From Elisabeth, author, and my belle soeur in every sense of the word !
"Why do French women love scarves ?”, Lisa asked me…"Mmmhhh… Well… " I said, "Let's think about it…"
There are two words in French for scarf. One is écharpe, from which the English scarf is derived. It is much longer than wide and is worn around the neck or over the shoulders.
The other is foulard, which originally designated a type of fabric: a very light one, made either of silk or cotton. Hence foulard also means a piece of that fabric, almost always square, worn around the neck or over the head, en pointe, ie folded in a triangular shape. Whereas men will wear une écharpe, they will never wear a foulard.
Now, the question is: why do French women (and men?…) love them?
First of all, forget Hermès. Well, all right, not completely… What I mean is that you do not have to spend a fortune to get a nice scarf, whether it be un foulard or une écharpe. High-end brands are wonderful, of course (outstanding silks and amazing designs which take over a hundred hours of work just to be drawn on paper), but there are plenty more, which are definitely more affordable. And: any piece of beautiful fabric bought at a fabric market and sewn at home, by you, will do. I tend to become dizzy in fabric markets, a syndrome difficult to live with (aka the scarf syndrome). I cannot help myself. I will confess that the piece of silk I bought last spring to make a scarf at Marché Saint-Pierre in Paris has not been hemmed yet, although I have worn it as is. My most unforgettable memory of scarf-making is having - fifteen years ago when I was living in the US - to sew together back to back (and yes, in blood and tears) one piece of velvet and one of very light silk, purchased at a fabric market in Boston (I still wear it). And I love the memory of that store which unfortunately does not exist anymore.
One can never have too many scarves. Consider the facts: one must admit that they do not take up a very big amount of room in a drawer. They open up new horizons when bought for or during a trip, they carry memories, they can be passed down from one generation to the next (écharpes are one of the few items of clothing that can be passed down from father to daughter or from grand-father to grand-daughter), given as presents at any time of the year, they easily fold in a handbag when not needed. We entrust them with our favorite personal colors, they are our signature. We can always find, for those of our scarves we want to part with, someone who will love and adopt them so that they can have a second happy life, well cared-for.
They come in hundreds of fabrics and colors, they adapt to all seasons. Silk, cotton, muslin, rayon, cambric, linen, wool, cashmere….. With pompons, sequins, beads, pearls, embroidered or plain, with or without fringes. They can be knitted at home. Colors and designs offer limitless possibilities, not to mention, if you are in a less is more phase, plain black , plain white or plain ivory. As an article of clothing, scarves do have one notable defect: a scarf (foulard or écharpe) can attract attention and be a bounty for some who will not hesitate when spotting a lovely fabric loosely worn over the shoulders without being secured by a knot in front. Same thing for men's écharpes….
The purchase of a scarf will reconcile you with yourself immediately (in case you had not been on the best of terms lately). Scarves set off the face when tucked in the collar of a coat or raincoat, or wrapped over the coat around the neck, they frame the face when worn loosely on the shoulders over a sweater or a blouse or a shirt, they highlight any jacket or dress, help us dress up or down. They keep warm in winter, and dipped in water when hiking in summer will help us ….walk (or climb…).
And: they keep you company. Any time, particularly when traveling. Adapt your scarves to your travels, colors and all. Places, cities, bring different colors and different fabrics to the mind, depending also on the seasons - what would go best with Virginia? Or the Canyon de Chelley, Boston, Beijing, London, Montreal, Provence, Normandy or Paris? Definitely not the same scarf .
Scarves highlight travel, even the shortest of trips, to the country, to go fishing, or a ride to the beach. And while in an airport waiting-room when your flight is delayed and they tell you that the aircraft will be there shortly – we all know it means you are likely to wait between thirty minutes and three hours – your scarf will comfort you, wrapped around your neck. All you need then is a cup of hot tea or coffee and something to read (given we unfortunately cannot board airplanes with our needles and scissors any longer…).
Yes, scarves. And, also, shawls !!!… But that is another story….