When it comes to choosing a T-shirt, blouse, sweater or dress, it’s the neckline that is likely to make all the difference between a look that flatters your figure and one that accentuates your less-than-perfect parts. “Often, when an outfit doesn’t work, it’s because of the neckline,” explains Houston stylist and fashion show producer Todd Ramos.
On the other hand, choose the right cut, and you’ll appear taller, slimmer and more stylish. How to create this magic? You have to factor in your bust size, neck length, height and even face shape. Here’s a guide to discovering which necklines work for you.
Sweetheart, Scoop Neck, V-neck and Square Neck
The collarbone and decollete region is one of the most alluring parts of any woman. Wearing an open neckline that shows it off is going to make most women appear longer and leaner, says Ramos. Lower, open necklines like a sweetheart (which is shaped like the top of a heart), scoop, square or V-neck tend to look good on almost every body type and size. “They bring attention to your face and elongate your upper body, especially if you’re petite or have a short neck,” says Ramos. Just make sure you don’t reveal too much.
- Tip: If you’re not well endowed, sweetheart and scoop necklines are best at creating the illusion of curves.
- Bottom line: Great for everyone, unless you’re top heavy or have an especially long neck.
Crew Neck and Boatneck
If you have a long neck, narrow face, small chest or sloped shoulders, a high neckline -- one that rests on or very near the collarbone -- is your best bet. Crew necks and boatnecks draw the eye out to your shoulders so you appear more balanced and proportioned. In this case, the more substantial neckline gives the illusion of square shoulders, a shorter neck, a fuller face and more ample bust.
- Tip: If you’re pear-shaped, look for dresses in this cut to balance your upper and lower body.
- Bottom line: Crew necks and boatnecks balance out narrow necks, faces, shoulders and small chests. But on the flip side, these necklines can make you look bigger than you are if you have generous curves, a short neck or broad shoulders.
Cowl-necks, Mock Necks and Turtlenecks
By choosing the right amount of coverage, you’ll find there’s no need to shiver in the name of beauty. A true turtleneck that hits a couple of inches below the chin will whittle away your height, making it best for those who want to offset a long neck or face. A cowl-neck, which is a looser version of a turtleneck, naturally drapes at the chest, creating a vertical line that elongates the body. A mock neck hits slightly lower than a turtleneck and serves as a good midpoint if you can’t part with your more covered-up sweaters.
- Bottom line: Trade turtlenecks for mock necks or cowl-necks unless you have a long face or neck.
A Universally Flattering Neckline
Whatever size you are, a halter will flatter your figure. “It gives support and lift to a big bust,” says Ramos. If the halter has a built-in bra, it can create curves where there are none, which is why you see a lot of halter-style bathing suits and wedding dresses. If your arms or shoulders are your trouble spot, Ramos advises topping the halter with a fitted jacket.
The Neckline to Avoid
Strapless clothing may be on every rack in every store, but stylists agree it’s a hard look to pull off -- unless you’ve got flawless proportions and a yoga bod like Jennifer Aniston. “A strapless cut can make top-heavy women spill out, and tall, thin women look giraffe-like,” says Ramos. The silhouette may, however, be a boon to petite women, helping them look taller.
Tweak Unflattering Necklines
If you wore crew necks before you figured out it’s not your most flattering neckline, work the scissors. “Cut a crew neck a few inches straight down the middle,” says Ramos. A T-shirt may fray a little, but that’s in vogue, he says. And if you cut a sweater, a few minutes in the dryer will prevent it from unraveling.
With any lower necklines, there’s the risk of going too low and looking inappropriately sexy. Whether your top goes too deep or a V-neck is not your best look, try it over a camisole or slim-fit collared shirt before you toss it. “Layering can breathe new life into a too-revealing top,” says Ramos.