It is hardly a new idea: keeping warm with a shawl. But in the hands of designers, the new shawls bear little resemblance to the traditional across-the-shoulders shield from drafts.
When designers started inventing variations on ethnic looks (from Russian peasant styles to Peruvian Indians'), the shawl became an integral part of fashion. And with the acceptance of mixing patterns, shawls provide one more layer of design (not to mention warmth).
One advantage, obviously, of a huge colorful shawl -- new or old -- is that it can transform an outfit. There are those, in fact, who have opted for a shawl rather than a blouse or sweater as a wardrobe energizer. (The price of a fine wool Challis shawl is apt to be about the same as that of a new silk blouse or handknit sweater. There's nothing poor and grandmotherly about the current shawl look.)
Sketched here are several different ways to shape a shaw. We've skipped the obvious (like tied atop one shoulder) for the less expected ideas, borrowed from the runways of Yves Saint Laurent and Oscar de la Renta, and from the wardrobes of designers like Rosita Missoni, who wear them themselves.
Shawl collectors who bought their first huge wool challis squares some five years ago paid $60 to $100. Now the Missoni shawls (at Saks Fifth Avenue and Garfinckel's) sell for $150 to $200. The price tag on the Yves Saint Laurent shawls at Rive Gauche boutiques are $240.
There are, of course, many less expensive versions available.
Another option: Use that time watching all those pre-Christmas TV specials to make one yourself. It could hardly be simpler: You buy some fabric and fringe it.
But if you need more help, Hermine Dreyfuss, general manager of the G Street Remnant Shop, offers these suggestions:
Use any soft wool -- wool challis or wool crepe at least as long as it is wide. (Wool challis comes in 60-inch widths.)
Cut off the selvage, the tightly woven band on the edge of the fabric that keeps it from raveling.
Start to pull away threads form the edge of the fabric to get a fringe. Finely woven fabric is fringed most effectively with a pin; a more loosely woven fabric can be done with a knitting needle, and a mohair can be separated with fingers.
Make the fringe from 1/2 to 1-inch deep. (More than that risks knotting.)
Fine wool crepe or wool challis starts at about $16.95 a yard, so the fabric for a 60-inch wool challis shawl would cost about $30. (A similar shawl would cost at least twice that in a store.)