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What is the Difference Between a Stole and a Wrap?

By Mandi R. Hall
Updated May 21, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By myharley — On Jul 11, 2012
When I think of a stole, I think of my uncle who is part of the clergy. Whenever he wears his robe, he always has a special clergy stole he wears with this.

For him, this is just part of what he wears when he is in front of the congregation. They are usually make of a silk material with emblems on them that represent special meaning.

By LisaLou — On Jul 11, 2012

@bagley79 - I am just the opposite and enjoy dressing up whenever the occasion calls for it. I am one of those people who feels more comfortable dressing up than I do wearing a pair of jeans.

I haven't worn a stole very often, but love wearing them. They make me feel very dressy and classy at the same time. I have a mink stole that I bought for myself a few years ago, and look forward to wearing it every chance I get.

I don't usually see a lot of other women wearing them, but I think they give a unique look that adds a special touch.

By bagley79 — On Jul 11, 2012

I don't usually like to dress up very fancy, but once in awhile a special occasion comes along where it is required. There has only been one time in my life when I wore a stole and I don't plan on wearing one again.

This was a silk stole that matched a cocktail dress I was wearing. I felt like I was constantly trying to keep the stole around my shoulders without falling off.

I guess I am too practical of a person to enjoy wearing something like this. If it would have added some warmth, it might have been better, but I felt like it was just all for looks with no practical purpose.

By John57 — On Jul 10, 2012

I have never worn a stole, but have more than one wrap I like to wear. I always get cold in the summer in buildings where the air conditioning is turned down low.

A wrap is perfect because I can wear it for extra warmth when needed. If I get too warm, it is easy to take off without worrying about wearing extra layers of clothing in the summer.

When I go outside in the sunshine I don't need the wrap. I have found this to be a very versatile part of my summer wardrobe. Most of my wraps are made of a solid color so they will match with whatever outfit I am wearing.

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