Because It’d Be Too Easy If You Didn’t Have Another Choice To Make: Dress Necklines

I’ve talked a lot about the bottom of the dress, but not really much about the top.  Unless you plan on going topless (which I really don’t want to know about, no offense), I figure it’s about time I talk about necklines!  You’ve probably seen a lot of these before but may not know what they were called, so I’m going to focus more on the differences between similar styles, how they translate to dresses, and what they do on certain body shapes.  There are some necklines that can be paired with others, so keep that in mind.

High Collar

This is a turtleneck style without the fold over.  It is a band collar that extends between one or two inches up the neck.  The oriental version of this neck is separated in the front, usually with rounded edges around the upper corners.  To make it easier to get in and out of, there is usually a set of buttons that run up from mid-back to the top.  This neckline is usually made of a sheer fabric or lace, though there are solid versions.  It is common to find this style of dress with some kind of cap or illusion sleeve, but there are plenty of sleeveless versions as well.



This is your usual plain T-shirt neckline.  It’s a round, shallow neckline that sits just at the base of the throat (though your dress isn’t going to have the bulky fold over).  Just like a T-shirt, if you’re well endowed in the chest department this is not going to be the best neckline as it can pull awkwardly around the bust.  Like the high collar, it is common to find this dress with some sort of sleeve, but bare arms are also easy to find.  You can also find varieties that form almost a triangle in the material leading up to the neckline, completely covering the chest, but exposing the shoulders more.


This is a wide neckline that curves with the collarbone and sits on the tops of the tips of the shoulders.  This is the classic Audrey Hepburn shape.  The straps can vary in thickness at the apex of the curve but are typically on the order of 1/2 an inch wide.  The neck sits close to the collarbone, showing it off while keeping the chest covered.  The back is also usually high, though some daring gowns dip all the way down to the lower back.  The style is normally sleeveless, but fits well under a bolero if you want a little extra coverage for all or part of the day.



This is a soft scoop that goes from shoulder to shoulder, usually sitting just below the tip of the shoulder.  It hits just below where the bateau does, but follows the same general shape principle of following the curve of the collarbone.  It comes down a little lower on the chest, but still provides a good deal of coverage.  These straps are thicker, but are less for support and more for looks, so be prepared to have other parts of the dress fit tighter so you don’t end up flashing everyone.  This one is slightly difficult to wear a bra with, but a strapless bra is easily concealed.


Off the Shoulder

This one is also a soft scoop much like the portrait neckline, but this one sits below the shoulders.  It very much resembles the bateau cut if you were to slide the straps down your arms.  The straps are vary in width and cover a portion of the upper arm.  This is a great look if you want to show off your shoulders and collarbone.  Some are done in a drapey fabric to give them a more romantic feel.  Again, this strap is less for support and more for the look of the gown, so the dress will need some help in the tightness department to stay on.  If you need the extra support for your girls, a good strapless bra is the way to go here.


The scoop is also known as a ballerina neckline.  You may recognize it as the usual neckline for most tank tops.  This is a U-shaped cut that often comes low.  The straps come straight up from the dress and sit on the top of the shoulders (which makes it easy to wear a bra, but consider pinning or otherwise attaching those straps to the straps of the dress).  It is generally flattering on anyone, but keep track of how low the cut comes in relation to your cleavage.  If you’re going to be married in a house of worship, this is not the time to be showing off your girls to everyone and their brother.


Ah, the v-neck.  You probably already have a shirt or something in this style, but at the very least you’ve seen it.  As it implies, the neckline comes down in a V shape that elongates the neckline (good if you feel like you have a “stumpy” neck).  This style works best on girls with a bit of a chest but nothing too overly impressive, as smaller ones leaves a lot of extra room (which sometimes can’t be tailored out) and anything larger looks like it’s fighting to break free (and sometimes it does…I’ve seen it, it’s not pretty).  A lower cut plunge-style bra works under this if you need it.



The square neck is one of my personal favorites (although it looks terrible on me).  The straps come straight down over the shoulders as in the scoop, but meet with the bodice at a 90° angle.  The neckline cuts straight across the front of the chest, which provides a little more coverage than the scoop.  Like the scoop, this shape is good on almost anyone, and has the extra bonus of coming up a little higher to cover more well endowed chests.  Undergarments aren’t a problem here, so if you’re the envy of all the girls at Victoria’s Secret, you should be able to contain yourself without too much trouble here.


The halter has several variations, the common theme of which is that the straps come up and around the neck and clasp or otherwise connect together there.  The cut in the front can take on almost any shape but is usually found in square, v-neck, or sweetheart varieties.  This type will either require a strapless or adjustable strap bra (some are made with “convertible” straps that can be made to turn into a halter; if you go this route attach the straps to the dress), or you have to go without one.  While it’s typically thought of as being good for showing off your shoulders, I’ve also found it to be flattering in disguising my broad shoulders.

Spaghetti Strap

The spaghetti strap cut is usually a straight across cut but can come in other shapes, where the bodice is held up by very thin straps.  These straps are also often supplied with strapless dresses and quickly hook into little loops sewn into the lining.  If you like a strapless dress but want some kind of strap, this is a quick fix.  Because they aren’t that thick and the connection to the dress is small, they aren’t fabulous for support.  I usually favor spaghetti straps over strapless dresses to distract from my linebacker shoulders, so I use them as more of a visual tool than a functional one.


The asymmetrical neckline is “lopsided” in that there is usually either an angled cut or only one strap (or a combination of the two).  Designs that have one shoulder can vary in strap type and width, and even style with relation to the rest of the dress.  These can be done in just about any fabric.  Designs that have no straps usually have a more structured, architectural look to them and have one side cut higher than the other.  This style is usually done with heavier fabrics that are easier to “mold” and will keep their shape.  Because it has an upward angle, it draws attention to your face and neck.


Strapless is the most common neckline currently, exactly why I’m not sure as an increasing number of brides complain about not being able to find dresses with straps.  As it implies, there are no straps holding the bodice up, meaning they usually have a tight fit around your waist to support the dress.  A strapless dress can be flattering on any body type depending on the exact shape of the top of the bodice (see the next point).  Straight across cuts tend to be most flattering on smaller frames, while cuts with some shape to them are better for broader frames (i.e. for me and my giant shoulders).


This neckline can be found either with or without straps.  The name refers to the curve of the top of the bodice which forms a heart shape.  The effect can either be exaggerated into a full round cup, pointed dip (like in the picture), or done in a very subtle manner that is more of a gentle up and down wave/dip of the shape.  The soft shape gives a gown a more romantic feel, while the sharper style is a more modern flare.  This is found a LOT on strapless dresses, but it is making an appearance in halter and other strapped forms.  The softer cut allows for a strapless bra to be worn, but a deeper cut can reveal a bra so you may have to go without.

I hope you guys have been finding these guides helpful!  I’ve got two more lined up, but if there’s anything you can think of that I’ve skipped, drop me a comment or shoot me an email.


Posted on November 14, 2011, in Attire, Wedding Planning Isn't For Sissies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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