Reader Request: Layering Necklines

how to layer necklines

Reader Jori sent me this question via e-mail:

Now that we’re entering serious layering season, I was thinking it would be interesting for you to do a post on layering necklines. Specifically, I have a couple of pieces with sweetheart necklines, which I love, but I’m having a hard time figuring out what other types of necklines I can layer under them (other than a turtleneck). That’s a pretty specific problem, but then I started thinking about mixing v-necks with crew necks, etc, and was wondering if there are any guidelines for such things. Just layering v-necks with v-necks, for example, seems overly restrictive, but there are also plenty of times when mixing and matching just looks weird.

I also heard from reader Beatrijs who was curious about layering beneath her cardigans. So, since the two topics are related, I’ll fold them into one post.

Now I won’t lie to you, necklines are tricky. Different styles sit differently on women depending on their height, weight, bust size, neck length, and many other factors. And even aside from that, I don’t believe that there are any hard-and-fast rules to layering necklines. You’ve got to experiment a little and see what works best on YOUR body and with YOUR style.

However, I’m happy to share what works for me! And hopefully some of these examples will provide a broader picture of how to successfully layer your necklines. Or, at the very least, spark some great discussion.

CREWS WITH SCOOPS

jnylongjacket_outfit2

Crew-neck outer layers – like this long jacket – always look best to me paired with slightly lower scoop necks. High crews as the underlayer sometimes give an impression of choking the wearer, and boatnecks can feel equally claustrophobic. V-necks, on the other hand, don’t often clash with the overall shape of that outer layer. So I tend toward scoops myself.

COLLARS WITH SCOOPS, Vs OR SQUARES

Already Pretty outfit featuring denim jacket, thrifted pindot dress, black Freebird cowboy boots, fringe handbag, Tarina Tarantino skull bracelet

When wearing a collared shirt or jacket unbuttoned, my preference is for square, V, or scoop necklines. High crew necklines can work in this combo, since the unbuttoned shirt creates long vertical lines along the length of your torso, mitigating the severity of the crew. But a lower cut that shows a bit of collarbone allows for a necklace or scarf … and just feels more chic and stylish to me. (This is actually a sweetheart neckline, but in the layered mix it mimics a V.)

V-NECKS WITH CREWS

Already Pretty outfit featuring Missoni camouflage sweater, cobalt skinny jeans, longline blazer, black ankle boots

An outer layer with a severe v-neckline can be paired successfully with an inner layer that features a high crew. However, it’s best to soften the crew with a necklace or scarf when possible.

V-NECKS WITH VS AND NOTCH NECKS

olivelongvest_outfit1

I don’t generally like to do same with same when it comes to necklines, but Vs are the exception. A lower v-neckline paired with a higher v-neckline can work, as can a deep V with a notch neck. V-necklines are generally considered to be the easiest to wear, and doubling up on them won’t look odd. That said, I’m not a huge fan of two identical v-necklines worn together. I prefer a slight difference in depth for each top.

BLAZERS WITH JUST ABOUT ANYTHING

Already Pretty outfit featuring longline black blazer, black and gold sequin top, distressed jeans, black ankle boots, black Madewell bucket bag

Since most traditional blazers have a deep v-neck opening that draws the eye down your torso, they can be worn with just about any neckline as an underlayer. I prefer scoops and Vs myself, but crews, squares, and boatnecks can all work, too.

Deep v-neck cardigans are similarly versatile, but remember to button them up!

Add interest and complexity to blazer looks with scarves, brooches, and necklaces when you can.

PAIRINGS TO AVOID

Now that we’ve looked at some of my personal neckline layering preferences, here are some pairings that I try to avoid at all costs:

  • High crew with low V: This can be done for a super casual look, but the two extreme necklines worn together can look mismatched and odd.
  • High crew with scoop: Although a high crew cardigan or jacket can work with a scoop, layering a high crew tee beneath a scoopneck sweater or tee is a bit awkward. As with the high crew/low V pairing, you end up with this big expanse of cloth from neckline to neckline … and putting a necklace or scarf in that blank space doesn’t always work.
  • Detailed necklines over any underlayer: This is personal preference, but I seldom like the look of a keyhole, sweetheart, or other sculptural neckline layered over another neckline. Those styles are meant to stand out based on the shape of the neckline alone, and should be treated as such. Layer a nude cami underneath if you need additional warmth.

What does that last one mean? Jori is out of luck with her sweethearts. They’ll work fairly well with turtlenecks, but should generally be worn on their own. A sweetheart neckline can, of course, be an underlayer: It’ll look fab beneath a blazer. But then you lose some of the fabulous detailing of the line.

Cripes, that got LONG. Hope you found this little tutorial helpful, my dears. As I mentioned above, these are the techniques that work best for me, and may be completely contrary to your own best looks and practices!

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  • La Historiadora de Moda

    So many excellent tips here!

    I kind of love to pair collars with collars. It can be tricky, but when it works, I think it works so well!

  • ashe mischief

    I'm really not a girl who layers, so this post is REALLY useful to me, especially as we get back in to cooler months and I've forgotten how to dress myself.

  • LAP

    I will say I have a lot of luck with a v-neckline under a crew neck cardigan, but I'm quite busty and I think the reason it works is how it adds modesty to potential cleavage situation.

    In your picture with the polka-dot blazer and pink dress, are those the Veronica slouch Fryes you scored on ebay? LOVE.

  • Nicky

    Useful advice, thanks! LOVE the deep-scoop-with-crew pairing especially.

  • Diana

    Thanks, Sal, this is very useful! I often worry about whether my neckline layering looks weird, particularly because my closet is heavy on particular types (v, scoop, some collars) and light on others (crews, anything high, boats). I've found that a camisole with a lowish straight neckline works well under most of my tops but I get a little bored with it. I'll have to try some of your tips.

    Here's a question for you – what would you layer under a wide, scooped low neckline (that needs something for modesty)? I think it looks funny when the straps of the cami or the sides of neckline underneath show, not to mention bra straps. A collared shirt looks OK but doesn't always work.

  • Ky

    If she's looking for modesty over warmth with layering her sweetheart neckline, I'd suggest a lace cami. Adds an inch or two of coverage but isn't so harsh like another shirt layered under it would be.

  • Kat

    I also like turtlenecks under lower necklines for added warmth/modesty, even detailed necklines. To me they extend far enough up that the turtleneck isn't too distracting. YMMV. (I really like turtlenecks under sleeveless dresses in fall.)

  • Anonymous

    Oh, can I ask a follow-up? How do you layer a dress over a shirt and avoid looking like a schoolmarm in an apple jumper? I have a gorgeous sleeveless wool dress with a fairly high neck, loosely enough cut to accomodate an underlayer, and I just can't bring myself to wear it with something under. Because I fear looking prim and dowdy. (I like the purple dress you have pictured here, but that's not a schoolmarm dress on any planet, which makes it easier…)

  • fröken lila

    i have a few strapless dresses in rather stiff and thick fabrics (corduroy, denim) with a sweetheart neckline, and in winter i often layer turtlenecks underneath. however, they also work well with a scoop as long as the scoop is small enough to provide around 2inches of covering above the dresses neckline, or with a buttoned up blouse/shirt underneath. i would also wear blazers on top or cardigans with crewnecks.

  • Bubu

    So so helpful, thank you! As someone who recently had the "aha!" moment of realizing I have a short neck, broad shoulder and woman-sized boobs, I've been rethinking necklines at every turn (goodbye turtlenecks!)… and at the same time trying to learn more about layering without bulk. Tremendously helpful as we're transitioning into cold weather…
    thanks!

  • Lise Marie

    This is soooo helpful! I love reading your blog and applying your suggestions to my own wardrobe. Because I love your blog so much, I am so excited because I have been trying to be more creative and did the zebra print also! I am not sure mine looks as good as yours, but I was feeling pretty sassy anyway.

    http://southerncomfortga.blogspot.com/2010/11/how-to-wear-zebra.html

    Thanks for inspiration1

  • More Than Meets the I

    I am so happy to see that you have posted most of the ways I layer necklines! Last week I layered a high crew under a cardigan and buttoned up a few buttons to create that V effect and cinch the waist a little bit. I didn't like the neck looking so plain though, so I added a scarf to add interest to the outfit!
    I also paired a lower V with a higher V (the lower V being that of my trenchcoat: I wasn't thrilled either 🙁
    Sal: can you give any suggestions on combining turtlenecks? I absolutely love them for winter and wear them with almost everything, even though I have a relatively bigger bust. I use the V-cardigan technique or a scarf thrown downwards to create vertical lines, or longer necklaces. Any other suggestions?

  • E.L.M.

    Excellently thought out article! The Dirndl and Bolero outfits win my heart! Frigggin cayooooot!!

    I might add that layering scoops over crews is extraordinarily unflattering to the busty. One shoulder necklines look great under blazers or crewneck cardigans, too!

  • GlamaRuth

    Anon – try a silk, chiffon or lace blouse under your wool jumper – the dressy texture contrast is not schoolmarmish, and then, if your blouse is on the sheer side, you don't need to layer under it as well! Stay away from Peter Pan collars, that's a very specific look, and it sounds like its not the look you're going for. And think film noir Gal Friday – capable and pulled together yet alluring – instead of school marm.

  • Sal

    Anonymous: I'm so glad GlamaRuth chimed in because I struggle with layering beneath sheaths myself! The looks I like best are cowl necks beneath sheaths. Or you could try a simple crew neck long-sleeved tee, but then dress it up with a gorgeous scarf. Belting the dress, after adding the underlayer, will also help combat the frump.

    More Than Meets the I: Ack! You gals are honing in on all my neckline-related weak spots! 😉

    I'm a bit useless about turtlenecks, lady, but let me think … the looks that appeal to me most take t-necks in a super arty direction. HUGE, printed wraps, loose-weave or detailed ponchos, and other drapey pieces create chic looks when paired with turtlenecks. Drape-front and waterfall cardigans and jackets should work, too. Dusters and longer cardigans, especially if belted, necklaced, or scarfed, are another option.

  • Jrose

    Sigh…I have to wear crew necks as part of my school uniform, so I (and the rest of the girls at my school) are all guilty of the not-to-dos.
    Good advice, though!

  • Emma at Daily Clothes Fix

    Great post. I agree with all of it (although you can sometimes manage a boat neck with a scoop neck, rather than a crew neck with a scoop neck).

  • Leone

    This is a most timely post for me. I'm just now learning how to layer successfully (thanks to you and YLF) and this post is giving me many "aha" moments. Great tips!

    Adore your blog. BTW do I spy a pair of turquoise Fluevogs? Yummy

  • Future Lint

    Layering is one of those things I've never been able to come up with many rules for… I just have to try it on and see! Sometimes I'm surprised by what does and doesn't work together.

    The other day I thrifted an off-white lace top, as a layering piece. But it is boatnecked and I own like 1 other boatneck thing… it is making me insane! I think I'm going to just have to give it back to Goodwill, I can't handle having such a pretty piece that refuses to work with anything I own!

  • Anonymous

    Wow, I wish I had time to run to my closet right now and try a few things that I've never put together before! Thanks.

  • Jen

    These are great tips!

    One other look I'm loving is a cowl neck layered under something. So far I've gotten it to work with scoop and V-necks (though in the case of my particular cowl neck/V-neck pairing, the cowl obscured the V-neck).

  • Rose Moreira

    Muito lindo o casaquinho marrom!!
    parabens!
    Rose

  • Sara

    Sal (and others!), I have a few dresses with this neckline, and I have NO idea what to put under them. Help!

    http://reviews.anthropologie.com/5310/18937813/reviews.htm

  • Sal

    Sara: I know a lot of women with larger busts prefer to pop a camisole under low-cut vs, and sometimes that's a necessity. However, if you're smaller busted like me, I recommend filling the space with a chunky necklace and covering up with a pashmina or wrap.

    If you're looking to winterize the dress, that's another matter. Personally, I'd try a long, boyfriend-style cardigan. Most of those have gentle v-necks.