How to Buy a Scarf in Paris
It is arguably the most essential accessory of a French person’s ensemble: their scarf.
The French just wear scarves well, mais non? It’s a tried and true marker of French-ness, if ever there were one, and it dresses up any outfit, too. (No wonder the French are known for being so effortlessly chic.)
And, in France, scarves are worn by both women and men, so don’t let any retrograde gender stereotypes leave you from feeling you can’t join in on this joie de vivre-inducing activity of throwing your scarf over your shoulder after a fine meal at French café, and saying, “So, shall we head to the Louvre, or to Shakespeare & Co.?”
Before, during, or after your sightseeing, take a moment to enjoy the culture of France by honoring the timeworn French tradition of scoping, buying, and flaunting your oh-so-French new scarf (or, “écharpe,” in French).
History of the French Scarf
To know the history of the French scarf, we must first examine the history of scarves on the whole. Scarves have origins dating all the way back to ancient Egypt! It is said that Egyptian Queen Nefertiti used a scarf as her headdress around 1350 B.C., and from that time onward, it was a stylish fashion staple. However, scarves didn’t fully gain the worldwide popularity they enjoy today until the 1800s when they really made their mark.
In France, and around the world, scarf culture owes much of its credit to fashion house Hermès, which, in 1837, debuted its RTW (fashion shorthand for “ready to wear) silk scarf. As it does with many cultural endeavors (food, dance, art, etc.), the rest of the globe took a page from France’s playbook and everyone else – from Queen Victoria and more – began wearing scarves, too, to look a bit more fashionable, just like the French.
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Consider What Type of Scarf You Want
You need not be Queen Nefertiti or Queen Victoria to don your own stunning scarf. And scarves, like Queens, come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
So the first step of your shopping excursion will be honing in on what you want. (Or, do as I do, and let your gut be your guide – peruse the shops, and when you find one you like, snatch it up. It’s not a prerequisite to make your mind up before you go, of course)
If you’re someone who prefers some pre-planning, then this pre-shopping brainstorming will be essential. Think about length, size, style, color, material, et al., so you can prepare yourself to storm the streets of Paris and find precisely the scarf you most desire.
Long, full, bulky scarves are perfect for colder months and have the helpful bonus of fashion plus function. With a thick and chic scarf, you can cover your neck (and your head) to bundle up for an adventure, like a bike ride through Paris.
Where to Buy Scarves in Paris
Paris is one of the shopping capitals of the world. And this means that you can find scarves in pretty much any corner of the city. It boils down to what kind of shopping experience you want to have, and how much you wish to spend. You could spend as little as 7 euros, or as much as 7,000 euros on a scarf (like this one from Hermès).
For some, you may prefer a fancy department store or shop, like the iconic Galeries Lafayette or Hermès (the arbiter of taste for French scarves), or Louis Vuitton, or Chanel.
Galeries Lafayette, located in the 9th arrondissement, is a go-to store for high-fashion and offers a huge array of scarf choices. If you’re looking to splurge on your purchase, you can’t beat Galeries Lafayette.
Destined for the one and only Hermès? If so, you can find the store at its famous location on 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, which opened in 1880 as a workshop, and then later, in 1889, officially opened as the Hermès boutique. This fashion landmark has seen many celebrities pass through its doors, in search of their iconic orange scarf or the much lusted-after Birkin bag. A shopping trip to the Hermès boutique will put a substantial dent in your wallet, but the enjoyment of being stylishly dressed is priceless, right?
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For others, you might enjoy ambling along like a Parisian flaneur, and checking out little shops along more tucked-away streets, like Rue Mouffetard (where I bought my most recent scarf purchase) in the 5th arrondissement. One of the oldest streets in Paris, this lively road has a market, along with lots of eclectic and enticing shops and cafes. You could spend a whole day here.
Diwali is a popular scarf chain shop, and they have multiple locations throughout Paris. Diwali is also a great option if you’re looking for a mid-range purchase – not too pricey, and not too cheap. They have wool, cotton, and silk blends, in many different colors. You’ll recognize these charming shops by their robin-egg-blue-painted exteriors.
How to Buy Your Scarf
Many people in Paris speak English, but it’s important (and not to mention, polite) to first speak in French while in France. (If you’re someone who struggles with language, I recommend learning how to say “English” in the language of the country you are traveling in, and then say it with a question inflection. If the travel gods are smiling upon you, the person you’re speaking to will reply: “Yes!”)
Here’s how to say I would like to buy a scarf in French:
“Je voudrais acheter une écharpe.” (Phonetically: “Jeh voo-dray ah-shetay oon ay-sharp.”)
Here’s how to ask how much it costs:
“Combien coûte cette écharpe?” (“Combee-en koot set ay-sharp?”)
And, if you’re not crazy about the color. Ask if they have others:
“Est-ce que vous avez cette écharpe dans les autre couleurs?” (“Es-ke voos avay set ay-sharp don lays otre coolairs?”
And remember: in France, always greet someone who is assisting you with a friendly “Bonjour!”
Greetings in France are regarded as very important and are seen as a sign of respect.
How to Tie Your New Scarf
One of the most enticing things about scarves, especially scarves worn in France, is that there are practically limitless ways one can tie them! Video tutorials around the web, like this one from Nordstrom, are a great help to scarf-tie-ing beginnners looking to find the right tie and fit. And if you want a truly Parisian aesthetic, Vogue has you covered for teaching you the Parisian scarf look.
So, brighten up your year with a chic French scarf on your next trip to Paris! And come visit Fat Tire Tours, too, when you’re in town. We’d love to chat about French culture with you.
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