Coordinating necklace lengths and necklines…
The main goal when selecting a necklace is to choose something to enhance your outfit, not compete with the neckline.
We each have our own style. Your jewelry should be an extension of you; something you treasure; the icing on the cake, so to speak. It’s the finishing touch that helps portray your personality in a visual manner. So it’s worth understanding some basic style guidelines with respect to which length necklace works well with which neckline.
Standard necklace lengths have names…
There is a standard guide in the jewelry industry that shows where each necklace length should lay on your body. The problem with this guide is women are far from standard issue. We come in all shapes and sizes and depending on our personal structure; the incremental lengths may or may not sit at the intended location on our body. So to have a discussion about matching necklace lengths and necklines, I am going to focus on the name of each length as opposed to the numerical measurement. Here’s a chart of the standard lengths including their names and their intended body placement.
If you are like me, the measurements that work for you vary from this chart. I’ll address this a bit further down.
Descriptions about each necklace length and suggested neckline pairings…
(Toggle each description open by clicking the + symbol)
A choker is short necklace meant to sit close at the base of your neck. For many women a 16” length is ideal. But this can vary woman to woman. I know women who are 6 feet tall who wear a 14” length and also short women who need a 17” or even 18” length. For a necklace to sit at the base of your neck, the dimension of your actual neck comes into play as well as how your shoulders connect at the base of your neck. If a necklace is so taught that it sits above the base of your neck, it would be considered a collar. The two words are often interchanged, so I only offer this as an extra tidbit of knowledge.
The short length of a choker is ideal when you want to bring attention up to the face or if you want to showcase a pendant above a neckline including a keyhole shape, with the right pendant of course ;).
The Princess length is meant to sit on the collar bone. Traditionally a princess necklace is 18” long. But again – this depends on your personal stature. Located just under the hollow of your throat, this length is still relatively short, but if you are not fond of things close to your neck this is a better option than a choker for comfort.
Although the princess length necklace is in the short range of the spectrum, it may be a bit long for wearing with a pendant unless you have a V-neck or a deep scoop neckline. It can also be worn with a snug turtleneck or mock turtleneck especially if it’s layered with another longer necklace or a draping garment like a cardigan sweater with a deep neckline.
The term matinee refers to necklaces in the mid-range of the length spectrum. They are meant to drape below the collar bone but above the bust. This length is considered both casual and proper depending on the style and clothing you pair it with.
Matinee length necklaces are typically layered over a neckline and are long enough to stay draped over your clothing. My personal favorite go-to for every-day wear is a 24” thin cable chain with my signature Faith and Love pendant. It layers over my slightly scoop neck t-shirts and feels super comfy. This range of necklace lengths is perfect with higher necklines like boat necks, crew necks, and turtlenecks. They’re also great for layering over button down shirts when you prefer to wear only the top button or two open.
Traditionally speaking, the opera length necklace was considered to be formal. But the more current fashion trends show it with a boho chic vibe. The opera length is long; commonly 30”. It’s meant to drape at or below the bust which allows it to layer over most any garment – even those with a deep v-neck.
The long length of the opera necklace draws the attention down the front of the body. They work great with cowl necklines or any top with interest up near the neck like henleys or golf shirts. They also layer well with a scarf wrapped around your neck.
Rope length necklaces are extra long; 36” or more. It’s common to see this length in a strand of pearls worn wrapped twice around the neck.
This extra long length is also great to wear layered over loose cowl necks as the fit of the garment pulls the necklace away from your natural neckline causing the length to sit higher on your body.
Choosing a necklace based on neckline…
Now that you are familiar with the various necklace lengths, let’s explore the options that work with each neckline.
(Toggle each style tip open by clicking the + symbol)
Crew neck (T-shirt) or Boat neck (wide but high neck) –
The higher neckline typically pairs well with necklace lengths which layer over the garment. There are lots of options from matinee (mid-range) to rope (extra-long). You may also like a short choker (or collar) but only with a very small pendant if any pendant at all. The length to avoid here is princess, because it will compete with the neckline and likely slip behind the garment.
Scoop necks –
The goal is to choose a necklace that’s either shorter or longer than the neckline. A choker worn plain or with a small pendant is likely to sit above the neckline. Or you could choose to layer over the neckline with a long matinee or opera length.
V-necks and tank tops with low necklines –
The same rule applies. You want something that sits above the neckline or drapes below. If your V is low enough, you can rock a bold pendant on a princess length necklace to really fill in the display area above the neckline. Or you can layer a choker, princess, and short matinee all together. If you want to draw attention lower, you can wear an opera or rope length necklace.
Button down blouses with a collar –
The best necklace choice depends on how many buttons you wear buttoned or unbuttoned. If you button most buttons, you’ll likely want a matinee length to layer over the buttoned placket. But if you wear the top 2 or 3 buttons open, it’s more like a v-neck and you could pair it with a choker.
Henleys and Golf shirts –
There’s a lot going on between your collar bone and bust with this style top, so you want either a short choker with a small pendant or a long opera length or rope to layer over. Have some fun and dare to wear both! Just be careful about your look getting too busy.
Turtlenecks and other styles that sit above the base of your neck –
Collars and chokers are the only lengths to avoid here. Turtlenecks provide a lot of real estate to showcase great pieces. This is a prime time to go bold and layer. Whether you want to show off a big pendant or layer up with texture or color, you get to choose where the eye is directed depending on the necklace you wear.
Cowl Necks –
A cowl neck is voluminous on its own. If the opening around the neck is low enough you may want a simple choker likely sans pendant unless the cowl falls in a V. Your other option is to go long like opera or rope length. The idea is to choose a necklace to layer below the cowl. If the cowl neck pulls away from your neck, the rope length may serve you best as it will take more length to drape around the bulk.
How to measure yourself…
As we mentioned above, the standard lengths may not fit you as described. It’s best to measure for yourself. If you have necklaces on hand, you can measure their exact length and then try them on to see how they sit on you. If you don’t have necklaces, you can use heavy string or thin ribbon. Make notes for yourself about the specific measurements you need for the various lengths.
For instance, take note of what length sits at the base of your neck (choker). What length do you need to sit on your collar bone (princess)? If you have favorite necklines you wear often, use the guidelines above and measure how long your ideal necklace length would be.
If you are shopping for a specific outfit, take into account that a pendant will pull the necklace down a bit in the middle. The more weight to the pendant, the more severe the dip depending on the type of necklace. Chain will pull to a severe V, where leather will maintain a soft curve. You’ll also want to take into account the size & shape of the pendant. For example if you have a v-neck that’s not all that deep, you may want a choker verses a princess length so the pendant doesn’t fall behind the neckline.
We offer customized lengths!
If you find that your ideal length is not something we offer, please contact us with your request. We’re happy to help you get what you want. Because we make our necklaces here at the studio, we can usually accommodate you.
Here are the necklaces we offer to coordinate with our pendants. Feel free to contact us if you need assistance with your selection.
Scalloped Ripple Silver Chain
- 15 1/2″ and 17 1/2″ lengths
- works well with our small and medium pendants
Quad-strand Leather Necklace
- 16″|18″|20″ lengths
- works great with our medium and large pendants