From religious or practical reasons, women have borrowed various outfits from men and have given them other destinations. Thus, scarves, originating in Ancient Rome, were initially called sudarium and was intended to prevent sweat from dripping down the throat. It was worn by men or wrapped around the neck or tied of the belt.
During Emperor Cheng’s time, such a scarf made of cloth indicated the rank of the officials of the Imperial Court. Nefertiti used to wear a scarf wrapped around the conical hairdo. The Roman Emperor Nero was seldom seen in public without a sudarium around his neck. Eleanor of Aquitaine used to wear transparent veil scarves, in the fashion of the Middle Ages, and in 1786, Napoleon Bonaparte gave as a gift to his first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais, a cashmere scarf brought from India.
Even the famous composer Beethoven wore a suit and a silk scarf when he met with Therese Malfatti, hoping that he would conquer her heart if dressed out of the latest fashion journal. In turn, Queen Victoria, once she ascended the throne, popularized a series of fancy accessories including the scarf, which was used in particular to distinguish an aristocratic class from another.
The scarf was the one that led to the death of the famous ballerina Isadora Duncan, considered by some the most famous dancer of the early twentieth century, who revolutionized the art of choreography. Isadora was seen everywhere wearing excessively long scarves, which she let fly in the wind while poetically posing. Ironically, these long scarves caused her death after one of them that was left hanging outside the car was wrapped around the wheel of a speeding car.
In 1914, knitted scarves were considered a symbol that every patriot had to wear during the First World War. By 1940, the scarves got to be made of cotton and wool. Fashion magazines encouraged women who did not have enough money for a new hat to make a turban from a scarf knotted around their head. This habit became very necessary for women who worked in the factory during the Second World War and who otherwise risked to catch their in the industrial machines: Tie your hair for your own safety, the government advised.
Hollywood divas did not miss any of the seductiveness of this piece. Audrey Hepburn once said: “Nothing better defines me better as a woman, a beautiful woman, than wearing a silk scarf.” Other stars such as Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly were often seen wearing this stylish piece of clothing waving in the breeze of the Riviera. With the increasing popularity of the automobile, in 1950, the shawls become critical for determining hairstyle and neck protection during travel.
After the Second World War, scarves became very popular, being engraved and used as insignia of airlines or hotels or as souvenirs for tourists coming from different corners of the planet. In 1970, it was very chic to wear a scarf under a vest or shirt.