Growing up in India, I learned to always keep a shawl or light cotton dupatta on hand for unexpected drops in temperature, too-cold settings on air-conditioners, and as a modesty scarf when taking a rickshaw home at night in Delhi. This is a habit I’ve carried with me through life and across the world, especially for this time of year, but it’s always a challenge to find a shawl that fits the bill. I’ve tried dozens, but they tend to either be too coarse or too wispy, or not warm enough, or the size of a narrow scarf, not an actual shawl. I like something I can wear around my neck but also drape around my body.
After plenty of trial and error, I found my shawl of choice: the J.Crew cashmere oversize wrap. I initially ordered it because of its size (it’s large but folds down to an easily portable size that fits in my regular, over-the-shoulder purse) and because the cashmere looked sturdy. I usually shy away from cashmere because I fear it’s too delicate for my everyday life, but I gambled here — and am glad I did. I currently have the shawl in burnished crimson but plan to buy a few more colors because it’s 50 percent off right now.
The cashmere is soft and light, almost like muslin, but in a way that seems like magic, it’s not flimsy at all. The shawl doesn’t pill easily, even though I’m not very careful with it. I’ve been known to leave it on the sofa at night and drape it over my knees while I read. I also toss it across my children if they’re cold in the stroller — I don’t know the exact dimensions, but it’s big enough to go across them both when they’re sitting side by side – and because it’s the rare cashmere piece that I don’t have to be precious about, I don’t panic if the wheels accidentally roll over it. I have spilled hand sanitizer on it, my kids have touched it with fingers sticky with apple juice, Goldfish crumbs have adorned it — I just wipe things off with an unscented baby wipe and the shawl looks good as new.
Despite all the wear and tear, it’s still the perfect way to look somewhat pulled together for harried morning school drop-offs. On slightly colder mornings, I can wear this scarf over whatever crumpled shirt I have on and get complimented by the other parents in line, and it also looks elegant draped across my shoulders while outdoor-dining later in the day. A lot of nonsynthetic shawls tend to leave behind a layer of fibers on whatever you’re wearing, especially if it’s black or white, which means also toting along a lint roller, but I never have that problem with this wrap.
I have neither an office job nor a very active social life, so I don’t often need to worry about what I’m wearing, but this shawl and a quick swipe of my favorite lipstick lets me make the switch from shabby to chic with my favorite amount of effort, both for what I put on and for maintaining its condition: almost zero.
The only thing I may have to worry about with it now is losing it to my husband. He borrowed it the other night to wear as an oversize scarf and looked as dashing in it as I do.
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