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Wearing Turbans as a Fashion Accessory

Updated on September 29, 2014

History of the Turban

A turban is a long cloth or scarf that is wrapped around the head and worn as a hat. It can be made of any type of fabric. The word Turban comes from the Persian, dulband, and the Middle French, turbant. It meant tulle, muslin, or possibly tulip-shaped.

Turbans have a long history as cultural and religious headwear in parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Sikh men wear turbans to show they represent their religion faithfully. Many Muslims and members of other religious communities also wear turbans.

Wearing a Turban

Western women's fashion has embraced the turban for hundreds of years. This versatile headwear allows a woman to make a brilliant fashion statement, cover up a bad hair day, or keep herself warm. Turbans are also often worn by women undergoing chemotherapy as both a fashion statement and a means of keeping their heads protected.

The Story of the Turban

Wearing a Turban

“WEARING a turban demands confidence. You have to believe, truly believe, in your look. You have to commit.”

-- SIMONE S. OLIVER , The New York Times, November 10, 2010

Girl with a Pearl Earring and a Queen

The turban first came to the attention of Western women's fashion in the painting Girl with a Pearl Earring by Jan Vermeer. This 17th century painting was made into a film starring Scarlett Johansson in 2003. The painting is thought to be the first time the turban appears as a fashion statement on a European woman.

Commerce between India and Europe helped bring more attention to the turban. In the late 1700's Queen Marie Antoinette of France wore turbans and brought them into vogue as a fashion accessory. The queen's legendary sartorial influence led to turbans appearing on women in other European countries as well. Even after her death, turbans remained in style in parts of Europe into the 1800s.

Girl with the Pearl Earring


The Postman Always Rings Twice

Lana Turner wears a turban in The Postman Always Rings Twice
Lana Turner wears a turban in The Postman Always Rings Twice | Source

The Early 20th Century

In the early 20th century designer Paul Poiret – deemed “King of Fashion” in America and “Le Magnifique” in France – brought the turban back into fashion. Socialites and movie stars like Gloria Swanson and Greta Garbot wore Poiret's turbans. Swanson was particularly memorable in her turban as a desperate silent film diva in Sunset Boulevard (1950).

The turban made appearances in films of the day. Lana Turner most famously wore a turban in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). Turner played a married woman who gets involved with a drifter. Her character's dangerous allure was reflected in Turner's turban. Turbans made appearances in other film noir of that time.

Gloria Swanson

Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard
Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard | Source

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor loved turbans. She wore many glittering examples in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She wore some jaw dropping turbans, designed by Tiziani of Rome, in the 1968 film, Boom!

Reportedly, Taylor planned on wearing a jewel-encrusted turban worth more than 3 million dollars at her wedding to actor Jason Winters – a wedding that never happened.

Elizabeth Taylor in Boom!


The Modern Turban

In the 1970s Barbara Streisand also embraced the turban. By the '70s women tended to wear their turbans with their hair flowing out underneath. Streisand wore a dark, sophisticated turban to the premiere of The Way We Were.

In the modern era, stars like Kate Moss, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Salma Hayek have all worn turbans. Jennifer Lopez wore a sparkly gray turban to the 2006 MTV Movie Awards. Iconic fashionista Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) wore a turban in the 2010 film, Sex and the City 2.

How to Tie a Turban


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How to Wear a Turban

Since turban are created from long, flowing scarves there are actually many ways to wear them. You may choose to wrap their hair within the folds of the scarf or leave their hair flowing out from underneath the headwrap.

You can style a turban as everything from the most casual look – think fresh out of a shower or with jeans and a tee shirt – to the most elegant ensemble. After all, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Streisand, and Jennifer Lopez, among other celebrities, have worn turbans to fabulous red carpet events.

!0 Ways to Tie a Turban


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    • Teeuwynn Woodruff profile image

      Teeuwynn Woodruff 20 months ago from Washington State

      They are gorgeous versions of turbans.

    • Teeuwynn Woodruff profile image

      Teeuwynn Woodruff 20 months ago from Washington State

      They are fantastic!

    • profile image

      oustif 20 months ago

      thank you Lapita

    • Teeuwynn Woodruff profile image

      Teeuwynn Woodruff 20 months ago from Washington State

      Thanks for your comment, Lapita. Turbans are so cool.

    • lapita loun profile image

      lapita loun 20 months ago

      yes so interesting !! look at those turbans special ones !!