Know Your Necklines

Don’t you wish you had a friend who would listen to you yammer about your problems, give you fabulous advice, do a kick-ass Tarot reading to help you brainstorm solutions, help you create a business plan to put those solutions into action, and then bake you an amazing chocolate cake to erase any lingering anxiety? Well, DON’T YOU?

Too bad you can’t all befriend my girl Barbara. She’s just too busy. (You can, however, all buy her most recent Tarot deck, which is simply stunning. This will have to suffice until her schedule frees up a bit.)

In addition to possessing the above litany of skillz, last night Barbara proved herself to be among the most patient humans currently alive by posing for seven separate photos for me, and then taking seven OF me. And all so that you, dear readers, could learn a little more about necklines.

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When you ponder buying a top, you are most likely to consider cost, style, quality, and color. (Likely in that order, if you’re wired like me.) But even if you try on your potential new top in a dressing room before plunking down the dough, you may not hone in on one of the subtler factors of flattery: the neckline. Many of us seem to maintain bizarre blind spots to this portion of the fit equation.

The v-neck may be almost universally flattering, but a girl can’t stock v’s only. So I thought I’d explore the most readily available styles of neckline to see which types work for which shapes. I chose Barbara to help me with this decidedly trying task because:

A. She’s gorgeous. A hottie like her is sure to up my traffic.
B. She could not be more differently shaped than me if she were Andre the Giant. I have a square head, broad shoulders, and no boobs. Barbara has a pointy chin, slender shoulders, and boobs.

No hard-and-fast rules are being established through this little experiment, but I wanted to compare and contrast the same set of tops on two very different girls and report my results. So, without further ado …

Cowl neck

This is one of my all-time favorite sweaters. It’s like a big cashmere cocoon. But, as it turns out, I should just give it to Barbara.

The formlessness of the cowl does nothing for my slightly formless head, and what little boobage I have is masked by the abundance of cloth. Barbara’s defined chin creates a great line contrasting the messy cowl. Volume up top helps her shoulders appear wider and balanced. With her bust, she might want a sweater that has a more defined waist. But overall, she definitely carries this style off better than I.

GOOD FOR: pointy chins, narrow shoulders


God, we’re cute.

I’m rocking this one, I do believe. A ring of cloth up around my chin gives it some much-needed definition, and my boobs have magically reappeared. The contrast of a nipped-in neck to my wide shoulders creates some nice balance. On Barbara, the contrast is drawn between her neck and boobs – making her appear bustier than she is.

GOOD FOR: undefined chins, small boobs, broad shoulders

Boat neck

This top doesn’t have as severe a boatneck as some, but hopefully you’ll still get the idea. And the idea, here, is that it looks pretty good on us both.

The width of the opening gives Barbara’s shoulders a touch of broadness, and exposed collarbone makes her face look very slender. The only drawback for her is that the wide neckline seems to mirror her bust, making it appear broad. My neck and collarbone are also flattered by this cut. What drew unwanted attention on Barbara works wonders for me: the boat neck makes my chest seem slightly wider/bigger. My drawback is a slight case of linebacker shoulders.

GOOD FOR: all chins, small boobs, narrow shoulders

Square neck

I’ve always loved square necks on myself, but bizarrely, I don’t own a single one. Had to borrow this top from my friend Jane. (Thanks, Jane!)

Just as I remembered, this cut looks fabulous on me. Although the photo makes me appear boobless, square necks are generally en-boob-ening. A neckline that is squarer than my square jaw magically makes it appear pointier. The sharply defined lines that fall several inches INTO my body make my shoulders appear narrower and more balanced. On Barbara, her narrow shoulders are emphasized, her chin actually looks a bit severe, and the boobs are front and center. Nice collarbone, though, B.

For any and everyone, a square neckline looks best when paired with a defined waist. Otherwise, you may end up looking like a cement block.

GOOD FOR: undefined chins, small boobs, broad shoulders

Crew neck

Will you look at my big, squishy, raisin-shaped head??? Crewnecks are unavoidable if you intend to own any graphic tees, but they look like monkeybutt on most people. I appear particularly ookey here, with my blob-head, anti-boobs, and weirdly undefined shoulders. Barbara looks far better, but I think that’s partially because her bust pulls the neck down a little, creating a demi-scoop. She is also given some shoulder-broadening help here, but I think that may be due to the cap sleeve more than the neckline. To this neckline I say: yick.

GOOD FOR: nothin’

Scoop neck

I think of scoop necks as the more refined cousin of crews. More lady-like, more flattering, and just hella better. However, I’ve gotta give it up to Barb on this one. Her defined chin looks lovely against the swoop of the scoop, and both shoulders and bust are beautifully balanced. I look acceptable, but my chin isn’t getting much help from this neckline, shoulders look bulky, and boobs are de-emphasized.

GOOD FOR: defined chins, big boobs, narrow shoulders


Ahhhh. So good! On me, the v-neck creates a mild pointy-chin illusion, draws the eye to my bust, and balances my shoulders. On Barbara, her chin is mirrored by the neckline and her boobs are balanced. Her shoulders still appear a bit narrow, but a wider v-neck would fix that right up. Bizarre that this neckline would have opposite positive effects on us both, but what can I say? It just do.

GOOD FOR: everythin’

All of the tops featured in this post are mine (with the previously noted exception of Jane’s square neck), and I have no intention of trashing the ones that looked less-than-awesome on me. Although a flattering neckline can transform a top from blah to stunning, an unflattering one can certainly be masked by accessories. It’s not a dealbreaker unless you plan to wear the top virtually unadorned.

Hope this was helpful! For more photo-heavy how-to’s, take a peek at:
Skirt to Leg to Shoe Ratio part 1, part 2, and part 3
How to Look Awesome in a Photo part 1, part 2, and part 3
Universally* Flattering Styles part 1 and part 2

  • Anonymous

    Excellent post! I never would have tried on a cowl but seeing it here makes me think I should invest in one.

    It was so much fun, doing this shoot. If you ever need me again, I’m up for it. Our figures are different enough that I bet there are other compare/contrast things we could do.

    You’re beautiful!

  • fresca

    Brilliant to contrast the same styles on different body types!
    You both look GREAT.
    And congrats to Barbara on her latest Tarot endeavors!

  • Budget Babe

    i could read posts like this every day, the visuals are so helpful! great job ladies :)

  • enc

    You’re both gorgeous, and this study on necklines brings out both your different brands of beauty. Both of you look great in pink, as well.

    You did a great job on this post, Sal.


    hi from Paris Sally

    I noticed that you like street style, so i just wanted to inform you that the Paris fashion week ended last week and i did nice street style photo reportages you might like.
    you can appreciate them at

    I hope i didn’t disturb you with that information.

    I wish you a great evening and lot of happiness with your blog

    cheers from Paris


  • Imelda Matt

    I love Barbara’s smile, she’s got one of faces that just make you happy! Brilliant post.

  • In Yr Fshn

    Excellent post! I would, however, like ot point one oft-neglected neckline: the sweetheart. I find it to be incredibly flattering. Is this true for everyone, sage Sal?

  • Sal

    Ach, right you are, lady! Sweetheart necklines are flattering on nearly all face shapes. I totally love ‘em. They can be difficult to pull off if you have giant boobs, though. Since a sweetheart is wider than a v, it can create a bit of a cleavage frame. Well-endowed girls might want to stick with something a little less revealing for office and everyday, though everyone should embrace this style for casual, evening, and party. Good call. ;)

  • The Reesa

    I just discovered your blog and I must say that I’ve fallen in love with it! Go you!

    One tip about necklines for broad-shouldered girls, especially inverted-triangles (like me): Find wide necklines with a collar that hits halfway between your neck and the edge of your shoulder. They are incredibly flattering, and also tend to minimize boobage. Keep on bloggin’!

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps Barbara should consider getting professionally fitted for bras if she hasn't already. She looks great, but I suspect with a smaller band and larger cup size her bust would be lifted farther away from her waist, making her waist look more defined and hence making most of the styles you tried on look even better.

    In any case, great idea for a post! Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    This blog entry caused a bit of a stir over at this LJ community:

    General agreement among the girls there is that your friend needs a better bra. In the pictures she is wearing a bra where the band is too loose and the cup is too small, it makes her heavier than she really is.

    It would be interesting if you could repeat this experiment after your friend got herself a better fitting bra. The girls at Thirty_TwoD recommend a visit to Nordstrom or calling the experts at for advice.

  • Rockin’ the Bigguns

    Nice post. Very interesting. Am I the only one who doesn't necessarily want to de-emphasize big boobs, though? I quite like mine (30J), generally. If Barbara does decide to check out other bras (as per other commenters' suggestions), I would recommend checking out Intimacy if you are in the U.S. They have a couple of locations, and their website has links to recommended stores all over the country.

  • ynyr_yeng

    hello, michelle here, i hv broad shoulders, small busts, quite defined waist ( i would say) and big hips, what should i wear to balance out my figure or at least down cast my shoulders?

  • Michelle

    This helps so much! Thanks Ebay buyers will love me

  • DD

    Square necks looks TERRIBLE on me! I am broad shouldered AND small boobed, and they make girls with broad shoulders (real broad shoulders) look boxy. Square necks are notoriously hard to wear – they are best left to narrow shouldered girls. Please update this part. :(

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