To look great in a necklace — whether it’s a chain, pendant or string of pearls — look to your face, neck and body type to get the right “fit.”
If you were to go through your jewelry collection right now, would you find a necklace — or five — that you rarely, if ever, wear? Let’s think about why.
Now, it could be that you just don’t like the piece anymore. It could have been part of a fun fad and you got bored with it. And, of course, it could have been “that unfortunate gift” from someone well in the past.
But it’s more likely that there are two key reasons for the lack of wear. One: It doesn’t work with your overall wardrobe. And two: It doesn’t flatter you.
How do you avoid making these same mistakes twice? Let’s look at your options to find the best necklace length for you.
The jewelry industry has standard necklace lengths measured in inches, which are more often even numbers than odd. However, chain can be cut to any length, and custom-designed pieces can be whatever the designer decides.
Women have lots of standard options:
|Length||Style||Placement||Worn Best With ...|
|14 inches||Collar||Tightly around the neck||Open-neck clothing such as scoop necks, V-necks, off-the-shoulder and boatnecks|
|16 inches||Choker||Tightly against base of throat||Almost everything|
|18 inches||Princess||On the collarbone||Almost everything|
|20 to 24 inches||Matinee||Between the collarbone and the bust||Great for both business and casual wear|
|28 to 36 inches||Opera||On the bust or an inch or two below||High necklines and evening wear|
|36 to 42 inches||Rope||Wrapped to sit on or just below the center of the bust||Elegant business and evening wear|
Note: If you have a wide neck and are considering shorter lengths, you may need to go up an inch or two in length.
Men, not surprisingly, have fewer options, and all really work with any shirt or sweater:
|18 inches||Base of neck of smaller man|
|20 inches||Collarbone; most common size|
|22 inches||A few inches below the collarbone; medallion can be added|
|24 inches||Above the breastbone|
Sticking your neck out
So, since men don’t have the same concerns about wardrobe choices or body type, we’ve got tips for women. (But gentlemen, stick around and eavesdrop because you may learn something about buying a necklace for a woman.)
For a super-quick way to figure out the perfect necklace length, measure the extended length of the necklace you wear most often (or the clasped length, then double it). That’s likely the most flattering length for you, or the one that works best with your wardrobe.
For a more measured process, think about your entire body — from the shape of your face to the size of your bust to your height to your general body type.
But start with your neck. All necklaces actually touch your neck, so what’s going on there counts a lot. Necks have length and necks have width. And some necks have wrinkles. Long necks can wear just about anything. Short necks and wrinkly necks have issues to work out, so not every necklace will be a good fit. And do remember, as with any “general” advice, there are always exceptions so it’s best to try necklaces on, if possible.
Lengths and widths
A choker will work beautifully on a long, thin neck (the proverbial “swan neck”). A choker on a short neck can make that neck look stubby — and possibly wider than it is. A wide, short neck can’t rock a choker, especially a wide one. Don’t try. Instead, choose a necklace 20- to 24-inches long; this will elongate your type of neck and make it more swan-like. Wrinkled necks need to stay away from short and tight necklaces too. Unfortunately, they draw the eye to those wrinkles — use a longer necklace, perhaps with a stunning pendant, to draw the viewer’s eye away instead.
Another key part of your body to consider is your upper torso. Usually, a necklace shorter than 22 inches sits above or at the bust. When you go longer, though, you want to be sure the necklace works with the length of your torso and your bust, especially if you are short or full-figured.
Where many women make a mistake is by not considering height. This is understandable because women of average height and taller can wear just about any length necklace (although if you’re taller, a short chain may get lost on you). But short women may be overwhelmed by long necklaces and chunky designs. If you’re 5’4” or smaller, choose a length that sits on your collarbone or just below.
Bottom line: look in the mirror and decide how the necklace looks on you; and if you like it, wear it!
A final consideration is the shape of your face. The common descriptors are oval, round, square and heart-shaped. Oval faces can wear any length of necklace (keeping in mind, of course, height, neck and body size). If you have a round face, you want to pick a longer necklace, possibly with a pendant or charm, ideally something that creates a slimming “V” as it glides away from your face. Avoid the round choker as it will make your round face look rounder. The recommendation is exactly opposite for heart-shaped faces. The roundness of a choker will smooth out the heart shape’s planes and angles. Long, rectangular faces also benefit from the roundness of the choker.
So chokers sound great for a lot of different faces. But what if you wear turtlenecks all the time? Then a choker is not for you. When choosing a necklace length, you must also consider what you wear.
Your everyday wardrobe is another important part of your necklace length decision. Let’s stick with turtlenecks as a wardrobe example. Long ropes of chain or beads will look great with turtlenecks on most women, but if you are short or full-figured, they may not. Once you have decided what you will wear, just make sure the necklace length you choose adds to the overall look and enhances your appearance.
There are many things to consider when you’re properly outfitting yourself with a new necklace. We’ve talked about neck, face and body type, and a bit about how your clothing will drive the length of the piece you choose. For all that planning, though, you just may come across something you adore and have to have. All things considered, only you can really decide if that cool necklace that may not be the perfect length might actually be the perfect necklace for you.