Halloween has come and gone and Thanksgiving is a mere two weeks away, which can mean only one thing: holiday parties and holiday attire. Finding the right ensemble and the right jewelry for every holiday outing may be as easy as shopping your own closet and going with something tried and true from the past, or it may involve shopping for something entirely new. But, finding the style, cut, and neckline that flatter your body can sometimes be a bit more challenging. I’m here to help with the help of some experts for the holidays and every day.
Let’s start with body shape and type. For this I leaned on fashion queen Rachel Zoe, who has styled many a celebrity and has written many an article on choosing the right clothing for your body, and on fashionopolis. Not sure what to buy or even what body shape you have? Here’s a quick guide on both:
Pear: This woman generally has wide hips, a small waist, narrow shoulders, and a smaller bust. In general, your lower body is wider than your upper body and you have full hips and thighs. Clothing that looks best on a pear-shaped gal are dresses with intricate designs on or around the chest and flared skirts, which help create balance between her top and bottom areas. It’s also a good idea to enhance your waistline and arms and add volume to your shoulders and upper body. Avoid any clothing that draws attention to your hips or thighs.
Apple/Inverted Triangle: This body type has a full mid-section and less defined waist, broad shoulders, an average to large bust, and narrow hips. Your goal would be to elongate your torso and draw attention to your good legs, both of which will give the illusion of a smaller waist. Clothing choices should be a mini (show off those legs!) with an empire waist and structured pieces that add definition but hide any extra weight.
Rectangle: These girls have long, slender frames with a small to average bust, undefined waist, straight hips and bottoms. They are the complete opposite of a “curvy” girl and instead have shoulders and hips that are almost perfectly aligned. Look for maxis and midis with details at the shoulders to add interest to your straight up-and-down stature and flaunt your lean arms and legs if you’ve got them. Your goal is create the illusion of curves.
Hourglass. Think Marilyn Monroe and think full bust, narrow waist, balanced shoulders and hips, and a rounded bottom. This is the “curvy” girl that’s anything but overweight. Highlight those curves by accentuating your upper and lower body and flaunt that defined waist.
Petite. Not so much a body shape as a body size, petite women face fashion struggles their taller counterparts don’t. If you are 5’4” or shorter, choose mini dresses if you’ve got the legs for them, as the style will elongate even the shortest legs. If your legs aren’t mini-worthy, choose maxis, which will add length to your silhouette. Another good idea is to add flair on your sleeves.
Neck and Neck
Which brings us to necklines….
The wrong neckline can add weight on you and make you look shorter and even older. Choosing the right neckline will not only frame your face but can also create balance. In short, your outfit’s neckline can make or break your entire look.
And it’s where I run into trouble. I’ve never been a fan of how I look in a V-neck and was a long-time fan of scoop necks until a recent girls’ trip when one of them who could give Rachel Zoe a run for her money, suggested I avoid scoop necks and lean more toward collared shirts. Bingo! I was sold. What about you? Do you have a favorite neckline and is it the right one for your body and face shape? Let’s find out thanks to some tips by realsimple.com and renttherunway.com.
Scoop necks can beautifully display the collarbone and elongate a short or thick neck, but the curvy neckline can also highlight a round, full face. Many believe a scoop neck is flattering on nearly everyone, but I’m not one of them. I find that as a woman ages, so does her décolletage and the skin on her chest and it’s not an area I choose to highlight. It’s also suggested that those with broad shoulders should steer away from scoop necks.
So what about V-necks? For the same reasons I’m not a fan of scoop necks, I’m not a personal fan of V-necks either but they are considered universally flattering. The style is thought to balance out broad shoulders and thick waists, lengthen short necks, and even out Pear shapes. The key to making sure your chosen V-neck works on your body is all about how deep that V goes. A very high V can make a large bust look saggy and a plunging V can be too revealing. Rule of thumb? Small busted women should go for high Vs while those with large chests can go for deeper Vs to elongate their ample chest, just be sure you don’t go too deep! Susan Street of Susan After Sixty swears by V-necks and finds they, and scoop necks, flatter her inverted triangle shape and round face if they fall about four inches below her collarbone.
Crew necks, IMHO, are a safe and classic bet but Street feels that covering your collarbones if you have broad shoulders, are big busted, or have a roundish face will make all of them more pronounced. Also sometimes called a “Jewel Neckline,” this close-to-the-face casual style is best for those with long necks, narrow faces, and small busts since it can emphasize a large chest area, short neck, or double chin by creating the illusion of a shorter neck and bigger bust. Yikes!
Collared shirts have a sort of dressy yet casual preppy look about them and are great for anyone with a large chest or thin neck. If you want to add sexy or flirty to the otherwise traditional look, consider unbuttoning a few more buttons to expose just a bit more décolletage.
Boat necks, sometimes known as bateau necklines, are probably one the prettiest of all necklines. If you have any doubts about this, just picture Meghan Markle’s wedding dress. (And how fabulous was Princess Eugenie’s dramatic portrait neckline?) Did you not die when you first laid eyes on Markle’s minimal and elegant Givenchy gown of matte silk cady with that to-die-for open bateau neckline? I know I did. The nautical inspired style (get it….BOAT neck?) is a graceful and wide neckline that sits and hits right under the collarbone and shoulders. The style draws the eye up and balances out wider hips; a narrow face, neck, or shoulders; and a small bust. It is great for offsetting wide hips but if you’ve already got broad shoulders, avoid the look as it will make them look even broader.
A sweetheart neckline was the choice of another royal bride, Kate Middleton, whose Alexander McQueen gown was a bit more traditional and featured a sweetheart neckline under lace applique. If you’ve ever watched even one episode of “Say Yes to the Dress,” you know this neckline is the choice of many a bride, royal or not royal. The open style generally makes any woman look longer and leaner while enhancing the natural curves of a large chested lady. It also creates curves for small busted women.
A cowl neck does the same thing: adds dimension and bulk to a small chest but the right one can also downplay a large one. The folds on a cowl neck can give the illusion of a long torso and you can somewhat control just how much skin you want to show. Those with small busts should look for thicker wider folds, while big busted ladies should choose thinner folds.
If you have wide shoulders, an hourglass figure, and toned arms, a halter neck is for you. In contrast, you Apple shapes should stay away from the halter top, as it will make you look even bigger and heavier up top. This is a tough style to wear a bra with and there’s nothing less flattering than a bosomy girl trying to pull off a halter top. Just don’t.
Speaking of shoulders, what about off-the-shoulder, one-shoulder, and last year’s trendy “cold shoulder?” Bridget Bardot make the off-the-shoulder look popular and the flirty style flatters shapes ranging from pear to athletic, petite to hourglass, and small/medium busts to narrow shoulders. This style naturally highlights your shoulders as well as the collar bone and draws the eye up, lessening attention to a fuller middle. Its dramatic cousin, the one shoulder, adds a touch of surprise to an outfit and is best for those with narrow shoulders and toned arms. As for the cold shoulder, I find it mysteriously makes any arms or shoulders look big and am of the thinking that the look has run its course.
Which brings us to the ultimate shoulder bearer: a strapless style. If your goal is to accentuate your shoulders and upper body, this is the silhouette for you. But be careful. Big busted or broad shouldered women and anyone without toned arms should avoid this look regardless of what anyone tells you. If you do go the strapless route, please be sure to wear a good strapless support bra.
When you think turtleneck you might think a classic LL Bean layering top for cold winter climates, but think again. Yes, all those colorful and trusty turtlenecks are almost every woman’s “must have,” but the neckline can also be very sophisticated and formal on the right dress or top. In either case, casual or dressy, what you want to look for is a style that doesn’t hit super high on the neck, but instead allows some breathing room. Me? I like a mock neck and velvet is oh-so-dreamy in either a turtle or mock neck.
The square neck is a good go-to for busty women and it also elongates a short neck and narrow shoulders but I find it a bit hard to pull off though for the same reasons as a V or scoop necks. But that’s just me.
I do love a great keyhole neckline though and find it flattering on almost everyone…especially bridesmaids for some reason. This timeless style subtly highlights collar bones and adds sophistication to any clothing.
Surplice necklines are those where fabric on one side crosses over the other side, often at or near the bustline, creating an alternative V-neck. Since the style also often employs cinching at the waist, it’s a great choice for a woman who wants to create a more defined waist.
So, now that you’ve identified your body shape and what necklines compliment it, what about accessories, specifically necklaces? Each neckline has necklace styles and lengths that work best with them. Let’s have a look.
Long necklaces and those with pendants compliment any collared shirt, boat neck, cowl neck, and of course turtleneck.
Chokers, bibs, and shorter necklaces are best with V-necks, sweetheart necklines, strapless, and anything that is off the shoulders.
As for scoop and crew necks, they can go with either long or short, depending on whether you want to draw attention to or away from your chest area, and they can easily support a necklace with detail and volume.
So there you have it: everything you’ve always wanted to know about body shape and necklines that compliment yours. Have fun shopping!