types of scarves with different feels and fabrics.
Functionality and Usage
Shawls can be a beautiful fashion statement and they can be an invaluable addition to your wardrobe when it comes to special occasions, formal events, or when you want to add a layer of warmth to elegant evening wear. You can also sport a shawl on more casual occasions, such as when you simply want a layer of warmth. Scarves can also be both casual and elegant depending on the material and design. A square silk scarf can be timeless in its design, whereas a winter wool scarf will be used daily throughout the season.
Cultural and Fashion Significance
Shawls have been around for centuries and have a rich history that may have originated in 14th-century Persia. They could also have started life in China before being adopted in India and then Kashmir. Sported by royalty, the shawl landed in Europe in the 18th century and has stayed in fashion ever since. Shawls as a concept could have taken many paths and would have been crafted by whatever was at hand. For example, in the East, it could have been silk or cashmere, and in the New World - woolen shawls would have gained popularity. Shawls can also be worn for religious reasons, for ceremonial purposes, and as part of cultural dress. These days, shawls have also evolved to be a beautiful fashion item.
There are many ways to style your shawls, and this is what makes them such a great investment for your wardrobe. How you style your shawl will depend on the occasion, the fabric, and what you are trying to achieve with your look. Here are a few ways to get started with wrapping this amazing piece of clothing.
The shoulder drape is one of the most traditional ways to wear a shawl. Simply drape it over your shoulders so that the loose ends hang over your arms, covering your shoulders, upper back, and upper arms. This is one of the simplest and best ways for when you need to achieve extra warmth for your outfit; This is also a classic way for wearing your shawl with evening wear.
There are thousands of ways to wear a scarf and depending on whether you are wearing your scarf for a dressy event or for something casual will make the difference. Here are some of the most classic and creative ways to style your scarf.
The classic loop is one of the best ways to sport your scarf. Simply wrap the scarf around your neck and let the loose ends hang evenly. You can also take each end and wrap it over again if you want to create extra warmth. This is one of the most popular methods for styling scarves of heavier materials when you want to stay warm.
The Parisian Knot is another way of wearing your scarf when you want to bring a lick of elegance to this piece of material. You can fold the scarf in half and drape it around your neck before pulling both ends through the loop created by the knot. This is best done on scarves of lighter materials, such as the square silk scarf. This is great for when you want a chic look with jeans or a simple black dress.
You can also sport your scarf with the simple drape, and this works well either with big blanket scarves or thinner silk scarves for men. As the name suggests, you simply drape the scarf around your neck or, in the case of a blanket scarf - around your shoulders.
Choosing the Right Accessory for Your Outfit
Occasion and Practicality
Deciding if you want to wear a scarf or a shawl is really all down to personal style, occasion, and the weather outside. In colder months, a thick scarf can truly make all the difference to your winter wardrobe by keeping your neck warm. In milder weather, a silk scarf can be a stylish accessory to pair with your tunics or a lightweight shawl can also be draped around the shoulders and upper body to bring a thin layer of warmth.
Shawls tend to be better for more elegant or formal occasions as they are made of luxurious fabrics like silk, pashmina, or wool. You may want to seek neutral colors for formal events if pairing with elegant evening attire. If you are looking to amp up a casual outfit, you can also look for scarves that have bold prints or that come in vibrant patterns to make a fashion statement.
Personal Style and Comfort
Personal style matters when making any fashion choice. Scarves and shawls come in thousands of different materials, patterns, colors, and prints, and with many elaborations to the design, too. From bohemian style shawls with fringes to wear with your bamboo clothing, to elegant lace-edged shawls and scarves with bold silk prints or soft-to-the-touch cashmere, you can never have too many scarves and shawls in your wardrobe. Always try to select pieces that are created from high-quality materials, as they will elevate your scarf and shawl-wearing experience.
The Market is Growing!
Scarves and shawls continue to grow. The US market for both these items reached a staggering $1,996.8 million in 2023, accounting for 7.4% of the US fashion Accessories eCommerce market. The trend doesn't stop there; scarves and shawls have an expected annual growth rate (CAGR) for the next four years (2023-2027). This number is projected to be 10.7%, resulting in a projected market volume of $2,995.3 million by 2027.
Whether you want an elegant larger fabric shawl for your evening wear or a blanket scarf for windy beach days, a silk scarf to bring French finesse to your casual jeans look, or a pashmina shawl in a beautiful shade to bring bohemian flair to your bamboo luxe outfit, there are so many ways in which shawls and scarves can be styled. Look for pieces that inspire, and play around with knots and drapes until you find your finish.
Is shawl the same as scarf
A shawl tends to be a larger piece of fabric than a scarf. Shawls are often used to cover the upper body, whereas a scarf is predominantly used to wrap around the neck.
Can you wear a scarf as a shawl
If you have a large rectangular scarf or blanket scarf, you may be able to wear it as a shawl. Scarves are highly versatile, and you can play around with different knots, styles, and drapes. Depending on the size, they may also double as shawls.
Is dupatta and shawl same
A dupatta is a shawl-like scarf worn by women in India. It often covers the head and shoulders. A dupatta resembles a shawl as it is a larger piece of rectangular fabric that covers parts of the body.
What is a shawl called in India
In India, the word dupatta can also refer to a shawl-like garment. The word shawl actually has Persian roots, but the Indian version of this garment is called a dupatta, a chuni, or a chunari.