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How to Tie Rectangular Scarves: 5 Genuinely Easy Methods

Scarves can be intimidating to people when they don't know how to tie them, and articles like "99 Ways To Wear a Scarf (That You'll Never Remember)," "A Dozen Scarf Ties (That Will Earn Your Scout Merit Badge in Knot Tying)," and "How to Replace Any Piece of Clothing with a Scarf (If You're a Hot 20 Year Old Going to Coachella)" are not very helpful to the vast majority of us. What we need are just a few simple go-to techniques that will get our scarves out of the closet and into our outfits this winter.

So today I am continuing to show genuinely easy ways to wear a scarf based on the YouTube tutorials by Nancy Nix-Rice of the Strategic Style blog. I hope that by the end of this post (and Nancy's short videos), you will know 5 ways to tie a rectangular/oblong scarf!

Previous post in the series:

Let's start with her YouTube video "Tying Rectangular Scarves with Nancy Nix-Rice / How to Tie a Rectangular Scarf - Part 1 (6:17)" and I'll show some OOTD that demonstrate how some of these ties look in various outfits.

Nancy starts by folding the scarf loosely into thirds lengthwise to control the fullness, but I generally pick up one corner of the scarf and pull the length of the scarf out so that instead of having blunt ends, my two scarf tails are pointed. This pulling removes some of the fullness but perhaps not as much as Nancy's method. What works best probably depends on the scarf itself (fabrication, weight, etc.) and your own preferences, so feel free to try it both ways.

Method #1: Single Overhand Knot with Other End Pulled Through

Nancy recommends this as a more sophisticated alternative to the square knot, in which the ends can "wonk out funny" when you tie it. This is a technique I first saw on this video, and I think it's a really easy option for any oblong scarf. If you use her tri-fold method, she advises that you make sure the two loose ends are offset from each other so they don't form a hard horizontal line across the body. With my point ends method, it doesn't seem to matter as much. You can also chose strategically where to place the knot. She also shows a variation that shortens the length of the scarf ends so they don't dangle so low in the front. I had actually forgotten this tip so I need to try it...though I wonder if it works better on lighter weight scarves.

Here I have used the single overhand knot technique with a medium weight print scarf in a relatively stiff fabric. This outfit would be pretty basic on its own - olive sweater, olive utility jacket, skinny jeans, olive ankle boots - but with the scarf, it feels fun. I tied the scarf this way so that it would be long and voluminous, maximizing its impact against the plain backdrop of my clothes.

In this outfit, the scarf is only one of several accessorizing elements, and as it's a more lightweight scarf, it was easier to keep the volume lower than in the previous look. I purposely tied the knot low so that the scarf forms a V shape framing my necklaces.

Another very basic outfit is jazzed up with a print scarf. This time the colors of the scarf do not pop as brightly against the background, but I used a thin but quite large scarf that has a lot of volume when tied so that it makes an impact. The scarf on its own would have produced an outfit a little bit too bland for me, but in conjunction with the cheetah print Oxfords, I liked it.

Method #2: Through the Loop (aka European Loop)

This is a technique that a lot of people know because it's a very popular way for women and men to wear outerwear scarves with coats. It's extremely easy to tie, it works well even with very heavy outerwear scarves, and you can control how closely you want the scarf to envelop your neck for warmth. Nancy calls it "perfectly simple, perfectly basic."

I am wearing a pashmina scarf in the European loop in this outfit, and the scarf's volume is well controlled. Also notice that the double ends of the scarf drape down slightly to one side so that one rabbit on the sweater is hiding and the other is exposed. If I wanted both rabbits to show prominently, a different tie would be required.

Method #3: Through the Loop Variation - Lovers Knot

I also first saw this technique on Nancy's video, but I think that when I do it, I finish a bit differently. I place the first end through the loop as she does, but instead of then twisting the loop and bringing the second end through, I pull the end over the loop and stick it in the other way. Aha, my variation is apparently called the Pretzel Knot! Here's a 0:25 video from Lands End that shows it. The resulting tie is extremely similar so I'd recommend you pick whichever method feels easiest/most natural to you.

As you can see in that LE video, this knot gets BIG when you have a heavier scarf. It's actually really nice for wearing under a coat in freezing weather because it ties close to the neck and covers a lot of real estate that might be exposed by your coat. But for indoor wear, I tend to stick to light-to-medium weight scarves for the Pretzel Knot to keep the volume smaller and the warmth factor more moderated.

Here are two examples from my OOTD archive using lightweight scarves. You can see I tied the knot tighter on the pink scarf at the left compared to the watercolor scarf on the right.

In this instance, after tying a loose fluffy version of the Pretzel Knot so that the tails were shorter, I twisted the whole scarf around so that the dangling tails of the scarf were offset to the side, leaving both rabbits exposed.

I have not tried the variant she shows where she twists the scarf before putting it around her neck and pulling the ends through, but it does appear to do a great job at reducing the volume around the neck and creating a different look.

We'll finish up with Nancy's second video on rectangular scarves: "Tying Rectangle Scarves with Nancy Nix-Rice / How to Tie a Rectangular Scarf - Part 2 (3:31)."

Method #4: Loop to the Front With Ends Loose

Nancy arranges the scarf in this technique in a much more measured, meticulous way than I do! I start with the scarf around the back of the neck with both ends dangling to the front, one end much longer than the other. Then I wrap the long end once around my neck until I have a loop and two tails at the front, and I adjust it as needed. Nancy's method creates a neater appearance, and my method produces a more casual, haphazard look, but you can probably get to your desired point on the neat<-->haphazard continuum using either method by futzing with the scarf until it looks right to you.

Because the loop in the front can easily be pulled down significantly from the neck, I find it suitable for warm (not hot) weather, as in this example with a lightweight scarf. I like several things about this tie with this outfit: (1) much of the scarf's print is on display and (2) it provides good coverage over my top, while (3) the scarf ends don't hang so long they overlap the skirt. When you have a plain top, a print scarf, and a print skirt/pants, this can be a nice way to go.

With a thicker scarf and the loop closer to the neck, it also works well for cold weather. Here I get the benefits of both the warmth at the neck and having the two ends (themselves with the fun sloth print showing well) framing my graphic T.

Method #5: Loop to the Front With Ends Brought Through

Learning this technique has been a game-changer for my scarf wearing this fall and winter! Nancy recommends this tie for a more secured scarf and an overall more "nailed down looking" vibe. She also points out that this moves the scarf tails toward the center front as opposed to the wider stance you get using the untucked technique (Method #4). I am a fan of this method because you can fine tune the volume around the neck, the length of the scarf ends in the front, and the overall fluffiness of the look. It's easy, versatile, and looks great - what's not to love?

In this outfit, I tucked the light-to-medium weight scarf ends through the loop once, securing the scarf but leaving a nice long vertical line of scarf down the front. This also filled in the area open area left by the vest, which was handy in this outfit with two prints on top. To my eye, wearing the scarf this way reduced the visual tension of having the somewhat mismatched leopard print overlapping the stripes in front. (I am still lacking a scarf with both brown and olive in it, despite having approximately 8.57 gazillion scarves, so the ivory was the only shared color in the print mix.) I prefer how it looks here with the prints a bit more visually separated: stripes down the arms and leopard print in front. I pulled the scarf ends somewhat loosely through the loop so there is a bit of volume to the area around the neck, which helps increase the scarf's visual impact framing my face.

This time I made one tail of the lightweight scarf longer than the other before I brought both tails through a couple of times, enough to shorten the scarf to above the waistband of the skirt. I pulled them through fairly tightly to rein in the volume around the neck. The differing tail lengths created this more asymmetric look. I fluffed the ends up a bit give the scarf a subtly ruffled effect. I loved how the outfit turned out with the scarf worn this an updated asymmetric jabot.

Here I took a pashmina scarf and pulled the ends through a lot of times, drastically shortening the length of the tails in front; I wanted to leave much of the print blouse visible beneath the scarf. By pulling through fairly tightly, it helped control the volume around the neck (which can be significant with these heavy pashminas).

This is another example of a heavy woven scarf with the ends pulled through multiple times...done to bring the tails up above the elephant motif on the sweater. This time I didn't pull them as tightly so there is more volume around the neck.

In this final outfit, I wanted the pink/red part of the scarf to frame my face rather than the black/olive part, so I used Method #5 both to situate the scarf as I wanted it and to keep the placement secure. It stayed in place all day with no fussing.

Nancy shows additional variations on this method, including a fluffy ascot effect and a fluffy bow tie version. (These ties are a bit short-and-poofy for my typical outfits, but they may work very well for someone with a different style.)

I also am sharing an updated version of my list of reasons to wear scarves. Em at Dust and Doghair suggested #16 in the previous post's comments, which caused me to think of #17 (which is a factor especially on FaceTime, since the angle is always the very least flattering possible one). As for #18...well, that one speaks for itself.

Wearing a scarf can...

(1) Make an outfit look more polished/finished;

(2) Direct attention up to your face;

(3) Allow you to put unexpected color combinations together and link them into "fashion-right" combinations;

(4) Give you a flattering long vertical design line down the center of the body;

(5) Frame an image/motif (e.g., rabbit) on the front of your top, bringing attention to the cutest part of your look;

(6) Repeat a print motif from another part of the outfit;

(7) Fill in a gap created by an open topper;

(8) Add more color to the outfit;

(9) Tone down a strongly contrasting top and jacket that might otherwise overpower your coloring;

(10) Repeat a color from another part of the outfit;

(11) Create a print mix;

(12) Shift the overall value of the outfit (i.e., its lightness or darkness);

(13) Add warmth;

(14) Add a print to an otherwise solid outfit;

(15) Serve as the "third piece" to jazz up a look;

(16) Obscure a turkey neck;

(17) Obscure a double chin;

and very importantly...

(18) Add a rabbit print to an outfit!

Are any of these methods familiar to you? Are any of them new? Do you ever wear rectangular/oblong scarves? Do you have a go-to technique?

Blogs I link up with are listed here.

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