There are many different types of necklines in fashion, and if you are someone who wants to either make your own clothes or design fashion, you need to be aware of the different necklines that exist.
Neckline styles come in and out of fashion, with the styles that will always be around referred to as ‘classic’ but there are also styles that suit different body types.
Creating your own clothes, or a fashion collection, with a particular neckline style as a design focus, can often make your collection feel very new and fresh, or quite dated and styleless.
In 2019, we saw several Spring Summer 2020 fashion shows featuring waistcoats for women – Saint Laurent, Celine and Etro were my favourites! Waistcoats usually have a very specific neck style and the collections that included waistcoats for women did so with slight ‘plays’ on what the neckline style for their looks:
- Saint Laurent cut theirs with a deep V neckline and cut super close to the body
- Celine had a looser fit waistcoat, with the neckline cut very low and scooped
- Euro’s was a boxy shaped waistcoat with a high V neckline
- Hermes had this very long tailored waistcoat which I would also totally wear!
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Different Types Of Necklines
Let’s dig in then and look at the different types of necklines that are available to you:
- Round necklines
- Square necklines
- V necklines
- Shaped necklines
- Collared necklines
- Cowl necklines
- Asymmetric necklines
- Built-up necklines
The above is quite a broad list of different neckline types, but doesn’t really explain or list the neckline styles within the types. Let’s do that now! And at the very bottom, we’ll take a look at the variations that can exist within neckline styles!
Round necklines are characterised by a curve of some sort.
The crew neckline was originally designed in the 1930s for American football players, but is now seen on t-shirts, tops and sweaters in abundance! Typically this neckline sits quite high up the neck, with only an inch or two difference when comparing the front crew neck to the back crew neck on a top.
A significant detail with crew necks is that it often has a band of some sort to finish the neck. This could be a separate piece of rib for t-shirts and sweaters.
This neckline sits lower down on the chest than the crew neckline, and is so called because the neckline sits where a necklace would usually sit.
I love this neckline. The image above could be considered only very slightly a round neckline, as it doesn’t quite run from shoulder to shoulder as is usual for a boat neckline. It is also known as the Sabrina neckline.
It supposedly originated around 1858 as the neckline used on sailors uniforms for the French Navy, and was then later made super popular by Chanel during the 1930s!
This is clearly a deep round neckline, ‘scooping out’ a significant amount of fabric from the shoulder line to a point on the centre front line to form a nice round and deep curve.
I love a square neckline. Sometimes you just need an angular neckline, and the square delivers every time for me.
A Florentine neckline is usually cut very square from close to the shoulder tip down to the chest, and them squared across to the centre front. It has existed as a neckline style since the 1500s.
Simple Square Neckline
A square neckline can be quite small / shallow, being cut by squaring across from the centre front neck and then up to the neck point. Or, a more substantial square neckline can be created by squaring across 2-3 inches above the bust line from centre front, and then up to mid shoulder.
I believe that the V-neck is the most popular neckline for women! Cut as a short V or a deep plunging V, the V-neck is the most adaptable and flattering neckline for women.
Surplice necklines are fixed-in-place wrap necklines in a V-shape. They usually overlap, and are stitched in place. I love a surplice neckline – its a super flattering style, as it looks like a V-neck but usually provides more coverage if cut super low.
V-necks come in all depths and widths. You may have a top with a short V neckline form neck point to just above your collar bone. A mid-length V-neck like the one on the above waistcoat.
Or you may have a deep plunging V neck dress that reaches as low as your belly button!
Personally, I’m not a fan of the traditional shaped necklines. I’d rather have a round, square or V-neck and get creative for something different. But I Do like the shaped neckline below!
But, some people love a shaped neckline! Here are the most common neckline styles:
- Diamond Neckline
- Keyhole Neckline
- Sweetheart Neckline
- Envelope Neckline
- Queen Elizabeth Neckline
- Court Neckline
- Horse Shoe Neckline
- Scalloped Neckline
Oh, where to start here! There are so many collars that can be added to a bodice pattern! Here are six main collared neckline styles:
- Mandarin collar (here’s a mandarin collar pattern tutorial)
- Peter Pan collar
- Shirt collar
- Roll collar
- Shawl collar
- Sailor collar
Here is a more thorough break down of all the types of collars if you’d like to dig deeper on this neckline style.
Ok. I know I’ve said this before, but boy do I love a cowl neckline! A gentle cowl can be quite flattering, while a deep cowl can be very sexy on a going out dress.
Cowls can be cut as an extension of the bodice pattern, or cut as a separate pattern piece and sewn in place as inset cowls. They can be on the front neckline or the back neckline and frankly they’re just fab!
Once of my fashion school projects was made entirely of cowl neck jersey dresses. Like I said – I love a cowl neck!
One Shoulder Neckline
A one shouldered pattern is clearly and asymmetric neckline. By removing one shoulder line, you’re creating an asymmetric skyline which affects the front and back necklines.
Other types of asymmetric necklines might include having a neck-styleline that is longer from one shoulder across centre front to join with a shorter line from the opposite shoulder.
A great example is this asymmetric dress from Matt during the final of Great British Sewing Bee 2020!
Built Up Necklines
Built up necklines are necklines that extend upwards beyond the neck, and are cut as part of the bodice pattern by extending it, or can be cut separately and sewn to attach and build up the neckline.
The funnel neckline is traditionally cut as an extension of the main bodice pattern, with quite a wide opening for the head! Popular on winter clothes, the funnel neck is usually seen as something warm and cozy – until designers subvert it with heavy strutted fabrics!
Polo / Turtle Neckline
Despite what you may read elsewhere, the polo neck and turtle neck are the same neckline style, just named differently depending where in the world you are!
I hate them personally; they make my neck disappear, my face appear rather wide and make me feel like I’m being constricted at the neck. This style is rarely flattering in my experience, but some people love them – Karl Lagerfeld and Steve Jobs being two of the most famous wearers of the polo / turtle neck!
Stovepipe necklines should always (in my view) be cut in a fabric with some structure. They sit close to the neck and are an extension of the main bodice front and back pieces, so look different to a polo / turtle neck.
As well as all of the above neckline styles, there are also things you can do to the examples in each type of neckline that will make them more distinctive:
- Gathered Neckline
- Strapless Neckline
- Off Shoulder Neckline
- Halter Neckline
- Racerback Neckline
- Plunging Neckline
- Bib Neckline
Choosing the Right Neckline
When you’re making your own clothes, and using sewing patterns that you have purchased or patterns you drafted yourself, the different neckline types that are part of any patterns can be changed to suit you and your style.
Just because a shirt comes with a horseshoe neckline does not mean it has to stay that way. ‘Pattern hacking’ is the term sewing bloggers would use to modify a sewing pattern to better fit their needs – and I encourage you to hack a pattern to better suit your needs when it comes to wearing a neckline that works for you!
Knowing which neckline is best for you can take a little trial and error though. When I’m a size 12UK, a boat neck or slash neck looks amazing on me, but as a size 18UK I look like a lump in this neckline style. Currently (as a size 18UK) I am wearing more scoop necks and v-necks because these work well on all body shapes, and make me feel more comfortable.
Typically, as a rule of thumb:
- V Necks
- Square Necks
Work well to help lengthen the body and so are flattering on most body shapes and sizes!
If you’re more bottom heavy, like a part shape for instance:
- Crew necks
- Boat necks
Will both help to balance your body by adding some width to your shoulders.
Necklines In Fashion
There you have it! A guide to different types of necklines in fashion. Do you have a favourite neckline you prefer to wear? Are you eager to try different neckline styles? Let me know in the comments below!
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Eve Tokens (aka The Creative Curator) is a fashion designer, creative pattern cutter and sewing pattern designer.
Eve graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Design from the University of The Creative Arts in the UK, has a BTEC diploma in Creative Pattern Cutting, a Foundation Degree in Art & Design from Wimbledon College of Art and gained extensive experience in the fashion industry by interning and freelancing for London based fashion brands – Hardy Amies, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and others.
As well as running her own small sustainable fashion brand, Eve has more than 25 years experience sewing and making clothes for herself and family members.