9 In Getting Dressed/ Women Now

Can a collar make you look younger and more vibrant?

Marj creates presence with a collared shirt

Marj creates presence with a collared shirt


It started as a discussion about creating presence as we age. The Bellas were together in Sonoma enjoying Sunday waffles and fresh fruit at a table in the shady backyard garden at Sunflower Caffe. Marj was wrestling with personal style issues. She wanted to talk about how to recreate style as we evolve and age and felt challenged about how to get her style needs fulfilled with current fashion. She was frustrated. She wanted to have drama and presence with her outfits and felt she was missing the mark. Recently she’d seen some photographs of herself and she didn’t like what she saw. She has an important birthday coming up and, gosh darn it, she wanted to meet it on her own terms–with style, of course!

It was a great question to ponder for the three of us–Marj, Lynn and myself. It interests all of us: We’re all involved in fashion professions and coincidentally, we’re all getting older.

“Marj,” I asked, “in the pictures you were looking at, were you wearing something that had a collar?”

“No,” she answered.

She was sitting across the table from me and I was looking at her in her orange lace collared shirt and I said, “I think you’re doing it right now! You’re creating drama in this color which not a lot of people can wear well. You’re creating drama from the bust up with your necklace, earrings, your striking eyewear and your great haircut. And the collar makes us stand up and take notice. Just take that formula and do more of the same!”


Collar cheerleader


I’d been thinking lately about collars before Marj even brought it up. I’d made a few outfits for myself recently where I layered a collared white camp shirt under a 3/4 sleeved jacket. I’d put a collared checked shirt under a sleeveless dress. I was happy with the look. I’d just styled a client of mine in our age range using a collar to frame her face and bring focus to her eyes. I was intrigued by how well a collar can say “Hey, look over here! Here I am! Take note!”

If you think about it, crew necks just don’t have the same gravitas.

A lot of casual tops these days are in knits and they don’t have collars. Sure, we can add interest with necklaces or scarves but I think the edges of an actual collar is a stronger frame for our faces. I think they add definition at a time in our lives when we need more defining. Some of us are losing collagen or eyebrow lines. As gravity pulls parts of us downward, we need to intervene and pull attention back up. A collar can do that.



Valerie adds feminine collar drama to her pinstripes


Another collar fan


We continued to discuss the elements of creating drama at “our” age, without looking like we’re trying too hard, as we walked around the square, visiting our favorite shops. We stepped into J. James where we are always sure to run into one of our favorite artists, Valerie Raven.

What a nice coincidence that I had just used the word “collar” for the fourth time when there before us was Valerie who had the most glorious collar! She enthusiastically joined in on our discussion and had strong feelings on the subject. (Score 2 for collars.)

She even shared a secret: she made the collar she was wearing that day.

Don’t you just love it when you’re admiring something on someone and they say, “Oh this? I made it!” I instantly think they’re genius.

She’d decided to add it to her pinstriped flowy suit when she got dressed that morning. She said, “Navy blue and pinstripes, well it just looked too manly and not distinctive enough. It really needed a collar. I like creating the feminine contrast.”

Take a look at the closeup picture. I LOVE the fabric she used! It’s clearly a high quality cotton. Turns out she makes all kinds of collars and adds them to her outfits. She is especially fond of the Renaissance look.


collar styles

Collar closeup


So then this happened…


A week later with this collar discussion still noodling around in my mind, I picked up the remote to see what was showing on the Turner Classic Movie TV channel. You’d think collars were following me around. Here was Bette Davis playing Queen Elizabeth I in the movie The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939). Take a look at that collar! Talk about presence!

Final score: Collars 3, collarless 0.

What do you think? Do they think collars perk us up and give us more presence?


collar styles

A collar frames the face of Bette Davis in her role as Queen Elizabeth I

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  • Reply
    August 18, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Yes,yes,yes! Couldn’t agree more!
    I work in fashion too (own a boutique), and I’ve come to the same conclusion over the last few years. Collars, both for me, ( I’m 68), and my clients, just give that “lift” around the face that we all need as we age.Clothing manufacturers seem to take the easier, and cheaper, way out with a plain neck, but I’m always asking them to at least put a cowl neck on a garment, especially in winter!
    I’m lucky in that I sew, so I make sure I use patterns that have a collar; I know I can add a scarf to a plain neck, but I’m in that minority of women who just don’t look right in one, being petite, they just swamp me, and I’m always fiddling with them. Give me a nice crisp collar any day!

    • Reply
      August 18, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      So happy to get your response! And thanks from “the general public” for being an advocate to manufacturers to add collars!

      • Reply
        August 18, 2015 at 7:34 pm

        And sleeves!!!

  • Reply
    Amy Roseveare
    August 18, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    I agree-collars are awesome. And I love the drama of flipping one up! 🙂

    • Reply
      August 18, 2015 at 7:52 pm

      Oh so true! A flipped up collar always signals confidence to me.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2015 at 5:21 am

    Tnank you, Brenda, for writing about collars (and all your other good work)! I couldn”t agree more either! Although I love and wear my scarves nearly every day scarves (I take really well to the big ones and I just pinned three together in a sort of loop), especially in more formal (and hot) environments you need a beautiful collar to flip up and out. I think this is important for definiton at every age; I started to notice that there are nearly no clothes or desingers that have/design beautiful collars. While a beautiful one is often all the drama and presence you need.

    • Reply
      September 3, 2015 at 7:00 am

      I so agree with you. I wonder if it is a “cutting corners” thing and manufacturers are trying to keep costs down. I’m really noticing them more now.
      Can’t wait to share a picture in the coming weeks of something I purchased with the Bellas and Marjory said, “Collar!!!” It’s a cropped vest kind of thing but it has sort of a collar and we had to chuckle. But I think it will be a great accent. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Alison Lyons
    August 17, 2018 at 2:39 am

    Have just found you on Pinterest,live in Australia,have loved scarves since I was 18,now 62,love collars,most especially when I’ve had my hair cut short..

    • Reply
      August 27, 2018 at 6:17 pm

      Aren’t they wonderful with short hair? We’re so lucky, Alison!

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