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.

Jewelry Can Spotlight Your Best or Worst Feature

As an image consultant, I advise my clients that jewelry can do much more than add a finishing touch to an ensemble. Chosen well, jewelry can also draw attention to one or more of the wearer’s best features.

For instance, someone with green or blue eyes may choose jewels of a similar hue to relate to her or his eye color. Repeating the hue provides pleasing harmony and brings the viewer’s eye back to the wearer’s eyes.

Jewelry can also provide directional emphasis. For instance, a long necklace can provide a vertical line that draws the viewer’s eye up and down.

A particularly fine example of the power of jewelry to spotlight a feature appears in the March 2018 issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Focusing on “the quest for a younger-looking neck,” the magazine promotes a neck cream sold on its web site and illustrates the sought-after effect with the photo of a model wearing huge earrings with a triangle-shaped drop from Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello.

Notice how the earrings point to the model’s neck. Not even the crystal-studded Gucci sunglasses distract from this effect.

For many women over 40, spotlighting the neck is not the desired effect. When choosing earrings, be mindful of how the earrings draw attention to your features. Long dangling earrings can end at a spot where they draw attention to your neck. And earrings as arrow-like as those in the photo above will bring every eye to that precise spot.

Lovely Long Necks

There’s something glamorous and lovely about a long, graceful neck – a neck long enough to accommodate a choker-style necklace that encircles the throat.

long neck Charlize Theron Dior ad REV

CharlizeTheron has been wowing us with the extraordinary ensemble she wears in the Dior media ads.

Sometimes, however, a long neck can visually appear to be too long, out of proportion to a woman’s body. Recent magazine visuals show how an extra-long neck can be made to look more proportionate to an overall silhouette.

long neck Dillards vee neck REV

A two-page ad from Dillard’s that appeared in the November 2013 issue of Real Simple demonstrates the point. In the above image, the model wears a sumptuous vee-neck sweater from Alex Marie Cashmere. She is long and lean, and her neck is almost startlingly long while her head is relatively small for her length.

long neck Dillards turtleneck REV

The vee-neck sweater emphasizes her extra-long neck, and visually she looks out of proportion. But put the same model in a turtleneck sweater, and the sense of skewed proportions is eliminated. The turtleneck sweater is far more flattering on the model.

long neck June July 2013 HB Chloe shirt stacked necklaces REV

From the June/July 2013 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, here’s a great example of an ensemble created to work with a model’s extra-long neck. The model wears a turtleneck top under a collared shirt. Beneath the collar, she wears stacked pendant necklaces. The long neck can accommodate the layered garments and jewelry.

Most women do not have extra-long necks. If you have a short neck, you will find the vee-neck top much more flattering, and possibly also more comfortable to wear, than a turtleneck. Opening up space under the chin with the vee shape gives the appearance of a longer neck.

If you have an average-length neck, you may be lucky enough to be flattered by either the vee-neck or the turtleneck style. Lucky the woman with perfect proportions!

Great Style Has No Size But Some Jewelry Does

I salute InStyle magazine on its new monthly feature “Great Style Has No Size!” under the heading “Your Look: Full-Figure Flair” which debuted in November 2012. As the magazine explains in the initial feature: “We heard you! You asked to see the trends in silhouettes cut for your body, so take note: When it comes to outerwear, the fashion-savvy are selecting statement coats in bold hues or with eye-catching details.”

The outerwear featured is an attractive mix of styles, some of which will work better on some full-figured shapes than on others, nuances which necessarily go beyond the scope of a one-page magazine article.

InStyle adds style tips to the three looks at left. With the blue jacket from Catherine’s, InStyle comments: “A short style works best when it’s at least fingertip length. Skinny pants balance the looser shape on top.” A fingertip-length jacket also works just fine on women with less than slender legs for whom skinny pants are not an option. To my eye, skinny pants may make the figure look out of proportion for a well-proportioned full-figured woman. Straight-cut or slightly boot-cut pants provide a visually cohesive and well-proportioned look top to toe.

With the red coat from Marina Rinaldi, InStyle comments: “Draw attention up to your face by echoing the coat’s open neckline with a similarly revealing dress.” That’s all well and good when the point of the coat isn’t warmth but style. However, reality requires a more practical approach. Cover up the clavicle by adding a non-bulky woven wool scarf.

InStyle comments about the third coat in patterned wool from Talbots: “Two full-body prints equal visual overload. Instead, let the patterned piece take center stage by combining it with a solid.” The combination pictured is attractive (the dress is from Elie Tahari), but the rule is more limiting than it needs to be. A nuanced discussion of what designs would work with the coat would take more than a few lines of text.

The footwear pictured merits discussion. The suede skimmers from Pretty Ballerinas shown with the blue jacket ensemble are practical and cute. The black booties shown with the red coat and sexy dress from Lane Bryant are not flattering, as they make the model’s legs look shorter. The heavy straps of the high heeled sandals at right draw the eye first, negating the effort of coordinating dress and coat.

There’s another detail that requires comment about the ensembles pictured. With the red coat, the model wears a delicate necklace of rose gold vermeil from Jennifer Zeuner Jewelry. With the print coat, the model wears a short necklace of Swarovski crystal and hematite plate from Lionette Designs by Noa Sade.

I visited the Jennifer Zeuner Jewelry web site and learned that the designer’s necklaces are uniformly 16 inches long, but that a purchaser can specify in the special instructions the length of the chain desired, a helpful option.

The Dakota necklace pictured from Lionette Designs by Noa Sade is only 15 inches long. When I inquired as to whether the necklace could be ordered in a different length, I was told that the necklace is “a comfortable fitting collar as shown in [the] InStyle shot,” that it is not adjustable, and that it comes only in that one standard size.

A 15-inch necklace is a collar length that will work only for a woman with a fairly slender neck; even 16 inches is very short. Many women who wear misses’ sizes require a necklace of 16 to 17 inches. Working with full-figured women over the years as an image consultant, I have learned that a necklace of 18 to 20 inches is a more appropriate length for many full-figured women.

Designers run into practical considerations in producing jewelry. Clearly, it is less expensive to produce a necklace in a 15-inch length than it is to produce a necklace some 20 or 25 percent longer. However, the short necklace length will not work for most full-figured women and designers limiting their selections to that length will be losing a huge potential market for their designs.

If InStyle wants to serve the full-figured women’s market with the “Great Style Has No Size!” feature, the magazine needs to promote designs that accommodate realistic neck sizes. One-size-fits-all does not hold true in jewelry. Any article that purports to outfit full-figured women needs to take into consideration not only the size of the garments, but also the size of the jewelry being promoted.

Sticks & Stones

You know the old rag… “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It seems that O’s creative director, Adam Glassman, takes this a bit too far in the feature “Your Biggest Dressing Dilemmas . . . Solved!” in the January 2012 issue of O, the Oprah Magazine. The instructive and interesting feature, while full of excellent advice and no doubt well-intentioned through-and-through, has the unfortunate effect of labeling the models pictured with all manner of insulting observations. Muffin Top, Pooch, Armpit Fat, Chub Rub, Cankles, and so on, with a model illustrating each insult. It sounds more like a schoolyard than a fashion spread.

Can the lovely model pictured next to the large photo captioned “Turkey Neck” ever live down that moniker?

How about adding a few more…  Fat Ass?  Bubble Butt?  Mosquito Tits?  “Short people have no reason to live”?

Let’s go back to Ms. “Turkey Neck” for one more look. The hoop earrings she is wearing are large with irregular shapes along the edges. To me, these shapes relate to, and therefore emphasize, the folds of her neck. They also dangle so low as to draw attention to her neck. What would have made her look even more attractive:  a pair of earrings that sit on her earlobes and draw the eye upward. I would choose a design that is visually light, not heavy, to work with the overall pastel loveliness of her look.