How to style handbags with silk scarves for work

Decorating handbags with silk scarves isn’t a new idea, but you might not have thought through all the different ways of tying them. And many people don’t realise how to use scarves to upgrade bags that they use every day for work.

Below we go through all the different ways you can style your handbags with silk scarves for work.

Choose the right size for the scarf

There are many different scarf sizes you can use to decorate your handbags, and they all deliver slightly different looks. Three of the most common scarf types are a twilly, a large square scarf or a long rectangular scarf.

A twilly is a long narrow scarf, and the classic size from Hermès is 5x85 cm. The advantage of a twilly is that you don't have to make an effort to fold the scarf before tying with it, so it's very practical and easy to style.

The most common large square scarf is 90x90 cm. These scarves give a fluffy look and have to be folded before tying with them. If you have a large scarf with different patterns and colours on it, just a slight change in how you fold it can make it look like a new scarf, as different colours are visible when you tie it.

Long rectangular scarves can have any size, but the longest side is usually 90 cm or longer. They can be used much in the same way as square scarves, but you fold them differently, which gives them a different look from a square scarf.

Folding the scarves before tying

As mentioned above, the twillies do not need to be folded first, so you skip this step and go straight to the tying.

The square scarves can be folded in different ways, but one of the most common ways to get the most out of the length is to put it down and move two corners into the middle and then keep on folding pieces towards the middle until you are left with 5 to 10 centimetres to tie with.

Long rectangular scarves cannot be folded the same way, so you would just roll or fold them inwards until you have the right width.

Pick colours that match the bag or complement it

White silk scarf tied on a taupe work handbag

You can get very different looks with different bags depending on what colours you pair them with. A more conservative look often comes from mixing in similar colours as the bag with either grey or white. This can be a very good way to make a bag more playful without clashing with a conservative dress code for work.

But if you have the chance to wear something more colourful, choosing a complementary colour to the bag often makes it pop. This means pairing blue and orange, purple and yellow, or red and green. 

It's not always clear cut, and you can pick scarves that have a small part of the pattern in an accent colour and the rest relatively neutral.

Pull a twilly around the top handle of a bag

Black laptop bag with twilly tied on the top handle

The easiest tie for a bag is to use a twilly around the top handle. You start by tying a knot in one end of the handle with a small piece of the twilly hanging loose. Pull the rest of the twilly around the handle until you have covered the entire handle and only have an end piece left to tie to the other end. 

Try to match the lengths of the twilly hanging from each side of the handle so they're roughly the same. You can adjust this by having more or less space each time you fold it around the handle on your way over.

If you’re not used to the look or just want to try out how well a scarf looks on your bag in an office environment, this is probably the best tie to begin with.

Fold a long silk scarf around the bag’s top handle

You can tie a long silk scarf around a top handle the same way you tie a twilly, but you must fold it first. A full scarf will take more space and make the handle thicker, so you might have to hold it tightly as you fold the scarf around.

  1. Fold the scarf as shown in the video above
  2. Tie a knot around one end of the handle and let 5 to 20 cm hang loose
  3. Fold the rest of the scarf around the handle to cover it all the way across to the other end of the handle
  4. Tie another end knot and leave as much of the scarf loose as you did for the first knot on the other side

If you are using a normal scarf you already have and didn’t get one specifically for decorating handbags, this is the best tie to use.

Silk scarf tied on a black work handbag top handle


Hang a silk scarf from the side of your handbag

Long silk scarf hanging from side of large handbag

You can also use a more casual knot where you have a large part of the scarf flowing freely from one part of a handle. You can choose to fold the scarf so it's relatively narrow, or you can allow it to be looser, meaning it will take more space and look less neat.

Tie a double knot with the scarf on one end of the handle and leave the rest loose. A good rule of thumb is to choose anywhere from tying it in the middle or down to having 25% on one end and 75% on the other.

Make sure none of the ends of the scarf hangs so far down that they will touch the ground when you use the bag.

This style is better in an office where you can wear more free flowing types of dresses and skirts.

Wrap a silk scarf around the shoulder strap of your bag

Silk scarf wrapped around long handbag shoulder strap

You can also use a scarf to tie it along a long shoulder strap. Since a shoulder strap is often longer than a top handle, you might not be able to cover all of it, so parts of the strap can be visible between each turn.

Fold the scarf into one long rope (from the video above) and tie it with a double knot on one end. Then wrap it around the shoulder strap until you get it to the other end.

The shorter the scarf vs the strap, the fewer times you can fold it around.
Finish on the other side with another double knot.

Use a long silk scarf as a shoulder strap on a bag that doesn’t have one

Silk scarf used as a shoulder strap for a handbag

You can also use a long silk (or any other fabric) scarf as a shoulder strap for a bag that doesn't have one. Make sure that the scarf is strong enough to carry the weight of the bag and that you have somewhere to tie it.

A good place to tie the scarf can be below a flap. With this method, you first fold the scarf until it has the width you want. Then tie the two ends together with a double knot and take the knot under the flap. When you close the flap, you should be able to hang the bag on your shoulders with the scarf.

If your bag already comes with hardware on it where you can put a shoulder strap, you can just tie each of the ends of the scarf to these.

Follow us on Instagram to see more styling tips for work handbags and sign up to our Women in Business Newsletter to receive a monthly email with helpful articles, book recommendations and weekend tips.

find your tribe on instagram

Join us for Fun, Feminist, Fashion!