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Differences Between a Scarf, Shawl, Evening Wrap and Stole

Learn about the subtle differences and show off your fashion savvy 


Elizabetta Perkins

3 min. read

So, what is the difference?

There is a fair amount of confusion about these terms and no wonder as they are frequently used interchangeably.

So, what is the difference?

There is a fair amount of confusion about these terms and no wonder as they are frequently used interchangeably.

Both scarves and shawls are used for functional and decorative purposes

All four terms represent finished pieces of fabric that are worn as a fashion accessory, either as a decorative element or as a wardrobe essential, or both at once. They can be made from natural fibers such as silk, cashmere, wool, cotton and linen, or man-made fibers such as acrylic and polyester. They can be square, triangle or oblong shaped.

Often natural and man-made fibers are used in the same scarf; for example, a metallic gold (man-made fiber) thread may be used to embroider a wool (natural fiber) scarf.

And, of course, scarves and shawls are worn by both men and women.


Can be thin, long and rectangular: think of a typical winter wool scarf that you wrap around your neck. It can also be square: think of a ladies classic silk scarf or foulard.

In other words, the term is usually used to describe a fabric item that can be wrapped or tied around your neck for warmth and or style.
Scarves can be casual or formal and everywhere in-between.

Confusion of course reigns as many people call an evening shawl an evening scarf, or a wool shawl a wool scarf.

Types of Women's Silk Scarves

Here are the 3 most common sizes

Classic Silk Square Scarves

Luxury Italian silk scarf for ladies

Also known as foulards are typically 35" x 35" and can. be worn in a variety of ways.

See ourstyling guide here.

In the 50s and 60s this size was made famous by Hollywood divas and other famous women and has become popular again today as it is so versatile and elegant.

Shop the Vittoria

Long Silk Scarves

Italian silk fashion scarf

Are rectangular and can be styled in various ways around your neck or head or draped over your shoulders and belted.

Not to be confused with a shawl or stole, which are wider.

See our guide onhow to style a long silk scarf

Shop the Monique

Small Square Silk Scarves

Italian silk bandana scarf for women

Are called bandanas, neck scarves or neckerchiefs.

Try one tied around your neck, or around your head as a head cover or headband. Tie one on your purse handle to add a punch of color to your outfit, tie one around your ponytail or braid it into a braid, or tie one on your belt loop for a fun dash of color.

Shop Neckerchiefs

Types of Men's Silk Scarves

Below are the 3 most common types

Silk Neckerchiefs

Best silk neckerchief for men

Also known as large silk bandanas. Often worn by men as an alternative to neckties, bow ties, cravats and ascots. In fact, they can be folded to look like an ascot or day cravat.

Dapper and versatile.

Here is our guide on how to wear a neckerchief for men.

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Long Silk Scarves

Best Italian silk scarf for men

Oblong shaped and long, depending on the pattern, they can be worn as a dress scarf, tuxedo or opera scarf or motorcycle scarf.

This is one of the best accessories you can wear that will set you apart.

Shop Men's Dress Scarves

Wool Lined Silk Scarves

blue paisley handmade Italian silk scarf with wool back

Classic, yet hard to find, these silk scarves are backed with a fine-weight soft wool to add some warmth while giving your outfit refined elegance.

A must-have for the discerning gentleman.

Shop Men's Scarves
Elizabetta shawls and wraps made in Italy
Elizabetta shawls and wraps made in Italy
Elizabetta shawls and wraps made in Italy


The term refers to a larger piece of finished fabric, usually rectangular, but sometimes triangular or square in shape that can be wrapped around the body.

A shawl can be purely decorative, used to accent an outfit, or functional, as in a woolen shawl to keep you warm. A shawl can have a specific purpose as in a prayer or liturgical stole.

Often they are used to cover bare shoulders in formal and evening attire, being decorative and practical at once.

Shawls are a highly versatile addition to your wardrobe as they can be made from a variety of fabrics from sheer silk chiffon to heavy wool.

Products from left to right: Esmeralda, Dafne, Uffizi

Turquoise sheer silk evening wrap for dresses


Similar to a shawl, usually rectangular in shape. The term probably derives from the ancient Roman stola, which is the woman's version of the men's toga.

The term stole today is usually used to describe a formal or evening shawl, made of an elegant fabric like silk. Stoles usually are not fringed.

The word stole is also used to
describe a wide decorative sash that is draped over the shoulders as in a graduation stole or a liturgical stole.

Luxury Italian wool scarf
Blue Large Lightweight Soft Italian Wool Scarf
Luxury Italian wool scarf

Italian Wool Scarves

At Elizabetta we make fine, soft, lightweight wool scarves that are printed with beautiful patterns for both men and women.

They keep you warm without the bulk so are a great addition to your cold weather wardrobe.

Oversized Square Scarves

These extra large silk square scarves are usually 55" x 55"(140cm).

They can be worn as a headscarf, wrapped around the shoulders as a shawl, worn around your neck in many different tying techniques or worn around the waist as a hip scarf. In short, a large scarf that can also be worn as a shawl.

When made from wool they are often called blanket scarves, meant to be worn as a shawl mantle in the cooler months.

When made from silk they become a versatile addition to your wardrobe because they can be styled in so many ways.


A "wrap" is a modern term which is used to define everything: scarves, shawls and stoles. It's not a terribly descriptive word because of its loose definition, but, it is a word that many people use nowadays.