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How to Wear Vintage Headscarves

by - Wednesday, May 06, 2020

As you probably know by now, I am a BIG headscarf fan. It's a look I've always adored, and stems right back to little 16 year old me wishing I had the confidence to wear them. (Ok so it was in much more of an emo style back then but there was a confidence issue nonetheless!) My style has evolved a lot since and luckily, so has my confidence. I never feel that twinge of insecurity around them anymore, wondering if people will judge me or if I'll wear it correctly - in fact, most of the time I have to tell myself I need to stop wearing them so often in case people start to wonder if I'm going bald or something! (I'm not! 😉)

This is one of my favourite scarves and the one you'll see me wear most often. I've had it forever but think I originally bought it from a vintage shop in Camden. It's a fairly large square, made from a matte-type silk and is so easy to tie, and more importantly, stays put!

Jasper gave me this one as a gift for my first Mother's Day - the idea was to use it as a cover up when feeding in public! But the next day, lockdown began so I've temporarily repurposed it as a head scarf. It's a thin fabric, a very large rectangle and made from recycled plastic bottles! It's from a local gift shop but the brand is Pom (Peace of Mind) Boutique.

I own about 20 headscarves but one in particular adorns my head 90% more of the the than the others. While it is the colour and pattern of a headscarf that matters for an outfit, the thing that keeps me reaching for this specific one is that it's just so comfortable... Because it's the ideal size, the perfect fabric and the right shape. And comfort is super important when you've got something clipped to your head for 10+ hours a day!

This autumnal scarf is from a vintage shop in Worcester that I picked up earlier this year. It's pretty much the same size, shape and fabric as my blue one (above), so gets worn an awful lot!

This is a very long, thin satin scarf that I bought in Peacocks a few years back. It turned out to be a nightmare for wearing on my head until I discovered I could plait it into my hair and tie in a bow on top of my head! Now I think it'll become a bit of a staple, but only for this hairstyle as it's no good for other ones.

So, here are my top tips on shopping for vintage headscarves:

• Silk is great, and very common when buying true vintage, but I prefer a more 'matte' kind of silk myself. I've got a 'shiny' one and honestly, I spend half the day sliding it back up my head - even with plenty of grips holding it down!

• Square scarves are my favourite - they give you more options for different folds

• My ideal size is around 34" square - because it's the right amount for tying a gorgeous topknot and leaves just the right length ends for tucking in

• True vintage items can often have little marks, tears or stains on; but don't let this put you off one that you love, as careful folding can hide them easily

• Be aware of colour & pattern - I'm not into clashing patterns, so when I wear a pattern the rest of my outfit has to stay simple -  and as a result I really need to add some plain scarves to my collection that I can wear with patterned outfits!

• If you pick up a scarf in a shop and it feels as though it might be a bugger to wear... It probably will be. By all means give it a go, but all the ones I've bought that I had a slight doubt about... Well, I rarely wear them because, you guessed it; they're a bugger to wear!

I love the colours in this scarf but as it's a super thin chiffon, it doesnt make for a very thick knot so I tend to be limited to only tying bows, and the material doesn't stay put too well. I have no idea where it came from as I've had it forever, but it likely came from a charity shop wayback when.
Another vintage shop purchase, this is a square one that I adore for autumn but as it's a really shiny type of silk, it slides down my head all day long, even with clips! When I do have the patience for it, it ties a beautiful half bow, as above.

This large square, ivory one was a birthday gift last year and is covered in beautiful butterflies! It's made from my favourite type of silk so is super easy to wear and doesn't slide out of place.

I've again, had this one for years and can't remember when or where I bought it! It's a really long rectangle, and a very thin, floaty silk, but isn't that easy to knot / hold in place so only comes out occasionally. It makes a great statement piece though with the lengths hanging down your back / to one side!

My favourite places to shop for true vintage headscarves are charity shops, vintage fairs & shops and places like Camden market. I've built up my collection gradually over the years (as you can probably tell by the fact I can't remember where I bought half of them!) but there are some lovely finds on the high street too.

Here's a roundup of my current favourites that you can get hold of online. I've picked some for their shape and some for their fabric, but I've picked all of them for their gorgeous colours and patterns...
50s Pin Up Polka Dot / Stripe Head Scarf, £7.99, Gas Axe Inc
I've chosen this one for it's ease and classic rockabilly style. It's 100% cotton so shouldn't slide out of position, and is not far from being a 'ready to wear' option, but still leaves you a choice of knot vs bow - and to wear either as is or folded for a slimmer band.

I'd wear this one with a crisp white, crew neck t-shirt and wide-legged denim dungarees with the ankles turned up for that iconic rockabella look - along with some chunky red jewellery to complete the style!

Watercolour Floral Silk Scarf, £15, Accessorize at Very
I'd peg this one as a little more advanced as it really is just a scarf - and will require some  tucking and poking and a bit of faffing to look right. But once you get the hang of it, these long rectangular scarves are one of the easiest styles to wear.

The colours in this are making my heart sing for summer and I'd wear this knotted, with navy capris and a white gypsy top à la Collectif's Dolores range.

Lemon Print Headwrap, £8.50, Rockacherryx on Etsy
Speaking of summer, this one is currently in very real danger of falling into my shopping basket! I've had an obsession with citrus prints for the past year or two and the fact that this one is also reversible makes it incredible value for money... kinda rude not to, don't you think!?

I want to pair this one with a dark blue denim dungaree dress and white catseye sunnies for that laid-back 50's summer chic.

From lemons to cherries... I've chosen this one because I have a skirt in the exact same fabric so had to include it here! It's another simple wrap so again, super easy to wear, and you'll be ready to go in minutes. No surprises that I'd team it with my cherry print pencil skirt, red off-the-shoulder top and black accessories.

Floral Printed Scarf, £19.99, Violeta by Mango
This square scarf from Mango can be pretty versatile - because it's square, it can be styled as a neckerchief or even a bracelet too!

This glorious little coral number would look great worn à la Mad Men's Megan Draper, with a black rollneck, black skinny jeans and black loafers, with simple silver jewellery.

Floral Printed Scarf, £12.99, Mango
And while I'm drooling over Mango's collection of scarves, I had to include this dreamy 'summer of love' one... I'd weave it into plaited hair and team with high-waisted white denim shorts and a pastel shirt tied at the waist.
And lastly, if you want to play it a bit safer, this gorgeous gingham headband is the perfect beginner piece for your foray into the world of retro styling. Plus it's got that summer picnic vibe totally nailed! Comfy, effortless and without a pin in sight, I'd go bold and wear this with matching gingham capris and a cute white cropped cardi buttoned up - and of course a set of shades for looking chic in the sunshine!

If you need a little inspiration for how to turn a scarf into some jazzy retro headwear, why not try one of these great, affordable books? I have both and they're filled with how-tos for using scarves as hair accessories - but also for bracelets, shoelaces and even a camera strap!

How to Tie a Scarf, £8.19, Amazon
Image result for the art of the scarf book
The Art of the Scarf, £8.19, Amazon

And I'll leave you with this super cute photo of little J and I from this week - any child of mine is gonna end up in a headscarf eventually, so why not start 'em young!? 😂

Stay safe,

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