Tie One On: Nora Ephron Would Approve

For some of us over 40 (or well over 40!), one issue of personal appearance that arises as we age is the appearance of our necks. Nora Ephron wrote a book famously titled I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman.

This season, designers appear to have taken note. Oscar de la Renta and Ralph Lauren are among the designers whose creations include a strip of fabric that encircles the neck and puts it out of sight. The September 9, 2019 issue of People spotlights a number of celebrities, both over and under 40, who have been photographed in the look. Note that many of the designs include an otherwise plunging neckline, but some attach the strip to a more modestly covered bodice (except in the case of Priyanka Chopra, where it appears to be sheer).

Another big trend for Fall 2019 is the return of the silk scarf, which of course can also serve the same purpose of encircling and hiding the neck. If you feel bad about your neck, you have some excellent on-trend fashion choices this season.

Square Necklines Are Not for Everyone

File this under “Oh, No!” The popular purewow.com web site posted a piece on April 2nd  declaring: “This Trending Neckline Is So Flattering, Everyone Needs to Buy It Immediately.”

A number of photos are included with the article, including this example of a square neckline that works beautifully for the wearer. More on why it works below.

The issue with a square neckline is that it brings horizontal emphasis to a place where one might not want it. For a large-busted woman with slender hips, a classic “inverted triangle,” the square neckline is likely to make her proportions look out of kilter.

For a curvy woman of any size, the straight line of a square neckline does not inherently relate to the lines of her body, which are curved, not straight. If her facial features are strongly horizontal, particularly her eyebrows and the line of her mouth, however, or if the wearer choose strongly geometric haircuts, a neckline that otherwise fits her physique correctly may be flattering.

In any case, be sure the square neckline you are considering is at least as wide as your face. A narrower neckline may make your face look out of proportion and your neck look relatively short.

Be sure the square neckline lies flat across your chest. If it does not, you are too curvy for that particular neckline. Seek another.

The photos above displays a square neckline that is wider than the wearer’s face. The neckline lies flat. The model appears to have an hourglass shape:  she has hips that are balanced by the neckline and puffy sleeves of her dress. Notice the center part and blunt cut hair, providing design elements that are complimented by the neckline. The model adds the finishing touch of a handbag that matches her hair and has a strong horizontal top line. The eye sweeps over the ensemble and finds a pleasing harmony.

Never ever listen to anyone selling something that purports to work for everyone.

Awkward Necklaces

“Necklaces should always be chosen with the neckline you’ll be wearing in mind. ” Thus I concluded my blog post in September 2013, ” Necklines & Necklaces:  The Issue When Everything Is the Same Perfect Length.”

A spate of recent examples in the fashion press of necklaces not chosen to coordinate with necklines prompts my post today.

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A pair of examples derive from the same fashion spread in the March 2015 issue of More magazine. The first example pairs a thin rigid collar necklace with a drop, visually creating a Y-shape, with an overly large knit tee shirt that looks to be puckering rather than lying flat. The necklace hangs awkwardly over the neckline of the tee, further drawing attention to the problematic neckline. The top was not chosen with consideration for the necklace or the model. In my opinion, the necklace is also too delicate a design for the model, who is tall and has strong features.

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A substantial necklace more flattering to the model appears in the second photo, but again here, the neckline of the ensemble clashes with the necklace. The necklace, with its rigid chunky lattice design, is placed over the vee shape of the neckline, creating a jarring visual effect. The lovely flowing lines of the ensemble would be much better served with a long pendant necklace, which would extend the vee of the neckline.

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My final example is modeled by actress Kelly Ripa, whose necklace dips to meet the neckline of her camisole in this photo from the March 2015 issue of Shape magazine. The necklace is just about at the sweet spot of her first balance point, as is her neckline. The result: a visual clash. The necklace looks droopy, not an adjective that any woman of a certain age wants to embrace. Shortening the necklace a couple of inches, or choosing a different necklace at a shorter collar length, would make all the difference.

Three Necklines Difficult to Wear and One Universally Flattering

Here’s a collection of sparkly evening looks pictured in the June 2014 issue of InStyle.  The fashion spread does an excellent job of ordering the red carpet gowns from left to right according to which is the easiest to wear, giving us a wonderful opportunity to consider necklines.

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To the far left, actress Cate Blanchett wears a dress cut down to her waist in the front, a look by Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci not recommended except for a woman with a modest sized bust, perfect posture, and plenty of two-sided tape. For most women, this neckline is not one ever to be considered as a wardrobe option.. On Blanchett, of course, it’s dramatic and stunning.

Actress Jennifer Lawrence wears a strapless gown from Dior Haute Couture. The top hem of the gown is straight, without any dips or curves, requiring the woman to supply her own (which Lawrence does beautifully). While beaded to the hilt, the dress is essentially a blank canvas look, fitted beautifully but devoid of unique design elements — the perfect dress with which to pull out the stops with shoulder-duster earrings. This style of dress will only flatter if perfectly fitted.

Third from left, Naomi Watts wears a second design from Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci, one which I think is not especially flattering to the lovely actress. The jewel neckline and straight construction of the garment make it resemble an oversized tee-shirt with not a lot of shape, hiding her figure. The length, cutting at mid-calf, is also notoriously difficult to wear. Drop earrings that blend with her hair add little and her sandals and chunky bag have a mismatched casual vibe. Watts would be more flattered by any of the other dresses on the page.

Particularly worthy of note is the stunning gown from Marc Jacobs modeled by actress Lena Dunham at the far right. The deep vee neck frames her face, and the gown is fitted beautifully to her figure. The color of the gown suits Dunham perfectly. She looks stunning.

An open neckline, whether a shaped sweetheart style, a scoop neckline, or a deep vee, as seen on the Marc Jacobs gown, is almost universally flattering as it serves as a frame for the wearer’s face and draws the attention upward.

The deep vee is even a good choice even for someone who doesn’t particularly like her neck. A smaller neckline draws the eye in toward the neck, whereas the expanse of a wide vee puts the neck into context with the face and body and diminishes its relative visual importance.