This is a season with a good deal of neck action going on: polos, chokers, pussy bows and, of course, the scarf – 2016’s most ubiquitous accessory. The neckerchief, however, is never not in evidence – either it is having “a moment" or it is cruising along as a classic. Meanwhile, the interpretations imposed upon it are as myriad as scarves themselves – one minute it is rock chic, the next air hostess; boho luxe or campily conservative.
Personally, my love of this fashion fetish knows no bounds. Indeed, in a bout of sartorial OCD, I currently boast 86 and counting. I know this because I engaged in a comprehensive inventory when tidying guru Marie Kondo visited my wardrobe in the spring. Asked which “sparked joy", I could honestly say all – for nothing quite inspires cheer like a scarf.
First off, they’re practical. I’m always cold when travelling, far less so with a portable blanket to bury myself under. A large cotton one can also double up as a sarong when you’re on the beach or round the pool. Scarves lift a non-inspiring outfit – a flash of silk providing instant zip and novelty. When my mother was dying, I lived in scarves for comfort and morale. Plus, one size fits everyone, so no faffing in the changing room.
Scarves make a sterling way for mere mortals to buy into a spendy brand without sacrificing all their worldly goods. Accordingly, while I’d love an emerald lace Gucci frock and gold loafers, that’s not going to happen any time soon. However, the ravishing silk square I picked up in an outlet store, and the nautical number I secured from Lovely’s Vintage, means that I‘m au courant fashion-wise without breaking the bank.
I must also admit to an Hermés fixation – my Big H carrés scarves are the most exquisitely beautiful things I can (not quite) afford to own, while being a bona fide fashion icon since 1937. I find myself almost hoping to break a limb, so that I can adopt one as a sling à la Grace Kelly.
However, you needn’t spend the earth – I have found eBay to be a brilliant scarf source. And, if you’re going on your summer holidays, then don’t forget to scour the duty free. Zara and ASOS are dazzling purveyors of neckwear – a tip for high-street scarves is to buy two and layer them on top of one another to create a more luxurious bulk. Just make sure that they’re cloud-soft – nobody wants an itchy neck.
Whatever the price, I get to spin my fetish as both eco-sound and penny-pinching. After all, back before mass production, the principle behind dressing could be summarised as fewer clothes, more scarves. A contemporary of Audrey Hepburn recalled that, as an impoverished chorus girl, Ms Hepburn boasted “one skirt, one blouse, one pair of shoes and a beret, but she had 14 scarves. What she did with them week by week you wouldn't believe.” And which of us doesn’t want to be just a little more Audrey?
7 ways to wear it
Over a dress and under a belt
Pictures: Getty Images, Rex Features and Victoria Adamson