Fashion & Beauty

Neck Warmers

You can never have too many. From left to right, retro wool scarf from Frances Valentine, Kate Spade polka dot oblong neck wrap and J. McLaughlin’s pull-through faux fur collar.

By Ann Geracimos

HOW MANY scarves are too many? At around 100 I stopped counting mine.

Such piggery, you say. But then we all have our weaknesses, and mine at least has a practical life-enhancing side. What is too many in a time when comfort and personal style are almost universally embraced as good, even necessary, for mental and physical well-being?

A funny word, “scarf,” with its various etymological permutations. I might say that I’m someone who has been regularly scarfing down these colorful accessories most of her life. I can’t remember ever objecting to owning yet one more of them.

“Collection,” however, is not an exact description for my motley assembly of colorful neck and shoulder wraps. My habit and love of wearing them—sometimes feeling naked without one—grew through the years. They became the gifts that kept on giving, both those I chose and those received as “favors for services rendered.” (Don’t ask).

I’ve a friend, in fact, who believes a scarf is meant to be worn once or twice and then given away, usually to an admirer of the one on her person at that moment. Luckily she can afford the gesture. I’ve done the same on occasion, hoping to give some pleasure when it’s least expected.

Scarves and shawls are far better for the body than candy.

Plus, they make fair talking points when conversing with strangers, a way to break the ice. Do I dare mention they also can disguise a throat that is becoming less than firm?

I’ve never liked being cold around my neck and shoulders. And not having pierced ears, I don’t invest in expensive earrings, those surefire baubles that can lighten the face gloriously. Clip-ons aren’t always easy to find or to wear. Fabric has more sensual appeal, to my mind. Scarves can be very seductive devices.

The most precious of mine act as reminders of some special people and memorable events. They are story-tellers, even if the only audience is myself. On trips overseas to exotic climes, what better souvenir than a packable piece of fabric reflecting the culture of the country? Or an impulse buy at a museum shop after an emotionally satisfying day viewing works of art?

The special people include: The beau who caught on early to my love of such possessions outdid himself when selecting the best silk models, for instance, sure to work well winter and summer. The man is gone on to his own reward, leaving me ever nostalgic and grateful for his friendship and generosity.

And the friend in the fashion field who offered me my choice of Hermès scarf for my birthday as long as I agreed to accept the permanently pleated kind, the old plissé ones. Or the friendly colleague who really and truly claimed she didn’t like scarves and never wore them, so would I please accept one that she received for her birthday?

And of course the daughter-in-law who knows I love any shade of green—she being more blue-minded—and showed up with a heavy lime-green satin stole that sets off a plain black satin gown, basically my only piece of formal wear.

Scarves don’t disappear easily. It can take willpower to disown one. Fine fabrics often outlast the owner so the point is to enjoy them while you can. Scarves create a game you play by yourself—gauging which one goes well with your mood and your wardrobe. A child’s game that has no losers. Like wearing a painting on your body.

Of course, it’s a royal pain figuring how to organize and store them. Stores such as Target and the Container Store will sell you some simple devices—usually metal frames allowing you to hang your bounty within easy reach. Neither these nor an antique wooden stand in my possession—somewhat resembling a rack for drying clothes outside—just won’t do in my case. My scarves would sink the thing, and, in the scramble, how would I ever find the one I’m searching for?

This is an issue likely to challenge even “life coach”’ Marie Kondo, if ever she admits to being stumped or maybe just a tiny bit frustrated. Her method, suggested in one or another of her books and articles, is to roll them up, snail-like, in rows in a drawer, leaving a tail end in view as a clue.

My own method is to separate them into folded layers by dominant color or possibly function. Heavier woolen or fur (if you dare) pieces are kept closer to hand in winter. They fill at least two drawers of a small chest.

I’ve tried about everything, and nothing works perfectly, alas.

Think this entire matter frivolous? Think again when you next are putting yourself together, as the saying goes, even when in a hurry. A colorful design can engender an uplift of spirits, a cheerful distraction in a conflicted world.

And in an emergency, a scarf or shawl or stole can disguise a hole or a spill.

We agree with Ann—scarves are far better for the body than candy. They’ll also keep you warm and cozy this week during frigid temperatures. 

Acne Studios’ oversize (98-by-11 inches) mohair check scarf is this season’s statement splurge. The high price ($310) is justifiable (maybe) because of high-quality ingredients—a blend of alpaca, wool, nylon and mohair—that look good and retain  heat. For more bang for the buck, it can be used as a blanket on a plane or as a decorative throw at home. For the status-conscious, the label’s embroidered logo reads loud and clear.


This black-and-beige plaid 71-by-20-inch scarf, reduced to $6.99, is sold out, but the bright blue-checked version is still available for a wallet-friendly $14.99 at H&M.

The Edinburgh-based Target Blanket Co. knows a thing or two about staying warm. Made of lambswool sourced from Inner Mongolia, the company’s blanket scarf (79-by-30 inches, including fringe, $115) keeps in the heat while repelling moisture. It’s ideal for wrapping around a winter coat. 


Soft and big, cozy and chunky, Free People’s stripe fringe scarf ($58) can loop around the neck and still leave plenty of length for draping in front and back. It’s available in two other color combinations.

Make someone happy with Frances Valentine’s bright and bold color-block wool scarf. Measuring  5½ x 42 inches, it looks as if a loving—and skilled— great aunt knit it for her favorite niece in the 1950s. It sells for $228.

This generously sized (70-by-17½ inches) cashmere scarf could be a conversation starter about, say, the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. Originally $428, it’s now $299.60 at Anthropologie. Note to self: indulgent gift for self?



Despite her 100-plus inventory of scarves, we bet the author of this post, Ann Geracimos, who, as mentioned, loves any shade of green, would swoon over Kate Spade’s oblong polka dot (77½ by 28½ inches) style. It’s $98 at Zappos.


Etro gets accolades for its irresistible colors and patterns. And this paisley print scarf in a modal/linen/silk blend is no exception. Recently reduced from $41o to $215.25, it is currently sold out. But if you’re smitten, here’s a similar one, also on sale, at Neiman Marcus—for $194.95.

This pull-through faux fur scarf with a horsey pattern on the reverse will look good under a coat or as an accent to a creamy silk blouse. It sells for $118 at J.McLaughlin.

Uniqlo’s unisex cashmere scarf  is on sale for $59.90. We love this cheery one in yellow, but if it’s sold out, there are seven other colors to choose from. It’s almost 70 inches long and 13 inches wide, with a fringe of 2.4-by-2 inches.


Surely you have a feline lover on your list. Endear yourself to her with a gift of this crêpe de chine Calm Cat silk scarf (38-by-38 inches) from John Derian. It’s $175. The image is from Derian’s Picture Book.


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One thought on “Neck Warmers

  1. Nancy G says:

    I can absolutely relate. I have a dresser drawer full to the brim with silk, and silk-like, scarves, all with a memory attached: shopping with a dear girlfriend, gifts from my mom, my mother-in-law’s scarves which I kept after she passed away, simply because I remembered her wearing them. Then there are the “outdoor” scarves, all warm, big, fuzzy, and cozy, which are kept in a small chest in the front closet. There are some things that are hard to get rid of. But I like the idea of just taking it off and giving it to someone who has admired it. Nice column.

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