Little else evokes luxury quite like the silk scarf because, like its pricier cousins the diamond and the designer handbag – it provides a satisfying hit of instant glamour. Case in point: When we’re first introduced to Cameron Diaz’s character in cult-fave film My Best Friend’s Wedding, her Hermès scarf knotted just so atop her prim yellow shift, you get that “game over” gut feeling for her ambitious rival, played by Julia Roberts. The scarf, in all its singular opulence, is a catalyst able to shift the dynamic because its resplendent drape and lustre make a statement that even the style-nearsighted understand: Oh, you rich rich.
Cameron Diaz in My Best Friend's Wedding.
Today, the spring runways are once again simmering with riffs on the silk scarf. The twist? The overt trust-fund feel is softened as designers dial up the ingenuity and reimagine the standard square shape. At Lanvin, for example, split- front flares were done up in a baby-blue chain-stamped print and worn under an oversized belted blazer. The effect was more downtown cool than Park Avenue posh. Erdem’s take – heritage scarves tied across the body over eyelet jumpsuits – inspired a fresh use for the traditional piece. And even when Burberry and Preen by Thornton Bregazzi produced the most sophisticated renditions of the bunch – swaths of ultra-flowy silk crafted into an elongated asymmetrical blouse and sleeveless scarf dress, respectively – they still remained understated relative to their uptight predecessors, like the silk squares often found knotted firmly around the Queen’s stiff coif.
“If aughts-era style was an ostentatious display of fortune and influence, this latest revival of the silk-scarf print is communicating a decidedly less showy approach to luxury.”
Because, of course, the silk scarf wasn’t always so design-forward. With the trend’s last come-up – in the early 2000s, a time when wearing your wealth on your sleeve (or perhaps gathered around your neck) was celebrated – our love affair with the silk scarf intensified in the most superficial iterations. It was at the height of logomania, and every starlet worth her crew of tailing paparazzi (think Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton) sported a silk scarf emblazoned with Alexander McQueen’s iconic skull motif, multicoloured LVs or Pucci prints. It was fashion as materialism at its finest.
If aughts-era style was an ostentatious display of fortune and influence, this latest revival of the silk-scarf print is communicating a decidedly less showy approach to luxury. So why the switch? We’re re-evaluating what true affluence means these days – thanks, in part, to increased environmental mindfulness but also because so few of us actually have the disposable cash to drop on big-ticket items. (See: those much-derided millennial savings accounts.) This reinvention of the elegant old-school accessory as new luxury satisfies our desire for a piece of the sweet life but strips away the peacocking of yesteryear. Now that’s rich.
This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of ELLE Canada. Subscribe here.
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