Why high-neck tops are great for older women
This year roll necks are big news. Which is excellent news for all us older ladies.
And not just because a roll neck usually keeps us warmer.
Depending on the type of roll neck you wear, your top can camouflage a lined neck or minimize a double chin.
It can make you look taller and slimmer. It can make you look sporty, country, stylish or even glamorous.
It’s all in the choice of cut, color and texture.
So before you dismiss this season’s style must-haves as ‘they always make me look huge’, take a look at what’s on offer and, most importantly, how to style each top so it works for you.
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What I include as a roll neck in this post
There are so many confusing names for a top that has a neckline that stops above the collar bone. The most general term seems to be roll neck. But some people call them all high necks. And they use the term roll neck only for a neck that literally folds, or rolls, over on itself to form a stand-up collar. Americans often use turtle neck for this style.
To complicate matters English women of my age may still be calling this style a polo neck.
Then there’s the high neck that doesn’t actually roll over. I notice American retailers use the term mock neck and sometimes both sides of the Atlantic we say funnel neck.
Then there’s the roll neck that is baggier and falls forward onto the top of the chest which is also known as a cowl neck.
So I’ve included all these styles in this post.
Best roll necks for layering
In winter most of us like to wear layers because we find it hard to keep a steady temperature all day. So two or three layers of clothing can give us the flexibility we need to feel good whether we’re working in a stuffy office or window shopping on a cold day.
Rather than pulling on a big woollen jumper on top of a vest and a shirt, use the roll neck as a fine layer. Either directly next to you skin – you’ll want to choose a cotton rollneck. Or as a second layer on top of a very fine vest – when Merino wool can work very well. But whatever yarn you decide on, just make sure that the roll neck is fine not chunky or textured.
You want to add warmth but without looking like you’re on a hiking holiday in the mountains.
The Boden essential roll neck
I bought a white and a navy cotton roll neck from Boden this year. They take the place of a vest as the layer next to my skin. One thing I like is that they are not at all transparent, not even the white one. Smooth, but adding a noticeable warmth, I find them really useful.
If you find close-fitting roll necks unbearably itchy these days, as I do, then cotton solves that problem. These ones are 100% cotton.
I mainly wear them under open-neck shirts. That allows me to do away with a cardigan. I deliberately chose basic colors that will pick out colors in my favorite shirts.
The higher neck helps to elongate the upper body compared to the wider look of a shirt collar. If you’re square on top like me then this can be useful!
Chico’s cotton-cashmere turtleneck tank
If the fitted look of the Boden roll neck is not for you then take a look at this offering by Chico’s. It’s still an underlayer in winter as it is sleeveless. But it’s cut more loosely for an athleisure or relaxed vibe. Sleeveless tanks work well under top layers as they don’t add bulk at the shoulder or upper arm.
It comes in some interesting colors to brighten up a winter casual outfit. It is a cotton mix with a little stretch and the merest suggestion of cashmere! So it should stay looking good for several seasons. It will go well front-tucked into jeans or left long and loose over any narrow stretchy pant.
A longline cardigan left open will add to the slimming effect of the higher neck. Something dark such as blue or navy would work well to give that long narrow slice of bold color down your middle to move the eye up and down rather than from side to side.
Make the most of the bright color of this top by wearing bright fun sneakers. They don’t need to be the same color as the top, they just need to be bright. You’ll look energetic and ready for the world!
Marks and Spencer’s pure Merino wool roll neck
All good retailers make similar wool tops. But M&S seem to come up with quality at an unbeatable price for these classic stand-bys.
If you’re slim you will look amazing with this top tucked into pants with or without a belt. This is a stylish look that works in the office all the way through to the weekend. Have a jacket handy to slip on and if you’re very slim button it up for a smart vibe. If you’re slightly wide at the waist then leave the jacket open, to get that long stripe of color from chin to waist.
Alas many of us will look more like a roll of beef tied ready for the roasting pan if we fully tuck in a fitted fine sweater like this one without wearing a shirt or sleeveless knit over the top. But as an underlayer it will work for all of us. And keep us warm too.
Merino is lambswool that is usually knitted into fine, often fitted, items. So the high neck will look very smart and stand up well. This gives elegance and structure to an outfit. Everyone should have one of these sweaters in their wardrobe for colder days.
But most of us will only ever show the neck. Retailers need to show customers the whole item so of course all the pictures tend to be of women wearing sweaters as an outer layer. If you, like me, have fat on your middle, on your back or on your upper arms then you’ll be wearing this fabulous sweater as an underlayer. No discussion!
The right roll neck for your jawline and chin
A word of warning. If you have a slack or uneven jaw line, you may not look your best in a close-fitting high ribbed rollneck. That’s because this neckline sometimes frames and highlights the jawline. If you notice this, then you can either unroll the neck and wear it slightly scrunched (no strong line now to highlight an uneven jawline) or simply choose a mock neck (funnel neck) fine sweater instead.
Best roll necks for winter
It’s fun to have a snuggly warm jumper for when the weather turns really cold.
But it’s all too easy to just pull on a thick sweater without thinking about how it looks on you.
If you’re a little overweight then try to go for the inverted triangle silhouette. Play up the bulk of your sweater whilst keeping your pants no wider than straight. And narrower will look even better.
By contrast your hips and thighs will look slimmer.
Think carefully about how far down your body that wide-cut woollen top will come. You may find a square top works for your figure. It will stop around the mid-point of your rear.
You can add to the bulkiness of the top if you nip the front into a belt or waistband on your pants. But I’d keep the rest of the sweater untucked so the length covers your behind, at least partially.
Boden cashmere ribbed jumper
I bought this sweater this year and I honestly adore it. The color is very pale cream but not at all yellowish. It teams well with navy pants but will go over patterned skirts, dresses or jeans. It is super soft and hangs well.
This is the wide cut you need if you want to wear a roll neck as your outermost layer. It has today’s dropped shoulder which makes it casual. But casual can be smart without being formal. So wear this sweater with dark velvet pants to head out for the evening with friends or tuck the front into jeans with a belt to look relaxed but confident when the grandkids come over.
I’ve had no itchiness from the mock neck but I always wear a fine cotton vest under it.
The Marks and Spencer Autograph wool-rich roll neck
This is a less expensive alternative to the Boden sweater above. It’s squarish-cut but not over wide. It has a diagonal stitching pattern to add top layer interest. You’ll find the sleeves a bit long I believe but as you’ll see on the M&S site models usually push them up to mid fore-arm.
Apart from the yarn used – this is made from wool and recycled materials compared with cashmere for the Boden number – the main style difference is the neck. Boden went for a slightly raised collar whereas M&S have enlarged the collar so it is a wide full roll neck.
Both look good but if you find roll necks irritate your skin you may prefer this M&S style.
Best longer length roll necks
If the inverted triangle is not your look – for example if you have a heavy bust and don’t want to make your top look bigger – then a tunic or long length sweater could work better for your figure type. The long single color from jaw to at least the top of your leg will add to your height.
Push up the sleeves so you don’t look drowned by the woolen.
Think about a long medallion-style necklace that falls below your bust or some metallic chain bracelets that take the eye to your wrist and away from your upper middle.
You may find a large knotted silk square fills some of that expanse across the top of your breast. A roll-neck can make this area look larger if you have a full bust.
But be prepared to buy a long sweater in a size larger than your usual fit unless the sweater is advertised as cut generously.
Nobody wants to see every indentation down your back from bra line, to love handles at your waist, down to a heroic stretch across your behind. So make sure the sweater hangs straight down at the back. Otherwise you’ll find yourself looking for thicker and woollier knits to camouflage your shape. A medium weight sweater will look best, but don’t fret about the size number.
Chico’s cashmere turtleneck tunic sweater
This is 100% washable cashmere and comes in lovely soft autumnal tones. I especially love the taupe sweater but if you’re pale make sure there’s enough contrast between the color of the sweater and your face as this will be your top layer and will sit immediately next to your complexion.
This sweater is generously cut so it looks and feels snugly but it’s not square. It’s a tunic style so needs to fall, unobstructed, straight down your back.
So consider whether to order two in different sizes and send one, or both, back if you can’t get that straight line.
To give an idea of length, this sweater at 29 inches is 6 inches (15 cms) longer than the M&S wool rich roll neck above. They both work for different styles. The Chico sweater is a great way of giving a long neat silhouette. Don’t wear it over anything but the neatest fitting pants. No jeans, probably no belt (could show at the back), no wide pants unless you are tall and slim.
Jaeger at M&S wool and cashmere herringbone jumper
If Chico’s sweater shows too many lumps and bumps, then take the plunge and get a more styled up alternative.
This means lots more roominess as well as the length you like.
You have to wear this sweater with confidence. Enjoy the slouchy (very fashionable today) vibe, stick your hands in your pockets to increase the folds around the lower waist or stand tall in toning narrow straight pants for an elegant but up to the minute look.
The side slits mean this knit will likely hang just right on you as the slits can ease any rear-end or heavy thigh issues.
I love the classy herringbone design. If you are drawn to French urban chic you’ll love this sweater.
Best year-round wardrobe staple roll neck
Roll necks aren’t only for winter. Use a patterned or brightly colored roll neck to highlight the area above your bust without drawing attention to a lined cleavage or a less than perfect neck.
Forget neck jewelry as it will just detract from the effect.
Use the roll neck with a jacket, an open cardigan or an edge to edge long coatigan style top. Decide whether to button the over layer up and how far. That will depend on your figure, especially the height and heaviness of your bust.
Make sure the over-layer is thicker and heavier than the roll neck. Make sure it doesn’t cling to the roll neck and just add to your bulk. As a rule of thumb, the thicker the roll neck, the thicker the top has to be.
So this year’s velvet jacket would be ideal as it is light weight but has structure and texture making it work well over the roll neck.
Chico’s floral jacquard mock neck sweater
Here’s a well-priced cotton mix top that ticks all the boxes for a wardrobe winner year round.
First the cut: it’s top of hip length (and comes in petite too) which is ideal for a top or under- layer (thick navy jacket or plum sleeveless knit). It won’t add padding to your widest parts. It can almost disappear, apart from the neck, under a jacket, so you get an elongation of your upper body in a smart look. Or worn over straight or fitting pants it will look dynamic and sporty.
Tuck it just at the front into jeans and you have your go-to weekend look. Add a sleeveless padded jacket or one of the new sleeveless knits if you get chilly.
The three-quarter sleeves work well. No need to push them up.
The patterns and colors are a great way of bringing a little excitement to a one color outfit. No need for neck scarves or a belt.
The neck: the lower high-neck takes the eye up to your lovely face. But it’s low enough not to highlight any slackness in your jaw line.
The fabric: the cotton-mix is kind to your skin. No need to wear a vest unless on a very cold day.
Just one thing to be aware of in this winner: it’s designed to be a leisure garment so don’t expect a tight fitting stand-up neck. It will likely droop or crease a little over the day. So wash after every wearing to give the fibres a boost for the next time.
Best winter wardrobe staple roll neck
Marks and Spencer’s cable knit funnel neck jumper
Here’s a useful winter sweater for town or country. It has the cable detail and dropped shoulderline that marks it as right up to the minute.
For a more urban vibe wear this squarish cut sweater mid-tucked into jeans which will big up your top. If you want that inverted triangle silhouette make sure you team it with straight or narrow pants, leggings or jeans. The idea is to make your lower half look slim by comparison. You can wear neat flats, good-looking sneakers or ankle boots to complete the look.
Over jeans tucked, or untucked, it will give you a great country look. Ideal for that Sunday morning walk with family.