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What is the Difference Between a Stole and a Wrap?

A stole is typically a formal shawl made of luxurious fabrics like silk or fur, worn draped over the shoulders. A wrap, on the other hand, is larger and more versatile, often used for warmth and can be made from various materials. Both add elegance to an outfit, but do you know which one suits your style best? Discover more as we unwrap the details.
Mandi R. Hall
Mandi R. Hall

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 are commonly paired with cocktail dresses.
Stoles are commonly paired with cocktail 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.

Wraps are more casual garments than stoles.
Wraps are more casual garments than stoles.

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 made with the fur of animals.
Stoles may be made with the fur of animals.

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

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.


@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.


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.


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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    • Stoles are commonly paired with cocktail dresses.
      By: Maridav
      Stoles are commonly paired with cocktail dresses.
    • Wraps are more casual garments than stoles.
      By: micromonkey
      Wraps are more casual garments than stoles.
    • Stoles may be made with the fur of animals.
      By: Subbotina Anna
      Stoles may be made with the fur of animals.
    • Stoles may be worn with a formal dress.
      By: Geo Martinez
      Stoles may be worn with a formal dress.