Written by Bertie Bowen


Glad Rags

Our writers are celebrating the sartorial items that put a smile on their mush. Bertie Bowen is all about the piece that makes her feel relaxed in her own skin.


The thing with clothes is they are never just clothes. They are our uniform, our armour, our self expression. They hold memories and emotions. Asked to write about my favourite item of clothing or jewellery I jumped at the chance. I love talking about clothes, it’s my favourite topic, my ‘specialist subject’ if I was ever, god forbid, on Mastermind. But choosing one thing was a near impossible task. When it comes to clothes, I am fickle.

I like to think my clothes have longevity and, it’s true, the staples in my wardrobe do. The jeans (Levi’s 901), the long sleeved merino wool tops (from COS of course), the boots and shoes (Dr Martens) but they’re all so boring, none of that stuff stands out. None of it has a story. I look at my phone (procrastinating) and a photo of my daughter on my home screen gives me the answer. The one item I’ve been wearing for more than 10 years now, the multifunctional piece in my wardrobe that revives a dull outfit, that provides protection from the elements, that even solves the dreaded bad hair day – which is 90% of my days. Of course, it’s obvious! It’s the thing that my friends associate with me, the thing that makes me easy to spot in a crowd and the one thing that doesn’t change with my ever-evolving style: my trusty headscarves.

headscarf winterMost of my scarves are vintage, picked up in musty second hand bargain bins for £3, but they are the most hard-working item in my wardrobe. I have big silk scarves for sweaty summer days when I need to wrap my fizzy mess of curls up and off my neck. I have warm woollen scarves to keep my ears toasty when I’m walking across windy Hackney Downs. I have the colourful ones for when I am feeling like I need to be noticed (I blame my middle child status) and the interesting ones to distract from the fact I’m in a bad mood (or have a blatant hangover). I have different ways of tying them too, they can completely change the entire look of my outfit. A headscarf has saved me having to wash my hair on countless occasions, letting me stay in bed 10 minutes longer. And if I am honest this last reason is probably the main reason I wear headscarves. I am innately lazy.

I have an image of myself as an eccentric elderly lady in a devastatingly stylish outfit, something vintage, something effortlessly cool (and I’m carrying a beautiful Celine bag – given this is a dream). I’m wearing an audacious scarf, like an ornate crown on my head and I am relaxed, content in my own skin. My ambition in life is to achieve this pure self confidence.

If I had to pick one scarf it would be a delicate green scarf my mother gave to me as a child. I’ve always been fond of it, even if I very rarely wear it. This was the scarf I tied round my daughter’s head last summer to protect her from the sun when I’d forgotten her sun hat. And it was the photo of this moment that helped me write this article. Handing down the scarf to the next generation I realised it also represented the one thing I hope to achieve by old age, the one piece of advice I want to hand down to my daughter: Accept yourself, be confident and be bold. Wear headscarves.



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Written by Bertie Bowen

Stylist, writer and mother living in East London. A clompy shoed, curly haired, Radio 4 enthusiast. www.mothershoppers.com