The holidays are approaching, temperatures are quickly dropping and we’ve long since switched out our lightweight tank tops for chunky sweaters. As the time gets closer to break out the winter coats and snow boots, it can be tempting to prioritize warmth over style. Enter the turtleneck: the child-hated and (mostly) adult-loved piece of clothing that can give you both.
We asked a few stylists about how to style turtlenecks for every occasion, along with their shopping tips for choosing the right one for your wardrobe.
Tips for choosing the right turtleneck
Before you can style a turtleneck, you’ve got to pick the perfect one. Molly Bingaman, founder of Ladybird Styling, and Cassandra Sethi, founder of Next Level Wardrobe, shared a few tips to keep in mind when shopping for turtlenecks.
Know what kind of fit you want
Bingaman’s first piece of advice is to understand the kind of fit you want and tune in to your body. “Turtlenecks are great for layering, but not everybody loves to have the feel of a lot of tight fabric right around their neck. Understanding how you prefer to have a turtleneck move on your body is the first thing [you need to prioritize],” she told us.
Be mindful of fabrics
Sethi and Bingaman both pointed out the importance of paying close attention to the material when shopping for a turtleneck. Picking the right fabric is key to choosing an option that will feel better when you put it on. “You want to match it to who you are, to how you move [and] to how your lifestyle moves,” Bingaman advised.
If you don’t mind investing a little more and are looking for something more luxurious, Sethi recommends getting a 100% true cashmere sweater. If you’re not ready to invest too much or have a budget you’d like to stick to, she recommends a wool and synthetic blend like wool-polyester or wool-acrylic.
“The good news is, with cashmere, there are price points at every level so it’s a very approachable fabric to integrate into your turtleneck wardrobe,” said Sethi.
Pick a few versatile staples
In her practice, Sethi uses a proprietary filing system called the Next Level Wardrobe system that concentrates on three areas when shopping: identifying essential pieces; identifying the right colors you need; and identifying the right fit and brand.
She recommends applying these steps to turtlenecks, too. “At the same time you implement that system, you will be creating versatility within your turtleneck,” she said. While it may be tempting to buy several black pieces, she advises sticking with one as your staple before branching out to other styles and making sure you have at least one light color and one dark color in your wardrobe.
Try on several brands
We’re all guilty of trying on a style we’d been eyeing for a while from one particular brand and then giving up on it when it doesn’t look the way we’d hoped it would. Sethi says that’s where most people go wrong.
“It is very important to remember, with turtlenecks, that if you are on the hunt for one and you know you need one light and one dark color, you have to try at least eight different brands on,” she said. While it may seem like a lot, she recommends trying at least eight to cast a wider net for a greater chance of success.
How to style a turtleneck for the office
Sethi, Bingaman and Kanas City-based stylist Abby Wood all agree that a turtleneck style for the office should be classic and polished.
Wood recommends wearing a turtleneck under a blazer, so opting for a fitted style would be ideal. She noted that a more fitted turtleneck will stay fully tucked without feeling bulky, giving you that clean, polished look. Another way to obtain that look is by wearing a turtleneck under a dress, Bingaman added.
Sethi’s advice for a quintessential office look comes in two parts. The first part is to stick to core colors — black, gray and navy. “You can never go wrong with those colors, no matter the dress code,” she said. The other part is to play with different weights of sweaters. For something lightweight, opt for a cashmere blend. When it’s colder outside, try a heavier wool-blend.
How to style a turtleneck for everyday wear
Styling a turtleneck for casual outings allows for much more room in terms of style and color. Each stylist had their own tips for making turtlenecks fun.
First, Wood recommends a half-tuck, French tuck or full tuck, with your favorite overcoat layered on top. (Sounds like the perfect brunch outfit to me!) To make it even more casual, she also says you can wear a denim jacket on top instead of an overcoat.
Sticking with the layering theme, Bingaman added that you can wear it under overalls or with a high-waisted pant and some chunky jewelry. When looking for a casual turtleneck, she advises to look for things that have a more casual feel like an oversized piece and relaxed fabric. “[Find] something a little bit looser that you could wear with leggings or joggers. Maybe it has a hoodie pocket in it. All of that is going to contribute to a more casual/weekend sort of vibe,” she said.
Wood and Sethi both recommend going with a lighter, cashmere sweater for a casual look, but Sethi also suggests opting for lighter colors. “Lighter colors generally read less formal than darker colors,” she explained, noting that lighter colors are better for daytime looks.
How to style a turtleneck for a night out
While a turtleneck might not be your first preference when getting dressed for a night out, it’s certainly one of the more practical options when it starts to get colder. However, turtlenecks come in all different shapes, sizes and styles that will leave you both cozy and chic all night long.
Wood’s tip is to play with the fabric. Just because something is a turtleneck, doesn’t mean it has to be a bulky plain sweater. She suggests choosing a fitted sheer or lace option that you can pair with paperbag waist pants or straight leg jeans and a belt.
Sethi suggests exploring different styles of turtlenecks. Most people think of long sleeves when they think of turtlenecks, but there are short-sleeved, cropped and sleeveless turtleneck styles you can also try. “There’s a lot of different ways to play with different types of turtlenecks for when you are going out and I would encourage people to do that. Don’t always opt for a long-sleeved turtleneck,” she told us.
No matter what style you choose, Bingaman emphasized the importance of being mindful of the fabric. “The fabric is going to contribute to it feeling like more of a nighttime look versus more of a daytime look,” she said. Nights out tend to lean toward more shiny or sparkly looks and, she explained, turtlenecks draw the attention up by your face so you can wear big statement earrings and opt for fabric that utilizes a metallic thread. Paired with a cropped jacket, you’ve got an easy and comfortable night out look.
Best turtlenecks, according to stylists and shoppers
"Madewell has a really great cotton turtleneck bodysuit," Wood told us. "It’s not super, super tight but it’ll stay tucked in and it comes in black and gray." Costing just under $50, she also called out its affordable price point.
Wood also recommended this turtleneck bodysuit from shapewear brand commando for a more fitted, dressier option. "It’s just awesome to layer because it’s super thin, but it’s nice, dark [and] opaque," she said.
Sethi recommends this brand because of the variety of styles available and the quality of their product. "I think the quality of their turtlenecks, of their fabric, is top-notch," she told us.
Sethi also recommends Cuyana, a brand she says she styles a lot of clients in. "They have done some cashmere turtlenecks and turtleneck sweaters this season that I think look really, really great. They are super classic and you’ll be able to get a lot of outfits out of them as well," she said.
This loose, short sweater is a perfect option for a casual day out. The cable knit style is a great way to stay on trend this season while ensuring warmth. It even has a 4.5-star average rating from H&M shoppers.
The puff sleeves on this turtleneck add a little something extra to a classic office style. Several five-star reviewers have raved about how this sweater has become a new seasonal staple for them and how easy it is to layer.
Turtleneck sweaters are a great way to get into the holiday spirit. This cotton/cashmere blend sweater has a Fair Isle print that will have you ready for all of the upcoming festivities. It has a 4.7-star average and comes in regular, petite and plus sizes.
This semi-fitted turtleneck is the perfect blend of loose and fitted that can take you from a day in the office to post-work happy hour. It's made with 100% extra-fine Merino wool and comes in seven different colors ranging from neutral tones to a pop of pink. Several reviewers called it some combination of cozy, soft and stylish.
Like Sethi said, don't be afraid to play with sleeve lengths on a turtleneck. This sleeveless option is fitted, making it an easy layering piece without feeling too bulky, and comes in 23 different colors. "The turtleneck is nice for chilly offices or cool days and it’s low enough that it doesn’t strangle you," one verified five-star reviewer shared.
Ribbed-knit styles remain in trend season over season and pairs well with turtleneck sweaters to create a great layering piece. Pair with a blazer for the office or a shacket for a casual day to create a stylish outfit in just seconds.
A sleeveless turtleneck sweater can be paired with a high-waisted A-line skirt for the office or jeans and your favorite winter boots for lunch with friends. This Michael Kors option comes in fun seasonal colors like orange spice and moss.
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