What is 3 Ways or the Highway?

When considering a new purchase, it is important to set some ground rules. The rules apply to anything we add to our closet! As a reminder, the rules are as follows: (1) Style the item in question 3 unique ways. (2) 15 minutes to create each look (3) Weigh all the looks and the store/brand/cost and decide if the purchase is versatile enough to be worth it. Start the clocks.


Scarves and face masks are fast becoming a necessary accessory, but that requirement doesn’t mean we have to be reduced to an indistinguishable pair of eyes when we go out - they represent an opportunity to lean into individuality and help create a little slice of fashion history. While this statement may sound dramatic, rest assured that we are actually in the midst of a “Miranda moment” in the making. If we look back at sartorial history for a moment, we find plenty of examples where daily garments represent political statements — increasing vegan and sustainable fabrics to advocate for animal and climate rights, the Palestinian keffiyeh as a symbol of solidarity, 1940s shoulder padding in women’s clothing as they entered the workforce for the first time alongside men and needed to physically expand their frames.

Today, scarves are more popular than ever as a makeshift tool for protection, but can also be seen as responses to some of the failures of our healthcare system and government to act sooner and more decisively. I for one find hope in individuals sharing sewing patterns, homemade masks, and scarves, as we all see to protect ourselves and each other during an exceptionally difficult time.

With that in mind, this month we’ll be styling a scarf to make this sort of statement, while also keeping an eye towards which styles will be sustainable even in better times. A bunch of my favorite vintage Instagram accounts have been active during shelter-in-place, and most of them are small businesses trying to merely stay afloat. One of my favorites is Awoke Vintage and they have been posting a bunch of great scarves and styling them as tops as well. Awoke Vintage is one of the vendors on Thrilling, a super well designed, easy to use, vintage store aggregator. I searched that site and decided to see if I should buy this scarf:

The Item 411

Source/Brand: Thrilling is an online, curated marketplace for popular vintage clothing shops all over the U.S. You can shop by item or by thrift store, and they add new items everyday. This is definitely a great option to discover individual stores and support them, especially during the current economic downturn. The scarf itself is by designer Nina Rucci from Hotbox Vintage in South Pasadena, California. Their current tie-dye curation is another big favorite of mine right now.

Cost: This scarf is $60 and you can get 10% off at Thrilling if you sign up for the newsletter. This scarf happens to be one of the more expensive ones available — Awoke Vintage in particular and other stores on Thrilling were on average in the $25-35 range. Thrilling also offers free shipping for orders over $75.

Design: This is a square silk scarf, 34” x 34”. The quality is listed as “Very good”. I liked this design because it has a unique image on it, relatively period-agnostic print, and can be dressy too if needed.

So! Should I buy this?

"3 Ways or the Highway" Rules

Before adding items to our closet, each one has to go through these 3 rules:

  1. Style the item in question 3 unique ways (call me out if I cheat)
  2. 15 minutes to create each look
  3. Weigh all the looks and the store/brand/cost and decide if the purchase is versatile enough to be worth it.

Start the clocks.

Outfit 1

Thoughts while creating this outfit:

  • My first desire was an outfit to feel somewhat like my “normal” self — going to work or casually hanging out at a friend’s place over the weekend.
  • I wanted to create another “fake outfit” (as discussed last week, aiming for an outfit that is looks elevated but prioritizes comfort just as much). Putting a slightly oversized blazer over any outfit is one way to do this — it is a magic trick where you have an “outside" outfit and then when you step through the door and toss it on your clothes chair, you are instantly in your “inside” outfit.
  • I imagined myself pairing this with a knit stretchy t-shirt underneath, and harem pants. The best harem pants are made of jersey material, breathable, loose, and cuff at the ankle. More interesting than a basic pair of jeans and not as constricting.
  • Get that scarf over your face to top the look off. I would angle this piece in particular so that the roses are showing. The silkier textured scarf is definitely harder to keep stable, which is the priority in all of this - that is a bit of a hesitation for me so I will be watching a lot of tutorials, and taking tips from hijab tying and methods for tying silk scarves at night to retain moisture.
  • White sneakers appeal to me more for this outfit because, when taken together, it reads as fresh and a way to brighten the outfit.

Outfit 2

Thoughts while creating this outfit:

  • Awoke Vintage has been posting a lot of scarves as tops in their stories and that served as my inspiration for this second outfit. It looks glamorous, breezy, and artsy - and I am always tempted to be that person on beach vacations. Alas, my guess is that this look might be tricky given my bust size, but I think it would work for women who feel comfortable with or without a bra. Still, I can wish and try it out for when the opportunity presents itself.
  • My vision for this was an easy outfit to pull over a swimsuit before or after a swim, for heading to lunch or walking around someplace that where it doesn’t feel appropriate to only be in swimwear.
  • One hesitation I do have is the silky material reacting to water. With the print and darker colors there may not be obvious water stains like a cotton piece, but hard to tell if water would ruin the fabric. This would be trial and error.
  • You can also tie this scarf on your head or in your hair when you don’t need it as a top, keeping hands free for summer fun.

Outfit 3

Thoughts while creating this outfit:

  • The “scarf-around-the-neck” look seems like an obvious choice but it is the hardest one for me. The moment I knot that piece of fabric around my nape, I feel like an outdated air hostess - and even worse, as if the huge knot and two pieces coming out from the side of my neck are going to scare others.
  • I found at least one image of a person wearing a scarf around their neck that didn’t look like this, but instead tapped into an amount of bohemian and easy I liked - sacrificing adding a head to the collage in the process!
  • I found myself looking for a summery cotton dress to provide contrasting materials to the outfit, as well as a casual feel.
  • The main things I liked in looks I found: the scarf positioned to the back, looking like a choker instead of scarf; off the shoulder jacket with the dress popping out above and below; layered jewelry under the scarf.
  • I tried to replicate this with a strappy A-line cotton dress that isn’t snug on the figure. The looseness helps with the bohemian vibes, which the orange dress didn’t quite have for me. The scarf was a different print altogether from the dress, but together they meshed well; perhaps working together because they share an earth tones color palette. Once paired with a new texture for the boots with a similar mossy color, the outfit started to read like a quilt… an aesthetically pleasing combination of multiple pretty patterns, as opposed to each individual item desperately trying to contribute to the outfit alone.

Final verdict

Seeing these outfits together:

  1. Versatility: The versatility for this scarf is mediocre, which is my stance on all scarves as of now. I do not know other ways to wear them other than the three above and while they are technically three very different looks, two of them are near-neck/face techniques that may be treading slightly too similar to each other to be considered truly versatile.
  2. Would I wear all the outfits created?: I would definitely love to wear all the outfits created but I have some doubts about the feasibility of Outfit 2. That said, I do love the print and style as an outfit enhancer.
  3. Is the price worth it?: The price feels high for the uses cases identified above. While I admire good fabrics, I don’t need this level of quality to serve as a face mask or a top at risk of slipping off, when there are good and more practical alternatives.

While the answers to the questions above are positive, I feel these outfits are highly dependent on the items worn on top being extremely specific and unique. I feel if I didn’t have items that draped exactly like that blazer or had the same fit and colors as that jacket, the outfits might not work. I need to do more exploration with them, and the 15 minutes per outfit was not enough to convince me.

I will be passing on this item, but continue to look for ways to support vintage clothing businesses.