The Ultimate Guide to Different Types of Necklines

By: Rachel Aschenbrand-Robinson

There’s no overstating the importance of a flattering neckline when you’re hunting down the perfect top or dress for your body. It’s easy to let your focus gear toward other areas, but the right neck shape can frame your face, create balanced proportions, and set the tone for your entire look — essentially making or breaking it. Every woman’s body is beautifully different. Embracing your shape and the silhouettes that accentuate it best will narrow down your choices and help you decide on your next rental with ease and confidence. From classic to trendy, crew neck to deep v, read on for every type of neckline you need to know about, and how to choose the best one for you.

1. Boat Neck

Tibi-Rose-Pink-Poplin-Top
Top: Tibi

The boat neck is a nautical-inspired go-to of icons like Audrey Hepburn (hence its nickname, the Sabrina neckline). It is a graceful, wider neckline that typically hits just past the collarbone. Sometimes known as a bateau neckline, an elegant boat neck blouse or dress draws the eye out toward your shoulders. This balances out wider hips, a narrow face, neck, or shoulders, and a smaller bust.

2. Cowl Neck

Cut-25-Navy-Column-Gown
Gown: Cut 25

The cowl neck has a design that naturally drapes in rounded folds and forms a unique silhouette that flatters a variety of body types. For large-busted women, a cowl neck dress that shows a little skin minimizes bust size by lengthening your torso but choose thinner folds that will not add more volume to your bust. Women with a smaller chest can opt for cowl necklines with thick folds that hang loosely around the bust area to add depth to your silouhette.

3. Crew Neck (Round Neck or Jewel Neckline)

Draper-James-Georgia-Ruffle-Top
Top: Draper James

This classic, simple, close-to-the-face shape is best for women with a long neck, narrow face, small chest, or sloped shoulders. Larger busted women may want to avoid this high neck design, as it decreases the amount of exposed skin between the chin and chest and creates an illusion of a shorter neck and a bigger chest.

4. Halter Neck

Marchesa-Notte-Purple-Lace-Flounce-Sheath
Dress: Marchesa Notte

Have wide shoulders? A halter top could be your best bet. This neckline design draws the eye up and in, creating a balancing effect by cutting broad shoulders. This curve-enhancing silhouette is especially flattering for women who have an hourglass figure and toned arms and shoulders—you’ll especially want to try a halter neck dress for your next occasion. Apple-shaped body types should be cautious of this neckline as it may make you appear to be even more volumptious.

5. High Neck (Turtleneck)

La-Vie-Ruffled-Lotus-Top
Top: La Vie

A sophisticated neckline design like a high neck or turtleneck hits a few inches below the chin and helps offset a long face or a long neck. To eliminate the “floating head” effect that comes from a super high turtleneck sweater, opt for styles that offer little bit of breathing room.

6. Off-The-Shoulder

Temperley-London-Desert-Mix-Maxi
Dress: Temperley London

Off-the-shoulder shapes, also known as Bardot, highlight your shoulders and collar bone and draw the eye up to balance out a fuller middle. Romantic and flirty, off shoulder tops and cold shoulder tops flatter shapes from pear and athletic to petite and hourglass. An off-the-shoulder sweater also works well for small to medium busts and narrow shoulders.

7. One-Shoulder

Viva-Aviva-Blue-Takeo-Dress
Dress: Viva Aviva

Arguably the most dramatic of all the neckline styles, one shoulder tops are unexpected—and ideal if you have narrow shoulders and thin arms, since they can give a widening effect around this area. For this reason, avoid one-shoulder jumpsuits or dresses if you’re broader in the shoulders.

8. Scoop Neck

Opening-Ceremony-Side-Flounce-Top
Top: Opening Ceremony

The deeper, wider neckline of a scoop neck tee or a scoop neck dress is flattering to virtually everyone. Whether you’re small or large busted, this style lengthens your neck and highlights your collarbones in an elegant, ballerina-esque way. Take this style for a spin already!

9. Collar Neck

Alexis-White-Striped-Vivien-Dress
Dress: Alexis

Go for a collar neck blouse or collar neck dress if you’re fuller in the chest or have a thinner neck. Not only does a standing collar flatter your neck, the open décolletage will allow your bust area to “breathe” without exposing too much. Plus, this feminine yet chic style creates a demure look with just the right amount of sexy.

10. Square Neck

Free-People-Color-My-World-Jumpsuit
Jumpsuit: Free People

The retro shape of a square neck dress or square neck top is great for busty women as it frames the décolletage without revealing too much cleavage. It provides a nice contrast to curves and also elongates a short neck and narrow shoulders.

11. Sweetheart Neckline

Milly-Banana-Leaf-Jordan-Dress
Dress: Milly

An open style like a sweetheart neckline dress almost always makes a woman look longer and leaner. This neckline enhances the natural curves of well-endowed women, yet also creates curves for small-busted women.

12. V Neck

Diane-von-Furstenberg-Taffy-Waist-Tie-Top
Top: Diane von Furstenberg

Anyone can look great in this universal neckline. The key to nailing the perfect V neck dress or V neck tops for your shape? Depth. Stay on the higher side if you’re smaller busted. Women with larger chests should look for rentals with a deeper V for an elongating effect. This style also draws the eye in, balancing out broad shoulders and thick torsos, and lengthening short necks.

13. Plunging Neckline (Deep V Neck)

Mother-of-Pearl-Freesia-Printed-Jumpsuit
Jumpsuit:
Mother of Pearl

If you’ve got a small to medium bust, dare to bare in a style like a plunging dress or a deep v neck jumpsuit. Elongate your frame and bring the drama — without spilling out of your top.

14. Keyhole Neckline

Nicole-Miller-Red-Keyhole-Dress
Dress: Nicole Miller

The keyhole neckline is a close sibling of the halter neck, except forming a “keyhole” of varying shapes and sizes right below your collar bones. This timeless neckline brings out class and sophistication, as it feels and looks as though you are wearing a jewel. This style flatters a small chest but should be avoided by larger-busted women, unless you’d want to further accentuate your cleavage.

15. Surplice Neckline

Trina-Turk-Canary-Hydrangea-Dress
Dress: Trina Turk

A surplice neckline forms when fabric from one side of your shoulders crosses fabric from the other side at the front, and then permanently sewn down in the seam. It is often mistaken as a V neck shape. A discerning feature is the cinch around the waist, that makes this neckline perfect for anyone who wants to achieve a more defined waistline.

16. Strapless

Cedric-Charlier-Navy-Floral-Ruffle-Dress
Dress: Cedric Charlier

Strapless styles highlight your entire upper body area and is perfect for women who like to flaunt their collarbones and necks. However, be prepared for its minimal support by wearing a good strapless bra that provides firm support. Women with broad shoulders should pay extra attention to this neckline because of its widening effect on the shoulders—which makes it perfect for those with narrow shoulders and slim toned arms.

17. Mixed

Adelyn-Rae-Red-Sweetheart-Jumpsuit
Jumpsuit: Adelyn Rae

Many fun pieces bring in multiple elements of necklines, such as this one-off-the-shoulder sweetheart jumpsuit. A combination of necklines often creates a distinctive look with an added dimension and is definitely something to try for a night to remember.