Style + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle: Turtleneck Troubles

Hi Belle,

Thanks for all of your AskBelle posts lately!  I was reading them today and it got me wondering, are there rules for who can wear turtlenecks?  I think they look so chic, but I’m a bit bustier and not exactly rail-thin, and I’m wondering if the look can still work on me.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.  If you approve, do you have any tips for styling them or recommendations for a quality turtleneck?

Thanks! Amanda

Truth be told, I don’t wear turtlenecks.  In fact, I kind of avoid them.

First off, being long-torsoed, I can never find turtlenecks that are long enough.  Secondly, I find that turtlenecks are only truly flattering on tall, proportional people.  On almost everyone else, the large swath of fabric overwhelms the wearer.  I think this would be especially troublesome on a woman with a larger bust.

The only exception I make is for turtleneck dresses–I like this $70 option from Victoria’s Secret and this more expensive dress from Theory.  I’ve seen some flattering ones out there, but I do suggest wearing them with a belt to help break up the look.

If you like turtlenecks and you are confident that you look nice in them, then I’m not going to stop you.  But I think that for most women, it’s not they’re best look.  Have a brand suggestion for good turtlenecks?  Leave it in the comments.



  1. Anna says:

    I tend to avoid turtlenecks. I think I still have PTSD from my mom making me wear them as a kid during “winter”….I grew up in Miami….Winter was 70 degrees.

    That said, maybe it could work with a funky vest to break up the body a little?

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  2. Tori K says:

    I'm a bustier lady and I know that when I've tried to wear turtlenecks, the results have been really awful. Turtlenecks make my breasts look even bigger than normal and, worst of all, they look incredibly saggy. Gigantic saggy-looking breasts are not attractive.

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  3. Anonymous says:

    I'v heard that turtlenecks are a no-no and that they are tricky to wear – and then, Boom!, it's really hot for a season. If you like the look of a turtleneck (sophisticated, sleek, cozy or whatever) and you want to try one, try one that is not so bulky. I've seen the whole football field when it comes to turtlenecks – from bulky to sleek and slim. If you don't like the look of the bulky ones, try one of the slimmer ones (the fabric is much more sleek, slim, sheer) and the neck is not a huge bulky bulge around your neck. It give you a turtleneck-look without all the heaviness that might overwhelm many women. Try it on before you buy, though, in case you don't like the style on you. I think turtlenecks can work but you have to find the right one for you. Good luck!

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  4. J says:

    I find that lightweight cashmere turtlenecks (usually in camel, black, or gray) look very chic. The key is that the knit is thin enough to not bulk you up in the wrong places and allow people to still see your shape….plus, with the all over coverage, you can go tighter than normal and not look too much like a hussy.

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  5. Susan says:

    I LOVE sleeveless and short sleeved turtleneck knits for wearing under jackets. I am short, short waisted and busty so they don't tend to be too long, plus without the long sleeves (which are always too long for me anyway) they don't have a lot of bulk. Wearing them under a jacket keeps them from making me look too busty, and since I sit at a receptionist desk where people often tower over me, in a turtle neck, I don't have to worry about them getting an unintentional view down my shirt as I would with even the most modest of other tops.

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  6. H says:

    I think a chunky, cowl-neck knit sweater can provide some of the warmth of a turtleneck, but looks better for those of us with larger busts since it's more open at the neck. You can also just wrap up a thicker scarf or snood (yes, a snood) over a v-neck sweater or blouse.

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  7. AVA says:

    As a women with a larger chest (38DD) I can understand your problem. I frequently have issues finding turtlenecks that work for me. Currently the best I can recommend is jcrew. They have them in a wide variety of colors and there is no pulling in the neck area like is common with many other turtlenecks. I have not had any luck with Ann Taylor or Banana , they ALWAYS pull. If you are at a size 12/14 I would also recommend Lane Bryant (my sister swears by them). They seem have some good options and quiet frankly the best bras that I have ever found for my chest size.

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  8. SC says:

    I'm busty with a long torso, so I can't really explain it, but turtlenecks look great on me. Maybe because I have an oval face, and long hair? There might be other proportions at play on a person that change the balance.

    I agree with the other commenters that a thin material is key for a busty woman. The merino wool turtleneck from J Crew is my absolute favorite. (They make it in different colors each year, sometimes in slightly different styles or sizing.)

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  9. strin012 says:

    I love turtlenecks for layering. I, too, am busty and not rail-thin (Curvy might be the best description for me). I'm also 5'7'' and long-waisted.

    If you're going to wear a turtleneck by itself, I'd suggest a dark color paired with a high waisted pencil skirt. As always, fit is important. Clothes that are too small or too big make you like you don't know your size or that you're trying to hide, respectively.

    If saggy boobs are a problem, I would suggest rethinking what kind of bra you're wearing (cf Belle's piece about the importance of a well-fitted bra). I wear a 34DDD, so I definitely understand the problem, but you have GOT to have the girls secured in their place if you're going to pull off a turtleneck by itself (or anything really).

    Finally, 'tis the season for jeans and sweaters and layers and boots! I love to wear my turtlenecks layered under sweaters with a belt to emphasize my waist. They're a nice way to add some color in my generally neutral wardrobe.

    I have been a fan of Mossimo turtlenecks from Target. They have them every year in a variety of colors, thickness of fabric, and sleeve length. They also have turtlenecks for long-waisted people (hooray!). Also, they're not expensive.

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  10. Helena says:

    Well, I love turtlenecks, but I'm petite and short-torsoed. I like them a touch on the slouchy side (no ribbing– that's very 90s) in neutrals or jewel tones. I also tend to keep my hair back or up and accessorize with drop or chandelier earrings when I wear turtlenecks. I think it's good to wear some make-up, as this style draws attention to your face.

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  11. AD says:

    I think turtlenecks are cute on tiny girls w/ pixy haircuts. That is all. I think they look gross on every single other person ever.

    Cowl necks are the way to go if you want something similar.

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  12. K... says:

    Turtlenecks are tricky if you have a large bust, short/thick neck, double chin, droopy jowls, or a round face. If you have more than one of the above (like me), it's best to give up.

    However, I've found that a looser neck, like a funnel-neck or a cowl, gives a similar look but is much more flattering. Experiment with a winter scarf to see what type of placement and volume works best on you.

    And whatever you do, make sure it is in a flattering color. If you don't have black hair, you are probably not suited to a black turtleneck. Even if black suits you in general, dark colors that close to the face add shadows that make you look tired and old.

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  13. Beth Anderson says:

    For whatever reason, turtlenecks make me look chinny. And I'm a thin person. Can't figure it out. Mock turtlenecks are OK though.

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  14. B girl says:

    I second the idea of layering! I think a turtleneck looks great under a crew neck sweater or a cute jacket. If it's too warm for that I'd recommend long necklaces – not too short so they interfere with the neckline but just to break up that flat space between the collar and your chest. A necklace can also give another focal point other than your curves.


    young but a good example of what I meant
    real world random woman from the internet
    for the bold

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  15. Theresa says:

    I know how you feel, and I have a few offenders in my own closet. I'm both curvy and petite, but I have a small waist, so if a turtleneck isn't fitted, it really adds pounds. I agree with the poster who mentioned cowl necks for a larger bust. You can still get a great fit but without the unusual emphasis on the bust line. Looking great in a turtleneck with a large bust also requires an excellent bra. The long neckline lengthens the upper body, making your breasts look like they're “sagging” lower than they actually rest. Make sure your bra fits perfectly and provides lift, or wear whatever undergarments you need to keep everything in its proper place. The most important part of buying a turtleneck, though, is sticking with solids. Prints are a no-no!! Especially if you're looking for something roomier, you don't want that much print over a large bust, it only serves to enlarge the look of everything. But even with a fitted turtleneck, you don't want to increase the look of a large bust with a print that further inflates the size.

    October 16, 2012/Reply
  16. Maharani says:

    I'm curvy, shortish neck, large bust so I avoid them like the plague-not flattering on me at all. Also mock turtlenecks and crews, for the same reason. I stick to V necks. My wardrobe consultant took them all away and destroyed them. Unfortunately I lived 4 years in Maine followed by 3 in Seattle, and accumulated a lot of these abominations… the worst period of my life. I think they suit some men but very few women and there are lots more attractive options for keeping warm in winter, even in Downeast Maine……

    October 17, 2012/Reply
  17. Morgan says:

    I’ve seen t-necks on pretty much every size and shape woman. The only ones that didn’t look attractive were the huge women who wore one that was way too tight. I am not certain what some other readers were referring to regarding style but if they are not disgustingly tight, I think they look cute on all body shapes.

    August 29, 2013/Reply