As the temperature dips, it’s natural to reach for a familiar sweater, fuzzy blanket, warm jacket, cozy shawl or beautiful stole to ward off winter’s chill. But have you ever stopped to consider the difference between a shawl and a stole? Many often use these terms interchangeably when describing wearable wraps, but there really is a difference between a shawl and a stole. Let’s take a closer look:
All about shawls: Although it may be a surprise to some, shawls can be worn by men or women. A shawl is a large piece of fabric that is draped around the shoulders and wrapped around the body. Shawls can be worn for ornamental purposes, to add a layer of warmth to a casual or formal outfit or may also be worn for religious purposes. Shawls were once made mostly of wool and used simply to keep warm, but their use and the materials used to craft them has changed over time. Shawls are traditionally larger than other types of wraps, generally being sized about 30 inches by 80 inches, although some designs may be larger or smaller.
The details of stoles: Stoles are considered a more formal and elegant version of a shawl. Frequently narrower in size and usually made of more expensive and lighter fabrics such as silk and cashmere, stoles are used to cover the shoulders and accent more formal attire such as evening gowns and cocktail dresses. Since stoles feature less fabric and are a different size than shawls, they are worn wrapped around the shoulders or arms only instead of encompassing more of the body. Stoles can be rectangular or square and come in a variety of sizes. Although stoles may provide some warmth, their limited coverage makes them more decorative accessory than true outerwear.
But what about a scarf? Smaller than either a shawl or a stole, a scarf – which can be worn by a man or a woman – is usually worn around the neck. Whether it’s a long, warm wool scarf that accompanies a winter coat or a beautiful silk scarf that accessorizes a lovely outfit, a scarf is a not a larger wrap but a smaller accessory item. Scarves can be incredibly casual or very formal depending on the material from which they are crafted.
Simply put, a wrap is a piece of material that is worn wrapped about the body in some way. Wraps can be made from a variety of materials including silk, wool, cotton, cashmere, linen and even polyester or acrylic. Shawls, stoles and even scarves can all be correctly called wraps, but understanding the true difference between shawls and stoles is useful whether you’re shopping for holiday gifts or looking for something special for yourself.
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