Necklaces and Necklines Revisited

Waaaaay back in 2009, I cooked up this tutorial on pairing necklaces and necklines. And, looking back, I still agree with virtually everything I wrote. However, since this is a question that comes up fairly often I figured it was worth revisiting and discussing.

As I said back in the day, I believe that a necklace should ideally:

  1. NOT compete with the neckline of your top
  2. Fill the visible neck/chest area
  3. Or, in the case of closed necklines, create contrast

Let’s start with a scoopneck for our first example:

Simple neckline, simple necklace. This pairing adheres to the criteria listed above – necklace and neckline aren’t fighting each other and the necklace fills the space. Notice, too, that the scoopneck and chain mirror each others’ shapes. A pendant would have created a v-shape, but this unadorned chain is rounded just like the visible neckline. (Secondary, but something to consider.)

But it’s not essential that a necklace sit above the neckline on the exposed skin.

Here’s the same dress and cardigan configuration, with a longer, chunkier necklace. Since the strands dip well below the dress neckline, this pairing looks intentional. If they were a few inches shorter and instead hit right where the neckline begins, they’d be fighting each other awkwardly. If you’re going to wear a necklace that hits below your neckline, make sure it hits WELL below.

Extremely long strands – the kind that hit at navel level – work with most necklines. Since they dip so far below the exposed neck and collarbone area, there’s no fighting and no real reason to consider shape mirroring.

Here’s a pairing that doesn’t quite work, in my opinion. The neckline is fairly deep and more v-shaped than round. The doubled-up chain is round so it doesn’t fit into the space well, and short so it doesn’t FILL the space well either. Not a tragedy, but not ideal either.

Here are some examples of necklaces that mirror and fill their necklines:

Pendants work well in pointed or v-necklines, while strands fit beautifully into rounded or scoop necklines. Ideally, there should be about an inch of distance between the bottom of the necklace and the top of the neckline. Any more distance, and the neckline won’t look full, as shown above. Any less and you might pick a neckline fight. Again, a good way to avoid such conflict is to pair your longer strands with higher necklines.

In the older tutorial, I examined options for button-front shirts and suggested long strands, small pendants, and bibs.

I somehow failed to mention that a necklace can be a very subtle addition to a button-front outfit. Here’s that same plain chain, just peeking out from the collar of the shirt. This allows for bigger earrings and/or cuffed sleeves and loads of bracelets. Great options, since getting a necklace and a shirt collar to agree can be challenging.

Finally, if you’re going truly huge many of these guidelines may be useless. For myself, I prefer that the chain element of a giant necklace fall above the exposed neck and collarbone area, while the bulk of the piece rest below, as shown here. If the metal plates of this necklace were to peek up above the black tank neckline, that would look like a fight to me. Since they rest on the solid black space, they look intentional.

Again, the older tutorial includes many more photos and examples, so I recommend taking a peek! But I hope some of these were helpful as well.

Do you have any personal guidelines for pairing necklaces and necklines? Do these suggestions resonate with you? Any other resources on this topic you’d care to recommend?

  • judy

    This was very helpful Sally. Thank you for both posts!

  • http://breebronsonsbabies.blogspot.com Bree Bronson

    These were good tips, thank you!

    I use very little necklaces myself because I’m allergic and my skin doesn’t quite tolerate them. I try to balance this by picking shirts that don’t require a necklace, wearing my long hair down/putting something jewellery-like in my hair or putting my hair up and using a bit larger earrings. Sometimes I’ve also used a necklace on top of a collared shirt so it doesn’t touch my skin.

  • Cee

    Thanks for this post Sally. I don’t think all of points these are neccesarily ‘new’ to me, but they really help to explain why some times necklace/top pairings just look wrong to me!

    Also, on a side note, I really appreciate that you include an example of where your pairing wasn’t quite spot on. It still looks lovely, but that fact that you’re willing to think critically about what you’ve done is a really encouraging reminder that we don’t always nail it, and that’s ok.

  • LQ

    Wow, I disagree, it’s not “fighting” but “balancing.” I have a huge bust. A scoop necklace over deep scoop neckline emphasizes my otherwise manageable tendency to look like a bag of volleyballs. Whereas a nice V or pendant instead breaks up all that roundness.

    I’m with you on trying to fill the space a bit, so no tight chokers with very deep necklines unless you have something very intentional in mind.

  • Gisele

    Sally, this is all really helpful and interesting–thank you.

    I am in love with that triple-strand multi-colored bead number you’re wearing with the green top and red (wine?) sweater… are there more necklaces like it out there in the world for me to get one??

  • Shay

    In the first few pictures, your cardigans appear to have lapels. Did you iron them that way? They really show off the necklaces.

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Nope, they’re tacked down with fashion tape.

  • Anonymous

    Something I discovered recently is that bib necklaces, for example those kind from Anthropologie which form a “V”, can visually MAKE a new neckline. I have a few necklines I don’t really like, usually because they are too high and to my eye, look constricting or bring a pattern closer to my face than I would like. By wearing one of these bib necklaces, I can have a V neck as it covers up the fabric and creates a different line.

  • Maggie

    I recently discovered that if I wear a bib necklace which forms a V (Like the one at the top of this post!), a new neckline can be created visually. I have a few tops which have necklines which I do not like because they are either too high or too straight across or bring a pattern too close to my face. One of those necklaces makes for a new neckline, so I do wear such necklaces over a neckline!