If you were to consult a few old-school winter style tips for women who are busty, you'd find one of the most popular warnings is to steer clear of turtlenecks. The high neck emphasizes a larger bust, it might say, so opt for a sweater with a V-neck instead. It’s exactly the kind of advice I’d gently eye-roll at today, but in my early 20s, it was biblical.
I’m not sure when I started swearing off turtlenecks, but I can tell you I never wore any in college or for several years after. However, about three years ago, I—already a fashion editor who was comfortable doling out advice to other women and promoting a no-rules-apply philosophy when it comes to personal style—finally asked myself why I didn’t even entertain the thought of wearing anything taller than a crewneck.
If you recall, this was about that time when turtlenecks were having a bigger-than-usual moment. All ’90s silhouettes were huge, and naturally, winter called for turtlenecks layered under every slip dress or sweatshirt. I remember mock-neck styles from brands like Carven started appealing to me, and I specifically recall Alexa Chung wearing the prettiest mock-neck Emilia Wickstead design. It was enough.
I started by buying the thinnest, simplest black turtleneck I could find. It was intended to style under dresses and add an extra layer of warmth during the most frigid days. But I liked it too much to stop there. I paired it with dark skinny jeans and suddenly felt like a beatnik—think Audrey Hepburn á la Funny Face. When I bought more, I paired them with tailored coats and leather jackets, and I liked that, too. I didn’t really stop to analyze what my bust looked like. To be frank, I’ve always been very aware of how my body looks in my clothing, but when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see someone wearing something unflattering or inappropriate. I just saw someone who liked their outfit.
I’m not here to say that the old-school style advice was wrong. I’ve tried on turtlenecks that do emphasize my shape a bit more than I’m personally comfortable with. But I also now wear ones that look sleek and streamlined when tucked into a pair of high-waisted pants or a skirt. I wear turtlenecks in different colors and patterns (yes, horizontal stripes included). And I have oversize, up-to-my-nose-neckline knits that cover me entirely in cozy cold-weather fabrics. I can’t say I love all turtlenecks, but I’m discerning. And who isn’t when it comes to personal taste?
Maybe you can’t relate. Maybe one fashion editor’s turtleneck dilemma seems like a very specific fashion phobia. But while turtlenecks are the one thing I feared I “wasn’t supposed to” wear for my shape, for others it might be miniskirts, jackets that fall past your knees, or bright colors.
Of course, you don’t have to choose to wear all the trends and all the silhouettes of the moment. But my point is you can.
You don’t have to shop the turtlenecks below if they’re not your thing. But as a reformed high-neckline phobic, I’ve listed my current favorites ahead.