Have you ever wondered, what is a shawl? A shawl is one of the most versatile pieces of clothing you can own. When styled well, shawls can create an elegant, pulled-together look with a special twist, perfect for a classy evening cocktail party, a casual afternoon by the beach, or a glamorous weekend brunch.

Much similar to women’s scarves, the possibilities are endless. By understanding the various ways you can wear a shawl, you can elevate and expand your wardrobe without buying any extra pieces. 

Read on as we explore how to wear a shawl in five unique ways, including as a wrap, as an accessory, and as a headpiece. 

#1 Drape It Over Your Shoulders

The easiest way to wear a shawl is just to throw one over your shoulders. Not only is this a simple, no-fuss way to cover up a wrinkled shirt, but it’s also an effective way to elevate an outfit, particularly if you choose a shawl that features a bold pattern or high-quality fabric, such as cashmere, wool, or silk. 

Try these tips and tricks for an over-the-shoulder option: 

  • Add a belt – If you have a roomy shawl that drapes like a poncho or sweater, cinch it at the waist with a belt to add proportion and shape to your outfit.1 Make a statement with a thicker, patterned belt, or choose a slim, black belt for a timeless look. 
  • Stay minimalist underneath – While there are ways to pair an eye-catching shawl with an already busy base outfit, consider layering the shawl over something simple, like a white shirt and jeans or an all-black getup. Neutral colors will ensure your shawl pops rather than getting lost in a sea of patterns. 
  • Tie it in the front – If you’re planning on sporting a dazzling slip dress to the beach, don’t forget to take a shawl with you, too! If you are familiar with how to tie a scarf, you can easily tie a shawl. You can wrap it around your shoulders and tie it in the front with a simple knot to add dimension to your outfit. A light breezy shawl can also protect your shoulders when the sun is out and provide you with a bit of extra warmth in the evening. 
black shawl

#2 Play with Symmetry

Rather than keep the shawl centered at your back, you can style it asymmetrically to create dynamic and unique textures throughout your outfit. 

To achieve this trendy look, think about wearing your shawl: 

  • Over one shoulder – Bring out your inner fashionista and drape your shawl along one shoulder, like a sash that doesn’t cross your body. Then, use a belt to secure it in place. To really make a statement, you can play around with contrasting fabrics and shapes, such as a fitted wool dress with a chunky cashmere shawl.
  • Wrapped around the chest – If your shawl is on the thicker side, wear it like a poncho and pair it with some slim pants and chic knee-high boots. Your shawl is the perfect substitute for a cozy, thick sweater, keeping you warm as the days turn cold. 

These outfits are perfect for casual gatherings when you want to dress a bit nicer. Nothing is easier than throwing on a shawl, and the unique combinations created by the folds and patterns will be effortlessly stunning. Example occasions for your asymmetric getup include: 

  • A walk around town 
  • An upscale lunch
  • An outdoor birthday party

You can even take advantage of this asymmetrical style when choosing your work outfits. If your office is on the more conservative side, think about toning down the colors of your shawl and choosing a lux fabric, such as cashmere, wool, or silk. For example, you can pair a solid-colored gray cashmere shawl with an all-black base outfit for a powerful and professional look. The block colors and asymmetric pattern are sure to turn heads. 

#3 Turn It into a Scarf 

Another easy way to elevate an outfit is to wrap your shawl similar to a silk scarf. If you are familiar with  how to wear scarves, depending on the fabric and weave of your shawl, it can also be worn in a variety of seasons. 

For Sweater Weather

When it’s brisk and windy outside, some extra fabric around the neck can be a lifesaver, keeping you warm and cozy as you brave the chilly weather. The simplest way to style your shawl as a scarf is to throw an end over one shoulder, bring the fabric around the nape of your neck to the back, and then toss it over the other shoulder. 

Knitted white vest with incorporated shawl

However, with a thicker shawl, there’s a ton of room for creativity. Try out these styles for a chunky shawl scarf look:2

  • Uneven tail – Rather than letting both ends of the scarf hang evenly at the bottom, wrap one end around your neck multiple times to create depth, and let the other side hang long and loose. If there’s extra fabric on the shorter side, you can bring it to the other shoulder to knot your square scarf.
  • Infinity scarf – For those chilly mornings, you’ll want all the warmth you can get. Loop your shawl in a closed circle around your neck like an infinity scarf. Don’t forget to tuck in the ends to complete the illusion. Pair it with a long coat or oversized jacket to create a classic look. 
  • Large kerchief – To turn your shawl into a large kerchief, create a triangle of fabric in the front, cross the two tails in the back, and then bring them to the front to tuck in under the triangle. Pay attention to contrasting patterns when you style your shawl in this way. A neutral black or cream colored kerchief against a tastefully patterned sweater is sure to steal the spotlight.

For Summer Weather

For those easy breezy summery days, opt for a thinner shawl. Pair it with a flowy long sleeve blouse or light knit top, and you’re ready for any occasion. 

In the summer, think about choosing one of the following fabrics to keep cool:3

  • Linen
  • Cotton
  • Viscose

#4 Knot It in the Back

You can style a lace or silk shawl for a classy affair by wearing it like a top over an open back dress.1 Pull the shawl across the front of your body and knot it near the small of the back. 

This style looks particularly stunning with a partially see-through shawl. Stick to lightweight, drapey fabrics rather than a heavy material that might slip off. You can choose a lace shawl for extra texture or opt for a pashmina scarf, made from finely spun cashmere, for added warmth. 

For tips on how to wear a pashmina, try the following: 

  • Keep it light underneath – Since the pashmina scarf already has some weight to it, avoid wearing an outfit with copious amounts of folds and fabric or sweaters made of a heavy, thick weave. Instead, pair your pashmina with a sleeveless slip dress or a fitted blouse and long skirt for an elegant, pulled-together aesthetic. 
  • Play with variety – One of the most exciting parts of a shawl is that you can mix and match fabrics to create unique, stand-out textures. With a fine cashmere pashmina, stick to other high-quality fabrics, such as silk or linen. 

It’s Not Just a Knot

When you wear your shawl like a drapey outer layer with a knot in the back, how you tie the knot matters. In fact, the knot can be the centerpiece of your whole outfit while also drawing attention to any interesting dress designs along your back. 

For tips on how to tie a shawl properly for this look, consider the following: 

  • Keep it even – Nothing ruins a classy, elegant look more than a messy sideways knot. To create a neat tie, try crossing the right tail over the left, then bring the left tail around the top and through the middle. Pull evenly on both sides.5 
  • Tuck in the tails – For a sleeker, minimalist look, think about ditching the tails completely and just leaving the knot itself. To do so, double knot the shawl tightly and then tuck the tails back under the knot. You can also keep it secure by using a couple of safety pins on the inside of the shawl. 

#5 Sport it as a Unique Headpiece 

Finally, consider wearing your shawl as a headscarf. Choose one with a pattern or hue that pops next to your hair color. To style the shawl, fold it in half, center it on your head, and wrap it around your neck.4

Ideas of how to make this look your own include:

  • Throw on a pair of oversized sunglasses 
  • Choose a cozy wool or cashmere shawl for winter
  • Use a lace shawl for an unforgettable beach outfit that doubles as sun protection

Karen Kane: Ethically Sourced Comfort and Beauty

No matter how you choose to wear your shawl, you can use this versatile piece of clothing to elevate an outfit for any occasion. Plus, by choosing shawls in various colors, patterns, and fabrics, you can create an entirely new wardrobe for yourself by using different varieties of women’s scarves.

Ready to add shawls to your closet? Shop Karen Kane. Our quality clothing and accessories are sustainably-sourced and beautiful. Try out our cozy Sweater Shawl or our lux Cashmere Blend Shawl featuring a bold fringe. 

At Karen Kane, we only use the finest materials and craftsmanship in our clothing, so you can feel good while looking good. Create your dream outfit today with Karen Kane. 


  1. iDiva. 5 Super-Easy And Stylish Ways To Wear A Shawl This Winter. https://www.idiva.com/fashion/how-to/super-easy-and-stylish-ways-to-wear-a-shawl-this-winter/18004452 
  2. Real Simple. 11 Tips for How to Wear and Tie a Blanket Scarf. https://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/shoes-accessories/how-to-wear-a-blanket-scarf 
  3. VStyle. How To Wear A Shawl aka The Oblong Scarf. https://vstyleblog.com/how-to-wear-a-shawl-aka-the-oblong-scarf/ 
  4. Love to Know. How to Wear a Shawl. https://womens-fashion.lovetoknow.com/How_to_Wear_a_Shawl 
  5. Daily Mail. 'This is life changing': Fashion expert reveals her VERY easy trick for tying a perfect knot in your shirt - and three ways to style a basic white blouse. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-8613937/Melbourne-fashion-blogger-reveals-easy-trick-tying-neat-knot-shirt.html 
  6. Verily. 4 Chic Ways to Get Wrapped Up in Your Blanket Scarf. https://verilymag.com/2015/11/elegant-ways-to-belt-your-scarf-and-instantly-update-outfit