Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The All-American Girl Wears a Scarf

It was one of those glorious, brisk autumn afternoons, and I was having tea with my friend D in the Swann Lounge of the Four Seasons Hotel.   It’s my absolute favorite spot for afternoon tea in Philadelphia.  

As we sat there sipping champagne and pomegranate tea and enjoying an array of delicious sandwiches, buttery scones and delicate pastries, we chatted away about this and that and everything else.  We had a lot of catching up to do. 
Before we knew it, it was time for good-bye hugs and kisses.  I slipped on my tweed jacket and wrapped my scarf in a casual double loop around my neck.   It’s one of my favorite fall scarves -- deep ocher, striped with bright crimson, mossy green and golden brown.  I always feel wrapped in the warm glow of autumn colors when I wear it. 

“You see what you just did?” D said.  “It’s just perfect, and you didn’t even need to look in the mirror.   You’re so French.” 

“I may have French blood, but don’t forget that I was born and raised in Philadelphia.  I’m really just an all-American girl.” 

“Hah! “ she responded.  “All-American girls don’t do scarves like that.   You’ve got to be French to do that.” 

For the average American woman, the words “French Style” conjure up an image of a skinny lady in stilettos wearing a scarf.  Now, we all know that not every Frenchwoman is thin and the boulevards of Paris are full of Parisiennes in ballet flats and sneakers…………..but that scarf thing…………they really do have a “thing” for their scarves.  And in that regard, I fall right in line. 

Scarf Weather (Rebecca Sower)

The truth is that the scarf is the perfect accessory and the easiest way to bring a pop of color near your face, hide a few unsightly neck wrinkles and turn a Tee-shirt and jeans into an outfit.  It’s the perfect completer piece and traveling companion and takes up little or no space as it folds flat to be tucked away in a drawer or suitcase. 

It seems odd to me that there is something about the Frenchwoman and her obsession with her scarf that brings out a curious mixture of admiration and exasperation in American women today.   I remember a time when the well-dressed American woman always wore a silk scarf.   When did silk scarves go the way of the embroidered hankie?  Did the hippie dippie 60s make them seem too old-fashioned, too Great Aunt Edna to go with love beads and peace signs?  

The scarf helped get women through the Second World War when hats, shampoo and other beauty essentials were in short supply.  They learned how to drape them around their heads in chic turbans to hide unwashed hair. 

Watch this 1942 Pathé short showing women how to turn their scarves into fashionable headgear.

Is it any wonder that the women of my mother’s generation loved their scarves so much? 

And here might be the perfect place to remind you of the quintessential all-American girl from my hometown, Philadelphia, who practically wrote the book on how to wear a scarf. 

Grace Patricia Kelly (1929-1982) was born in Philadelphia to an Irish-American father who’d started out as a bricklayer.  By the time Grace was born, John B. Kelly was a multi-millionaire, who taught all his children the lessons of hard work and discipline.  Grace went from Main Line Philadelphia privilege to Hollywood film star to Her Serene Highness Princess of Monaco.   She was with us for such a short time, but as the Queen of style and elegance, she will reign in our hearts forever.   And, ooooh, could this all-American girl wear a scarf!!

Here, a small, patriotic Pucci scarf in red, white and blue encircles her slender neck -- so simple, so classic, so elegant. 

On the set of “To Catch a Thief” (1955) looking absolutely gorgeous in pink dress and matching scarf with charming co-star, Cary Grant looking on.  It was during a publicity event for this movie that Grace met her own prince charming in Monaco, Prince Rainier.  They were married the following year. 
The Kelly head wrap -- a signature look. 


And that, Ladies, is how the all-American girl wears a scarf -- proof positive that you don’t need a drop of French blood to “do” a scarf to perfection. 

If you’d like a few pointers, here’s one of my favorite tutorials on the subject.  It goes by fast, but if you see something you like, you can just click on it at the end for a refresher. 
25 Ways to Wear a Scarf in 4.5 Minutes!


  1. I'm crazy for scarfs and wear them constantly. They're so cozy and add a splash of color, which never hurts. LOVE the Pathé short. Always wondered how our mother's gen did those turban looks. And I never get tired of Grace photos--so gorgeous and elegant. Thanks for the great post!

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment. Yes, yes, yes. Yes, I love scarves; yes, I just had to include that Pathé short as soon as I saw it; and yes, I can never get enough of Grace. I do believe we are on the same page.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Cheers, M-T

  2. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    A scarf is also the life saver for any blazer or Deux Pièces fashion style. You avoid any oils from your skin penetrating the garment and you more than earn the investment into your precious scarf back on dry cleaning bills.
    As for me, I always have LOVED scarves and I have lots of them. Even I managed to do my own rolled seam on a silk scarf that I made, together with two silk bow ties (one for Pieter as partner look): http://bit.ly/1cOql9j
    I also did show my hand rolled scarf in another blog post here: http://networkedblogs.com/JZjAN
    A scarf is as important as jewelry! My proudest possession is the original Hermès scarf booklet... To me this is like a religion. Thank you so much for sharing such great post and Grace Kelly is one of my favorites too! Indeed, she was a gracious queen of style and elegance.

    1. Dearest Mariette, I know very well how you share my love of scarves, especially those that come in fabulous orange boxes tied with brown ribbon. I MUST check out your related posts on the subject. Can't wait!

      Big bisous, M-T

  3. Bonjour M-T. Fab' post ma chère! I agree with your friend: There is definitely French blood running in those veins! I love all my scarves, and bought a new one chez Ann Taylor just yesterday. I really shouldn't have. When I move out of my house, I will have to rent some storage space JUST for my scarf collection at this point :-) Tell me: Is this Kir Royal I spot on that pretty table? :-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

    1. Eh bien, ma grande, that keen French eye never misses a thing. Kir Royal it is indeed. I have the same storage problem with my scarves and shoes. .

      You are very much in my thoughts these days. I will be in touch very soon "hors Blog" to catch up properly.

      Big bisous, M-T

  4. I am totally addicted to scarves. I wear one nearly every day. I am lucky that I can buy them in the St. Tropez market when I am there. Have just bought a new one recently for 10 euros. The only problem I have is storing them all in my wardrobe.

    1. That is an addiction, Josephine, for which there is no cure.....happily. Storage is clearly becoming a problem for you, Veronique and me. I'll get rid of clothes before I get rid of even ONE scarf.

      Cheers to you in London. Hope you are enjoying the autumn weather. Here in Haddonfield the leaves have never been more beautiful.


  5. Terrific post!! I too, love scarves. It is a shame that so many young women don't appreciate how they can finish off an outfit. I love the burst of color and pattern they add to my basic wardrobe pieces. And yes, M-T...the memories they hold are delicious. I will email you my friend. Hope all is well with you.

    1. I'm thinking of forming a scarf addiction clinic. "Hi, I'm M-T, and I'm a scarfoholic." There are so many of us!! We don't want to be cured ("quelle horreur"); we just want to sit around and share scarf stories. Wouldn't that be just too delicious?

      Looking forward to hearing from you, my friend.

      Ciao, M-T

  6. Fabulous. I watched the video twice! I'm now craving a new Fall scarf. xo, NG

    1. Wonderful! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post and the video and that it inspired you to treat yourself to a new Fall scarf. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Ciao, M-T

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