3 In Getting Dressed

No turtlenecks for Thanksgiving

Today I am thankful for turtleneck alternatives. Yes, it’s turtleneck time. It’s chilly, blustery, and time to protect the neck from incoming chills that could threaten your fall/winter wellness. I am a big believer in the Chinese medicine lore that keeping the neck covered in bad weather means less colds, flu and diseases.

But I’m also a fashion consultant and ladies, if you’re thinking about wearing that turtleneck, I’m going to have to take a look at your ID. If your driver’s license hints that you’re over fifty, I’ll need you to step aside for a fashion test before you go out into the world and meet your public.

I worked with a client last week who was getting ready to celebrate her 50th birthday. We were planning her weekend outfits for all the festivities and she was hinting at including a turtleneck. When I demanded to see it on her, she just sung a little tune and obliged me. “I live for turtlenecks,” she said. “My sister always teases me. She says, ‘Which turtleneck do you want to be buried in?'”

Yes, very funny I’m thinking, but I’m wearing my fashion police hat. If she doesn’t pass inspection, she’s not wearing that turtleneck–no way! Soon she has it on and I make her look in all directions–north, south, east, and west–and sure enough, no part of the turtleneck grabs her delicate neck skin, tugging at it until it makes uncompromising, unflattering creases and folds. Nothing makes a lovely woman look fifteen years older than a turtleneck that mercilessly distorts the neck skin–while the wearer is not even aware!

Take Diane Keaton, for instance. I squirmed uncomfortably as I watched her on Oprah one time, wearing a fabulous outfit that included a too-tight turtleneck. Her neck aged her by decades that day. How could her publicist have not noticed?

But alas, there are alternatives. The scarf! The lovely, lovely, scarf. You can still be cozy and warm in cashmere sweaters with crew necks or v-necks. And then you take a scarf, twist it in a hangman’s knot (sorry, that’s what it’s called) and you have an instant turtleneck! Only now, you’re fashionable, chic, and looking five to ten years younger than you are simply because your neck skin is not being pulled at.

I am woman. I roar. But put me in a turtleneck and make me look in the mirror and I will crumble. Meeting the reflection of the me that is over fifty as I witness the surreal things my skin is doing in that turtleneck is a road I don’t want to take more than once. In a sweater and a scarf I can still fool myself that I’m closer to the age I feel, not the age I look. I can live with that.

What’s your favorite turtleneck alternative?

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Sue Jacobs
    November 22, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    LOVE this article Brenda. So many, too many women hide behind this awful piece of clothing (ok for skiing, yes) but we are changing that. A mock is better but, as you said, the V or scoop with a fabulous scarf solves the bare neck problem, is stylish, adds a bit of fun to the look & sends the message of polished and put together! I wanted to share to my fbook page but not sure how! Ladies need to read this from you as opposed to me saying it. Turtlenecks have a strong hold on many I have noticed……

  • Reply
    Amy Brookman
    December 15, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Even as a girl I never liked the tight feeling of a turtleneck. Many times they had uncomfortable cuffs too. I didn’t have to think about turtlenecks much back then, living in warm San Diego, CA. Now I live in Washington, DC, where temperatures are currently in the 20s. I still don’t wear turtlenecks, but almost never go out in the cold without a warm scarf. I have pale skin, so scarves also add a lift of color near my face, and bring variety to dark coats and pants. Scarves are also fun to mix with warm hats. I wear hats with brims, instead of tight cap styles.

    I love to wear knit silk long underwear in the winter for warmth without bulk, in a low cut style that won’t show under vee, scoop, and shirt collar tops. My focus is very much on how fabrics feel next to my skin and favorite colors. If I’m not comfortable in an outfit I won’t wear it. Thanks so much for your great ideas.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2010 at 7:10 am

    I have a skinny neck, so turtlenecks aren’t usually too tight. They’re fine if they don’t come up too high. I often wear a t-neck and a scarf. But, I agree they can be overdone. Women of a certain age sometimes get into a turtleneck-Birkenstocks-granola kind of image that’s not attractive.

  • Leave a Reply