Accessories fascinate me more than clothes. Through my college years, these took the form of jewelery, ranging from earrings to medallions, necklaces, anklets, rings, belts and every form of adornment I could find. When I started work, most of my jewelery had to be put away as it was too funky/ impractical/ irreverent/ inappropriate for officewear. That’s when I discovered another accessory – a simple length of cloth.
It started with knotting a colourful scarf around my neck to break up the monotony of my officegarb of drab shirt and grey trousers. That’s when the world of folds, drapes, knots and related accessories like brooches and pins opened up to me.
Salwar-kameezes found a place in my wardrobe around the same time and from that direction, I came to the Indian version of scarves. Dupattas such an integral part of Indianwear, lend themselves to so many ways of wear, spanning the range from flirty to pragmatic, modest to seductive and accessorial to pragmatic. They add character to the clothes you wear.
I love mixing up the conventional and this accessory allows me the freedom to do so without stumbling into inappropriate. In my Kala Ghoda boheme look, I sport a regular cotton dupatta as a stole. In Lavasa, I wore a stole as a yoke. Most of the time, I offset a severe formal look with a soft scarf (like I did with the suited-booted look).
Call it a stole, call it scarf or a bandana or a dupatta, the versatility of an extra piece of cloth cannot be emphasized enough. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to refer to this as a scarf.
The most common ways that I see people wear scarves are:
Some of the newer styles I’ve started to favour include looping, doubling, folding and knotting. Often I find it isn’t necessary to own a particularly expensive or varied range of scarves. A small mix of colours and prints serve well if you’re willing to experiment with draping. Basics can be jazzed up by interesting pins.
Since I travel around in Mumbai’s pollution, I always carry a scarf to tie my hair and cover my face. Recently I’ve taken to using the scarf even when I’m not travelling and adding it to my outfit. A dress is the one garment I never see Indian women accessorize with a stole. Here are two of my experiments:
This is actually a long, straight skirt from FabIndia. It turned out to be too big for me so I snipped off a strip at the bottom and added it to the top as shoulder straps. A thin black belt to contain the roomy skirt silhouette but it still looked incomplete. So I folded over a black floral silk scarf into a triangle and crossed it over my shoulders. Protection from catcalls (because of the strappy dress) and interest value at once!
The second is a Benetton knit dress patterned in black, brown and white plaid. The print is too drab for one of my evenings out but the silhouette is just that tad too dressy for work. So I teamed it with a black scarf (with red & beige floral print) draped over my shoulders. The other accessories are beige Catwalk sandals a FabIndia black-with-butis cloth handbag.
Without the scarf, it’s a classic silhouette. But if one is either conscious of flabby arms (as I was when this picture was taken) or too cold for a simple sleeveless dress, the scarf provides adequate protection.
So the next time you look at your closet thinking you’ve nothing interesting to wear, let that scarf show you the way out!