Scarves: The French Have It Right
By Jessica Lynn
A scarf is one of the most varied
and simplest of accessories. It is a favorite of both trendy and
practical people because it offers both a mode of expression and warmth.
Although scarves come in many
variations, we do not have many words to describe them. The wool tartan
used for snowy days, wrapped once around the neck, is a very different
accessory than the translucent floral print carefully tied to offset an
outfit in the spring. We have beanie, newsboy, fedora, beret, cap,
cloche, cowboy, garden, bowler, and more when it comes to naming hats,
but our language is sadly lacking in terms of scarves.
Luckily, like during the
Revolution, the French can help. There are two words for scarf in French
(which explains why couture and chic are not our own): écharpe and
Une écharpe is what we might call
a winter scarf: a knit, crocheted, or felted accessory made from long,
rectangular wool or cashmere. It is used for keeping warm. While these
scarves are beautiful, they are also practical. An écharpe can be a
signature piece worn with a Burberry trench, as well as the hand-knit
warm and fuzzy reminder of your mother’s love.
bought in Scotland.
Un foulard translates as a
“lightweight scarf” or a scarf worn for decoration. A foulard can be
made from velvet, silk, satin, georgette, chiffon etc. Its shape is a
triangle, square, or rectangle, which allows the scarf to be fashionably
arranged and knotted in a myriad of ways. Foulards are often made with
solids, floral prints, and paisleys.
in Florence, Italy.
Scarves worn for expression as
opposed to practicality are appearing more and more throughout the
States: as early as four years ago I noticed street venues in NYC
offering them. Now, every H&M and Loft carries a variation. This trend
introduces us to yet another word: Pashmina.
A pashmina, derived from the
Persian word for wool, is a handspun, cashmere shawl. You likely already
know this, but I have been given enough baffled looks when complimenting
strangers on their pashminas to know now that most people refer to them
as merely scarves or shawls. But pashminas are so much more. A pashmina
is, in my opinion, the perfect balance of an écharpe and a foulard: it
is large, woolen, and warm for winter, and it is feminine, delicate, and
artfully draped for expression.
in Florence, Italy.
So next time you shovel the
driveway sporting your scarf, or attend a local art show in your other
scarf, make a brief reference to it is as an écharpe, foulard, or
pashmina with conviction. Your neighbor will nod wisely and pretend he
understands your large vocabulary and worldly knowledge.