There are some distinct differences between a stole and a wrap. Though they fit into the overall category of shawl-type accessories, these similar garments do look quite different from one another. They also perform slightly different functions. A stole is typically thinner and narrower than a wrap, whereas a wrap is typically warmer and wider than a stole.
Both stoles and wraps are meant to be paired with dresses, though the wrap is occasionally meant to be more casual. A stole is generally donned while wearing a fancy cocktail dress or ballroom gown. A wrap may also be worn with such dresses, though it is also seen worn with sundresses or church dresses.
Stoles and wraps are both draped casually around the shoulders. A stole is typically worn just below the shoulders, while it slightly wraps around each bicep and comes trailing below the arms. A wrap, however, is generally made with much more material than a stole is. A woman who wears a wrap around her shoulders generally appears to be more informal and comfortable than someone who might be wearing a stole. A wrap can keep a woman warmer on a cool evening, while a stole probably wouldn’t give off such warmth.
Though not always, some wraps are sold as multipurpose garments. A wrap may be wrapped around the waist as a skirt, or even above the breasts as a tube dress. Much like a towel, the wrap can be wrapped around the body and tucked into itself for a tight fit. It may also be secured with a button or zipper, as if it were a skirt.
Patterned wraps, popular in many countries, have made a big impact on American clothing since the 1990s. Women have chosen to wear these wraps in place of a skirt, or as an additional piece to their overall outfit. While wraps aren’t always patterned, the patterned ones do add a nice splash of color to an otherwise drab outfit.
Stoles may be patterned as well, though it’s not as common. They are typically one color and made of a pricier fabric than wraps. While wraps are constructed of cotton or linen, stoles are generally made of silk or chiffon. Because a stole's fabric is so much lighter, stoles are often treated with much better care than wraps. Stoles may also be made with the fur of a fox or other animals, though they aren’t as common as they were in the mid- to late-1900s.