Recently I made a cowl necked dress which made me notice cowls everywhere and I am loving it. Cowls are one of the great details that came about as a result of draping techniques and by using bias. This style creates really lovely silhouettes and is a beautiful feminine detail. Cowls looks can be achieved by applying a mock cowl onto a garment neckline or by the more costly method of sewing a real cowl.
Cowls can literally be on every area of a garment because it is created by adding fabric to an area to create a loose, falling drape. I particularly love cowl skirts and a sexy low back cowl. I think the reason cowls are so intriguing is because the fabric is allowed to moved in an organic and shifting way depending on the movement of the body.
A different type of cowl is a drapey and thick circular scarf. This style is perfect for winter in cold areas because they are thick enough to cover your neck without the threat of it coming unwound like a knit scarf. These cowls are derivative of a turtle neck collar only a lot looser and much cuter.
This design is gorgeous and one of the more feminine details you can pattern. Cowls are best used with silky fabrics that have a beautiful hand, (hand is the way fabric feels to touch). Fabrics with beautiful hand that is perfect for draping due to the ease they fall. A fabric with great hand will feel like water in your hand similar to silk charmeuse.
*History lesson alert: ok you can stop reading if you don't want to learn about a little fashion history*
The cowl was developed by Madeline Vionnet when she was experimenting with bias. Before the 1920s cowls were not created. I know, you might be thinking "That is totally wrong roman women wore tunicas that look like togas and have cowls" but those folds were really created from the massive amounts of fabric draped onto a body.