Accessories

Style Obsession: Souvenir Scarves

Happy day, reader dear!

Not for nothing, this is an obsession post… Who can say where these obsessions come from? It might be something simple like a fad we are seeing grabs me by the neck and screams PAY ATTENTION! I’ve been obsessed with lots of different fashion items over the years, but this month’s installment is particularly Lizitive. I don’t expect anyone else to appreciate my whim or even understand it, but right now I am obsessed with Souvenir Scarves.

You may never have seen one in your lifetime! BUT… I bet you’ve seen her household relation, the souvenir tea towel AKA: souvenir dish towel. You know, those strangely illustrated country, state, or city textiles that you find in souvenir shops across the world. Well, the tea towel’s more sophisticated (Not really!) sister might be the souvenir scarf.

These gems have been around for decades. I’ve seen some as old as the 1920’s, but those are few and far between! Most of the oldest were produced for expositions and events. Souvenir scarves grew in popularity starting in the 30’s and got a boost during WWII, with (another relation) propaganda scarves. Women heading off to work for the war effort often wore these. Some of these same companies also manufactured scarves for GI’s to send to their sweethearts. What’s a manufacturer to do after the war? Turn toward souvenirs, of course!

My obsession began a few months ago when I was scouting Ebay for a silk scarf. Yes, that is something I do with some regularity. If you’ve been with me a while, you’re not surprised. Scarves are my thing. Well, lots of things are, but many people think of a scarf as my signature. Long before Covid put the kibosh on in person networking, someone called me out, I didn’t know it was you… Where’s your scarf?, at a meeting. You can bet I made sure to wear one the next time!

I’m good with scarves being my signature. Combine that signature with my frustrated love of travel and last year’s pre-loved shopping resolution and presto! Somehow this obsession with souvenir scarves was born. Which meant that when I was planning my Spring Capsule Wardrobe and ran across this one:

I simply had to make it mine. This modern version was very inexpensive (I think the shipping was more than the scarf!) and is 100% Polyester. Some souvenir scarves are silk. Vintage scarves are often rayon, or a silk and rayon blend. Some are cotton bandannas. The sizes vary, from Bandanna/neckerchief size to about a yard square. For a video about common scarf sizes, check this out!

United States

Here are some vintage American lovelies! I want that 1939 New York World’s Fair scarf! And the one from Florida! It’s funny how even though I wouldn’t purchase a modern scarf in that NY colorway, as a vintage piece, I love it, and would make it part of an outfit any day! You name the state, there’s probably a scarf for it. Yes, Ohio, I am talking about you… Vermont, too!

The black one sold a few minutes after I saved this. I didn’t notice bidding was closing. 🙁

Mexico and Central America

I know there’s a connection between these beauties and Franklin Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy…

Europe

How much traveling have I done in Europe? And why did I never buy one of these? Sigh. I bought plenty of scarves, because they are small and easy to pack, but I always thought of these souvenir scarves as too kitch. I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate them when I had the chance! I’m glad I don’t take myself so seriously anymore and can have fun with a little bad taste!

On holiday and Ebay are not the only places to find these babies. You can bet that next time I see an Estate Sale sign, I’ll pop on my mask and pop in to look for any souvenir scarves that might be found! I’m not drawn to scarves depicting places I’ve not visited, but you can bet I’ll find something that catches my eye. It’s the long game, peeps…

How About You?

What’s your take on souvenir anything? Do you collect when you travel? What do you collect? Or gift? I buy my friend shot glasses. She buys me spoons. It’s a long and sordid tale, but now our children have taken on the tradition… Ah, travel. Someday that season will come again? Where would your dream vacation take you? Where might your next getaway take you? Do tell! I could use some inspiration. And maybe I’ll just find a scarf…

It’s probably time to plan another staycation!
Stylishly (and stuck-in-placedly) yours,

10 Comments

  • Andrea Andresen

    We buy key rings and use them as Christmas tree ornaments. Great remember whenss? when we’re decorating and undecorating the tree each year.

    • Liz K

      Love this! We have quite a few keyrings on our tree as well! Along with keys from the houses in which we lived… They are such great memory triggers!

  • Sally in St Paul

    I have never purchased a souvenir scarf, but the pink one you’re wearing is styled adorably. My souvenir collection has two components:
    1) Small (quarter sized) pins that I covered a bucket hat with. I have gotten most of these from parks and birding locations. Now that the bucket hat is covered, I stopped buying the pins.
    2) Christmas ornaments! I put up a tree about every other year, and I do like revisiting previous trips when I hang up souvenir ornaments.

    • Liz K

      I LOVE souvenir ornaments, Sally! I’ve seen the pins everywhere, and wondered what to do with them. Now I know! When we lived overseas, rather than pins there were often similarly sized little curved plaques with two holes (and corresponding nails) to decorate walking sticks. I loved seeing people with their decorated sticks!

    • Liz K

      I love to collect jewelry when traveling, too! It’s also small and easy to pack, with the bonus of a memory of the trip every time you put them on!

  • Bettye L Rainwater

    What DON’T I collect? I like to call it “vintage across all categories.” Clothing, linens, dishes, chairs, American and Asian pottery, lamps, mirrors, luggage (though in all my moves I’ve let go of all but one cuz they take up a lot of room), monogrammed silverware (though this is missing in a box somewhere), teapots/teacups, crystal candlestick holders, Christmas ornaments, frames…and a newer collection is Maneki-neko (the waving Lucky Cat figurines you see in Chinese restaurants). I’m sure there’s more I’m just not thinking of right now. So many of my non-essentuals are packed away in boxes.

    Right now my #1 dream vacation is Japan. I’m pretending to plan this trip for my daughter and I for NEXT fall (2022). We’ll see how far I get. If I make it, I’ll be sure to look for a scarf for you!

    Bettye
    https://fashionschlub.com

    • Liz K

      I’m going to remember that “vintage across categories”! That sounds like a great many people I know… Asian potter sounds lovely, I’ve had periods of my life when I’ve been obsessed by Asian art, especially the colorways. I should have known that the little waving cat figurines had their own name. Even if Japan can’t happen, you can always do a Japanese Staycation! (We “went” to Capri last summer, and it was lovely! LOL) There are SO many places in the world I haven’t yet seen; I’d love to be traveling again. We will again in another season. Hope the silverware makes an appearance again sometime soon!

  • Bettye L Rainwater

    I LOVE SOUVENIR SCARVES! And I’m not much a scarf wearer, I just don’t have the knack or I feel like I’m playing dress-up or SOMETHING. I’ve gone through phases where my style suited scarves more, but…it’s been several years now. And I was gifted a TON of scarves when I lost my hair from chemo a few years back. A TON.

    One friend’s mother gave me probably 30 vintage scarves she’d been wanting to let go but…couldn’t quite bring herself to do it…but when she learned I had an actual NEED for scarves (head-covering), she sent them all my way…and many are just delightful. Some touristy location-specific ones, some like…cowboy/cowgirl ones or sailor ones or…I can’t remember them all, but were truly treasures.

    I TRY to do things like tie a scarf to a purse strap but…I can barely remember to brush my teeth some days, I’m gonna change out a decorative-only scarf on a purse every day?? Ha, NO. But it’s a lovely thought.

    And just a hop over from kitschy vintage scarves is…vintage printed and embroidered handkerchiefs, of which I ALSO have a ton. These are CUUUUTE. Little chicks, little dogs, Dutch girls, flowers, monograms (I don’t care if they’re not mine). And these I always keep one of in a purse just in case. And I should send some to my great-niece, she’ll probably like playing with them. Otherwise, they’re (and the scarves) just filling a big drawer (and tub).

    And just a skip over from vintage hankies is vintage APRONS (will this never end? No. it will not). You know, the tie-around-the-waist kind. I have several dozen at least, frilly ones, cute floral ones, apple green with brown, pink and purple argyle, red and white polka dot…just thinking of some of my favorites. These are also in the drawer. I did sell quite a few of these on ebay back in the day but I always held onto favorites. To sit in a drawer. Which is SAD.

    Don’t even get me started on vintage table linens (sigh, many of which were ruined when an apartment flooded, OH THE HEARTBREAK).

    I have to stop. I may have to start a second comment cuz you asked a ton of questions and can I pass on an opportunity to answer questions and talk about ME? No. No, I cannot.

    Bettye
    https://fashionschlub.com

    • Liz K

      So glad you didn’t pass on the opportunity, Bettye! You made my Monday AM! There ARE so many treasures to collect. I don’t mind others’ monograms either. We have lovely old linen napkins with varying monograms. Linens, and aprons, and hankies, oh my! (But I’m such a mess in the kitchen that my aprons must have a bib area to protect my tops.) There are just so many lovely things to accumulate. And to lose like you did in the apartment flood. Sigh. Ebay is a dangerous place for collectors…

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