What makes a neckline work for you?
I used to think your best neckline was to do with your face shape. Yes, that does have a bearing on it, but there are some other factors that also impact a great neckline. For example, the width between your shoulders, proportion of shoulders to hips, your bust, your neck and whether you have curvy or angled features. It could even be connected to the material, pattern and your underwear as well. (We all know the difference a great fitting bra makes.)
So, if you’ve been given a rule that “you can’t wear that neckline”, I suspect it may be a bit too limiting and you could rethink your choice of necklines when trying new (to you) clothes on.
I would normally say if you have a large chest that you would be better having a neckline that shows some skin. However, I had to rethink this when I saw a particular picture of Oti Mabusse, who looked fabulous in a high-neck dress that paid homage to her curves. It might have been that the dress had shapewear inside it (I have bought a dress with it attached before now, and this makes the silhouette better for sure). If so, that’s an example of the material and design of the item that can work for you and the neckline therefore wasn’t so crucial.
My advice, if you like a particular top or dress, is to try it on and see. Also, don’t forget, you can change a neckline by covering it with a jacket or cardigan, or a scarf, or you can have it altered permanently by a dressmaker, so if everything else about the item works for you, don’t dismiss it just because of the neckline.
Ultimately, there are 6 basic neckline shapes:
- Slit, slash (also called boat); and
- High (such as mandarin, turtle or polo).
Don’t forget necklines can be front and/or back.
Strapless tops can be shaped (like a sweetheart) or straight.
Necklines are basically soft curves or straight lines, but all necklines can be changed by edging, additional material, lace and all manor of “bells and whistles”.
Tight round necks (“crew”) are best on long, slim necks and not ideal for bigger chests or narrow shoulders (normally).
A lower round neck suits most people. They vary in the distance away from the neck towards the shoulder, as well as how low they fall. Here are some examples.
These are like round necks only squarer! Some can be a bit of a mix of both, being a “soft square”.
A more square, straight-lined neckline is better if you have angular features like a chisled chin or pointed nose.
A strapless straight line across the bust, is like the bottom of a square. Not great for very bony people, nor very large frames, in my opinion, especially if you would be better off with a bra with straps to help keep your bust in check.
This is like a diamond, except softer edges. It can be described as “sweetheart” if strapless and shaped over the bust (not a straight line).
Another great neckline for everyone, especially if you are wider at the shoulder, or not as tall as you’d like to be (as it gives an illusion of elongating the torso) or have a larger chest.
The sexy look is the deep V (also called décolleté), as it is difficult to wear it with a traditional bra, although some fashionistas do. (There are, of course, other options instead of a traditional bra.)
This type of neckline is a straight opening, sitting close to the neck, high in the front and back. The slash varies how wide it is towards each shoulder edge. Again, not good for busty folk and not ideal for those with a short neck. Great if your hips are wider than your shoulders though (ie pear shaped body), as it can even out the appearance of shoulders to hips. In the example below I have included an off-the-shoulder neckline, because that is a straight line around the shoulders. When worn like this, it draws attention to the shoulders and neck, great if you want to focus attention away from your thighs. The other example is currently new in at M&Co.
If I liked a slash neck, I would use a scarf to make it work better for me.
Polo – high and tight to the neck – best for long necks. The material on the neck is normally doubled over.
Turtle – not as high or tight as a polo neck, but usually still folded.
High – not doubled over like a polo or turtle neck, but just covers the base of the neck a bit, so usually less tall than a turtle.
Cowl – where the material falls in folds, the softness of the folds will depend on the material. This may well fall in a V shape and there is an example above in the “V” neckline pictures.
Keyhole – has an opening which can be circular, oval, tear-shaped or V shaped. This is great as a compromise for a completely open neckline and a high neckline – you get the best of both worlds, so good for lots of people. The size of the opening varies. There are a couple of examples shown under the “V” necklines.
Off the shoulder – sometimes called Bardot. Very feminine, which brings attention to the shoulders and neck. Not to be worn if you don’t want to bring attention there! Great if you have slender shoulders.
One shoulder neckline also called asymmetric – one side has more of the opening, so it doesn’t look even.
Halter – good if you have narrow shoulders as they draw the eye into the centre.
Queen Elizabeth– high at the back.
Racerback – where straps cross-over at the back.
There are many different accents that can be added to the basic shapes, like collars, ruffles, gathers, yolks in the same or a different material or lace. Different colours can also create a different appearance.
If you have any queries about necklines, or want personal advice, please do get in touch. Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences of different necklines.
Your Colour & Style Consultant