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.

TBe necklines 0614 Lena Dunham perfect Marc Jacobs gown REV

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.


Tee (Shirt) Time

Summertime, and the dressing is easy. Unless air conditioning is cranked up to the goose bump level, dressing for which I’ll address separately, staying cool and comfortable usually means ditching the cardigan or jacket and paring down with to either one piece – a great dress – or two pieces – a flattering top plus your choice of a skirt, shorts or pants.

The quintessential summer top, as noted in the July 2012 issue of InStyle, is the t-shirt.  InStyle provides “12 Reasons to [Love] a T-Shirt (as if You Needed Them!),” which doesn’t actually provide 12 reasons why you might love any particular t-shirt (since, for example, brights and pastels are mutually exclusive categories), but rather, 12 possible reasons why you might love a particular t-shirt (i.e., because it is in a bright or pastel hue).  For instance, a tee in a thin, body-hugging fabric layers easily; a tee with long tails “covers your butt”; a tee with Spandex may not stretch out.

Where InStyle  particularly misses the mark is in its love song to the plain white t-shirt, as it rhapsodizes: “Consider it the LBD of tops. Whether you dress this classic up or tone it down, a short-sleeve crewneck can be worked (and  reworked) in tons of ways.”  I would tweak this statement to say that a tee shirt in a flattering neutral color with a flattering neckline and sleeves can be enjoyed in countless variations.

The crewneck is simply not a flattering choice for almost any woman, as I wrote back in February. As you can see, in every case, InStyle either disguises the crewneck by wrapping a scarf or hanging a pair of shades from it, or distracts from it by means of a statement necklace or jacket.  But how much more flattering each of the looks would look if the neckline were wider and deeper, so that the torso doesn’t look so boxy.

For women with large or fleshy upper arms, a longer length sleeve is more flattering than one that cuts across the arm at about the level of the armpits. A sleeve that fits loosely and ends above the elbow is a great hot-weather option that disguises the upper arms.

The color white may also be a challenge. A bright white tee may make the wearer’s teeth and the whites of her eyes look off-color if they are not the same bright tone. Choose a softer off-white or other pastel or neutral shade in a color flattering to you  and enjoy its versatility.

The June 2012 issue of Real Simple magazine recognizes the challenges of finding a flattering tee shirt in the feature, “The Ultimate T-Shirt Buying Guide” which begins: “This century-old design is summer’s simplest basic, but finding a fantastic one can be tricky. Here are 27 options for every body and budget . . . plus solutions to every possible tee issue. . . .”  The guide is packed with tips as it analyzes various fabrics, styles and even the opacity of various tees.

Among the highlights in the Real Simple guide is the discussion “What’s My Neckline?” that helps readers determine what styles are most flattering. A crew neck is a “classic, but it can emphasize a large bust, a short neck, or a double chin.”

The guide deems a v-neck “Universally flattering, but watch the cut: A very high V can make a large bust look saggy, while a plunging V can be too revealing. A wide V balances out pear shapes.”  The issue with a high vee is that it affects the visual sense of the wearer’s proportions, and it can make any bust, large or not, appear relatively low. A wide vee, like a scoop neckline wider than a crew neck, makes the wearer’s head appear more in proportion with her body. If the neckline is to be worn unadorned, choose a neckline at least as wide as the widest part of your face. A narrow vee can be nearly as unflattering as a crew neck.

About scoop necks, the Real Simple guide states: “Beautifully displays the collarbone and elongates a short or thick neck. However, the curvy neckline highlights a round, full face. . . . “Let me suggest striking the word “However,” and taking a different tack:  A scoop neckline can highlight a beautiful round, full face.

Don’t settle for ho-hum, less than flattering style in a garment that can well be the mainstay of your summertime wardrobe. Both magazine articles provide a wealth of options for consideration, a great place to start your quest for the perfect tee.