My mother called me the other day out of the blue. “Turtlenecks really get under my skin,” she told me over the phone. Why the vitriol hate against the beloved classic? Had she not seen the countless stock posters of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, or James Dean looking off into the distance, with a look of deep thought, snug and chic in slim-fitting black turtlenecks? No, her experience was tainted by a memory of a particularly heinous turtleneck, one in a hue of day-old Dijon mustard—a turtleneck that my grandmother once made my grandfather wear out to a holiday party during the mid-1960s. “And not only that, the turtleneck was under a blazer,” she said. “I could remember my dad trying to loosen the collar of the turtleneck—like he was trying to get out of it!”
The turtleneck has always been a contentious sartorial subject. One faulty styling move and you can easily go from Françoise Hardy to an indigestion-stricken President Vladimir Putin. Even at their best, turtlenecks are rarely considered sexy. Last week I wore one and headed out of the office in it to meet a date. My colleagues were bemused: “You’re basically wearing a chastity belt,” said one. Fine, the oversize, oatmeal-color turtleneck left nary a curve in sight. But what if it was more advantageously altered? “A cropped black turtleneck is the perfect winter date-night piece,” said Vogue.com’s Beauty Writer Monica Kim. “It’s warm and weather-appropriate with an alluring slice of midriff.” Voilà!
There’s a fine line when it comes to the turtleneck. For every Drake, who jived Bar Mitzvah–style while wearing a slouchy sweatpant-and-turtleneck combo in the “Hotline Bling” music video, there’s, well, anyone else who would try that. “There are two people on this green earth who can wear a turtleneck and sweatpants together in public and they are Drake and [Vogue.com Market Editor] Kelly Connor,” says Vogue.com Fashion News Editor Alessandra Codinha. “Probably Phoebe Philo, too, but I haven’t personally witnessed it.” Fair enough: But according to turtleneck aficionado and Vogue.com Style Editor Edward Barsamian, it’s all about how you wear it. “The best way to wear a turtleneck with sweatpants is to do the half-tuck where it still looks tailored but just a bit relaxed,” he says. (And don’t be afraid to accessorize: “There aren’t rules when it comes to jewelry and turtlenecks. A choker will highlight and elongate, while a rivière-style necklace will add a dash of subtle shine and sparkle,” says Barsamian.) Connor also highlights the importance of the silhouette. “It’s always about balance—the baggier the sweatpant, the slinkier the turtleneck,” she says. “My favorites are Tees by Tina! They have amazing stretch and help you avoid looking like you’re melting under a pile of fleece.” Sleeveless turtlenecks are very well balanced, if you think about it, showing up on ’90s lead actresses from Basic Instinct to Jawbreaker, and appearing again on Edun’s Fall runways. “It’s the sexier version of the turtleneck,” says Vogue.com Market Assistant Elizabeth Taufield. “But, it’s still understated and sleek.”
But what about my mother’s nightmare, the turtleneck and blazer ensemble? It reared its head during Fall 2015 at Derek Lam in muted hues of pumpkin orange and magenta, while at Marni, the look was a double whammy in mash-ups like a carob-color vest jacket on top of a sleeveless black turtleneck. Sure, it can be cringe-worthy—Ron Burgundy, anybody?—and even overtly fussy, but remember, this is the era of Alessandro Michele. Granny-chic is a bona fide thing. “I am a huge fan of the turtleneck and blazer combo. It’s a bit of an octogenarian-chic pair, which just about sums up my entire wardrobe,” says Vogue.com Living Editor Virginia Van Zanten(who definitely does not look 80). “I’ve worn the look about every which way.” The key to pairing the two? Keep the turtleneck fabric thin. “My one rule of thumb is to opt for a pretty thin turtleneck under the blazer,” says Van Zanten. “I once wore a chunky fisherman’s turtleneck sweater under a blazer and was mistaken for pregnant on the subway.” Sorry, Mom: It might be time to reconsider the tried-and-true classic—just maybe not in yellow.
Some content courtesy of: Vogue.com