The fascination of scarves that people have, goes way back to the earliest of times in Egypt and to the first Queen of Fashion on the runway in the ancient world.
Little did Nefertiti know the impact that her woven scarf wrapped under the extravagant jeweled headpiece would have on women and men in centuries to come. In ancient Rome, men wore scarves as sweat cloths to keep and dry their sweat. Word must have gotten out from the palace on this unique and unusual fashion accessory.
The first emperor of China in the 3rd century BC, Qin Shi Huang, way before Mick Jagger, Steve Tyler and Stevie Nicks came around, with scarves and wraps, took the lead from his wife, after introducing him to silk, decided to wear silk neck scarves as a symbol of military rank and power. This trickled down to Eastern men in the military, who would be recognized by their scarves to show their rank and status.
Just walk into a party full of people with a beautiful scarf print and watch the roaming eyes follow you. Scarves have the ability to enhance any man or woman’s appearance and add a mystique and power to your presence. They can blend in with whatever wardrobe you are wearing. Be it a huge blanket like covering that Lenny Kravitz was seen wearing, or a small sophisticated piece that Audrey Hepburn wore. It can be a symbol of femininity sophistication or masculine power. All depends on the pattern, print, color, and how the wearer carries him or herself.
When Napolean came back from his return from Egypt, little did his wife Josephine know the attachment and infatuation, she would have with his gift. First a little puzzled by the pashmina scarf, her pleasure with it progressed to over 400 more in her collection. The perfect Etsy customer for my scarves online!
Going back to the 19th century, the Scottish town of “Paisley” took the Persian design and became the first town to manufacture paisley shawls that were similar to what Napoleon brought back to his wife. With 7000 weavers, the shawl became so popular that Queen Victoria purchased one in 1842.
The silk scarf has evolved and changed according to the times and the historical events going on at a certain time but has stayed intact. As wardrobes changed and history affected us, shawls declined in popularity with the change in fashion and it became more impractical.
With World War 1, conditions for soldiers demanded warmth with knits, socks, sweaters and scarves to meet those needs. Silk white scarves became so important as pilots used them to protect them from neck chafing. Silk played an important role in military operations with carrying gun powder for weapons, leaving no residue when burnt. After the first World War, there was a heaviness and depression around the world to get over. The company that saw this need and filled it, was “Liberty of London” who started producing light silk scarves and prints that people loved.
Isadora Duncan, the mother of Modern Dance found the perfect partnership in 1900 with long flowing scarves that went perfect with her dance movements. They accentuated her steps so much, that she took it a step too far in the thrill of standing up with her long flowing scarf, in a fast car ride, her scarf tightened a bit too much for comfort around her neck, being caught in the car wheels.
From 1940 – 1945 with World War 2, The British Scarf brand “Jacquar of London” started producing scarves with imaginative propaganda themes. They were out supplying silk to couture fashion houses around the world. When they saw a lot of cut offs that were produced, they started producing silk scarves, that were a big hit during the war. With the war, fabric supplies were often short, Jacqmar used off cuts from parachute silk as well as rayon and linen.
There were 3 central themes as a result of World War 2: 1) Military 2) Allied Forces 3) the home front
Post War now focused on victory themes in fabric and that progressed to more generic patterns evolving into florals and geometrics. From 1946 – 1955 the color palette changed to more vibrant and bold colors in wardrobes. A textile company again, saw the need of the times, “Ascher Company" and gathered 42 world known artists like Matisse, Picasso and Henry Moore combing the art world with scarves that contributed to the “Ascher Artists Squares.” What they did was make the fine art world unify with art and fashion. This created a stir and fascination with people, in a combo that was not done before like this.
The next stage for scarves came with the French company “Hermes” in 1937. They raised the level of the scarf into a high fashion accessory with celebrities like Queen Elizabeth, Helen Mirren, Princess Grace, Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn Sharon Stone, and even Madonna wearing one of their scarves as a halter top. I think Hermes is the only company that can testify to selling one of their scarves every 25 seconds (I’d settle for one every 24 hours!) By the late 1970’s, they sold more then $1.1 million scarves.
From the 60’s and currently we see Rock artists like Mick Jagger with silk scarves, Steve Tyler tying long scarves around his microphone and Stevie Nicks in long shawls and scarves spinning around on stage. Jimi Hendrix in his long head scarves, Bruce Springsteen with his famous bandana from “Born in the USA.” We can even see Dr. Deborah Brix In Healthcare in Trump’s administration wearing a variety of distinct design scarves.
On the runway, Stella McCartney (daughter of Paul and Linda) sending her models with headscarves, taken from the Queen on her Scottish country hideaway trips. Prada has used chunky knit scarves wrapped like chokers on very sleek tailored garments. Silk bandanas and headbands are all over the fashion runways appealing to both older and younger generations.
The spell that a scarf weaves is something that draws us in like honey to the bees. Just open a scarf with a distinct pattern and design and heads will turn. Recently at an outside café, I was showing some of my scarves to friends and the people at the table next to us were staring at every piece, till the wife commented to me if I had a card to view my scarves. I hope that my scarves can inspire you in these times, make you feel lifted up, empowered and like Audrey Hepburn or Mick Jagger, let people know your presence and turn their heads! Feel free to check my line of scarves out on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/shop/lenciciofineart