Differences Between A Scarf, Shawl, Stole And Wrap

Often when we talk about fashion, some of the terms tend to get us confused like the difference between a scarf, shawl, wrap and a stole. Essentially, all the four terms represent finished pieces of fabric that are worn and can be made from a range natural fibers like silk, cashmere, cotton or man-made fibers like acrylic.

For the last decade, scarves has been the most popular fashion accessories, but it is not the only option to keep you looking chic and warm. The similarity between these four often can confuse even the most fashion savvy woman.

Let’s see what is the difference between Scarf, Shawl, Stole and Wrap:


pink embroidered pashmina scarf

The versatility a scarf provide is the reason why it is so popular, infinity scarves, small headscarves, and fuzzy crocheted scarves can be found just about anywhere.

They are made of plaid flannel or fancy silk, and they still get the job done while looking great. Scarves come in all sizes from the traditional foulard style to giant squares of fabric that come closer to a shawl.

pattern pashmina shawl

Scarves can be long and thin, typical winter wool scarf, pashmina scarf or they can be square like a classic silk. 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 wear with casual or formal and everywhere can suite with most clothing attire.

Size of scarf normally varies from 10cm -40cm in width and 120cm – 200 cm in length.

Scarves comes in different varieties, below are descriptions of some:

Small square scarves are called bandanas or neck scarves and are made up of usually silk or cotton and is very light to wear. A bandana is normally around 19” to 20″ in the square size. And a neck scarf is larger, around 26” square.

Oversized Square Scarves are 47”- 55” square and sometimes may even be larger so can be worn as headscarf, wrapped around the shoulders as a shawl, worn around your neck in many different tying styles or can worn around the waist as a hip scarf. A large scarf can be worn as a shawl and can give your style an upper hand factor.

Classic silk square scarves are the traditional women’s fashion scarf and are usually made of silk. It’s versatile size i.e. around 35” to 36″ square, that can be worn as a headscarf or around the neck or waist, styled in numerous ways. These scarves were made famous in the 1950s by Hollywood divas.

Long or oblong scarves are thinner rectangles which are usually worn around the neck or draped over your shoulders and belted and styled in various ways. These are less wide than shawl and made from wool, they keep you warm in the winter, muffler style.


metallic pashmina shawl

A shawl is a finely finished piece of wool fabric that is quite large in length and may be shaped as a rectangle, square, or even an oval. They are usually big enough to be wrapped around the shoulders more than once. Shawls too can be anywhere from casual, such as those worn on a daily basis, or more elegant, matching a formal dress or outfit.

Shawls are worn by both men and women. A shawl can be purely decorative, used to accent a traditional outfit or are used for prayer. They are made of wool or another warm fabric to keep you warm and comfortable during winters, by wrapping around one’s shoulders and upper body parts. They are also used to cover bare shoulders in formal attire, thus they are not only decorative but practical as well. Shawls are a highly versatile and practical addition to anyone’s wardrobe.

embroidered pashmina shawl

The main feature being that it is wide enough to offer ample coverage from the elements, be it the biting winter cold or a chilly breeze. It is mostly 100X200 cm in dimensions but can vary according to brand and the length is mostly double the width.


summer pashmina stole

According to Oxford dictionary, a stole is “a woman’s long scarf or shawl, especially of fur or similar material, worn loosely over the shoulders”. This is generally a lighter and fancier version of the shawl or can be described as a formal or an evening shawl.

A stole is often narrower than a shawl, almost always taking the form of a long, thin rectangle. It may be made of pashmina or silk, or other materials like artificial fur.

pure pashmina stole

The term stole is derived from the ancient Roman word ‘stola’, which is the woman’s version of the men’s toga. The term “stole” is also used for the narrow and long drape over the shoulders specifically by students during graduation ceremonies to denote the specific school from which the degree is being conferred.



It is just a modern term to describe both shawls and stoles, wrap generally serves the same purpose as both of these. A wrap is a more casual fashion accessory and can be made any finished fabric, the term is an interchangeable word that covers any loose outer garment or piece of material that can be wrapped around the upper body.

No matter what you call them, these finished fabrics will not only amp up your style but keep you warm on colder days.

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