Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Better Wear a Scarf


Ever since I was informed by my grandmother how Isadora Duncan died—in a fit of gesticular excess, she tossed her scarf under the wheel axle of her car—I have been simultaneously attracted and repulsed by scarves. How long should they be? What do you pair them with? How do you wear them without dying?

The last time I wore a scarf was in seventh grade after a particularly rough, love-lorn year. A boyfriend (who shall remain nameless) never held the door for me, and I was concerned that our romance never would blossom into actual communication. I decided to remedy my depression by dressing exactly like Sandy in “Grease,” after she gets the slut-makeover in a wild bid for attention. This choice was ill-advised, I’ll admit. There is a particularly traumatic picture of me wearing skin-tight capri pants, a lime-green cardigan, and a matching lime-green neck scarf. I looked pleased, though others in the picture seemed confused.

These days, not particularly love-lorn, I am forced to dabble in scarves again because of my slavish devotion to trends. Scarves have recently been featured on the cover of Vogue, draped around a rather sour-looking Keira Knightley. In France (and in more hipster-ish parts of the United States) it has even become popular to wear a scarf advocating Palestinian liberation, which I must say is very chic and somewhat ironic.

The scarves of today, however, are very different than the weaselly scarves of yesteryear. They are large, usually in a bold graphic print with lots of fringe. This style could be hard to wear (cf. the Olsen Twins, especially Mary Kate, who loves wearing such scarves with no pants).

The trick to wearing such a voluminous scarf is, once again, to master the strange game of proportion—a game that none of you Harvard students seem to quite understand, considering your collective love of spaghetti strap tank-tops. The scarf should never stretch below your knees, yet also should never dangle alluringly above your collar bone. It should, in fact, strike right in the middle of your chest, artfully and messily tied.

I decided to take a scarf for a test-drive this week and see if I felt more glamorous and/or was inclined to make elaborate hand motions while laughing in a tinkling, musical manner. At first, I felt a bit awkward wearing my sunglasses and a huge scarf together, worried that I would resemble a sort of highly fashionable rogue C.I.A. agent. Yet after a while, I started to greatly enjoy the feeling of bohemian liberation I would experience while tossing my scarf over my face and flirting with several similarly bohemian admirers.

I wore it to a bar and someone asked me why I was wearing sunglasses that matched my scarf (both were red) and why I was wearing sunglasses at night. I laughed a tinkling, musical laugh and swung my scarf over my face. The scarf had empowered me to wear sunglasses at night without feeling like a freak; a feat that, ever since I saw Anna Wintour do it at a fashion show, I have wanted to accomplish.


(1) Proportion, proportion, proportion—pair the scarf with slim, pared-down clothing. You don’t want to look like a uni-dreadlock woman.

(2) Don’t wear too short a scarf (see cautionary tale above).

(3) Just listen to Corey Hart. The end.