Why (and How) I Wear Tablecloths as Scarves

The home department is one of my favorite places to shop for outerwear.
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Elaheh Nozari
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The home department is one of my favorite places to shop for outerwear.

I had been on the hunt for what one friend calls an "overwhelming" scarf since I first spotted one a few years ago during my junior year of college in France. It's called this because of its extra thickness and length as compared to its thinner, shorter counterparts. The woman I saw wearing it wasn't an enviable Parisian, but a Dutch professor who taught medieval history every day in fur-lined parkas and shawl-like wraps that looked as if she had pulled them from the couch on her way out the door. Her scarves looked cozy, but not nubby, and despite having bold patterns, matched each of her nautical-shirt-plus-skinny-jean outfits. The look was bulky chic. Despite being on a tight budget, I was determined to get one, even if I had to get creative and experiment.

I should start by pointing out how to identify an overwhelming scarf. What makes it dominate is sheer surface area, in both length and width. You should be able to wrap it around your neck two to three times. And an overwhelming scarf is different from an ordinary one because it can be worn in other ways, not just on your neck. It should cover your elbows and shoulders so that it can easily transition into an indoor shawl, a cape-like cover up, or a headscarf.

Tablecloth as a cape copy.jpg

I’ve searched everywhere for a scarf of overwhelming proportions, but the closest I got was a maroon cable-knit, wool scarf from the Gap in 2011 that was long enough to wrap around my neck three times but too skinny to cover my elbows.

Tablecloth worn as shawl copy.jpg

I had given up the hunt until I stopped by Anthropologie’s home department to browse bohemian tchotchkes for my new apartment a few weeks ago. I gravitated toward the fabric hanging on the wall. I wasn't sure if I was looking at blankets, tablecloths, scarves or a just petting a part of the store display. The thick, non-itchy prints could mismatch nicely with my own sweaters, I thought. A few minutes later, while waiting for a sales associate to do a price check on the Ribbon Weave Tablecloth, I had a moment.

Scarf with military jacket copy.jpg

I had found my overwhelming scarf -- it was bulky enough to cover my chest and tuck my hair into its folds when wrapped around my neck. After wearing the tablecloth a few times in public, I went back to Anthropologie to see what else I could find in home goods. The tablecloth led to a table runner, and now I’m hooked on both. To top it all off (pun intended, wink, wink), I’ve even received compliments from incredulous admirers who respond, “Wow, really?!” when I tell them what my prized accessory really is.

Yes, tablecloths make great outerwear.

Do you have any linens you sport as ready-to-wear?

Photos by Ellen Doernberg