Thank you for all of your lovely blog birthday wishes last week. I’m writing this in a bit of a time-warp on Tuesday night because we’ve decided to act on our empty-nesters’ ability to be spontaneous and head off for a few days to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We’re not going very far at all, certainly not to the exotic climes that we should have been enjoying right now but we’ve realised that with a new project looming this might be our last chance for a while. As the eldest son sagely put it when we told him about our win, “that’s going to put a stop to your gadding about.” Isn’t it strange when your children go all grown up on you?! Anyway today I’m talking mostly about how to make necklines work for your body (as with anything it’s all about the architecture of your frame) and let’s have a general catch-up as well.
I have a few things in my head that I want to talk about so let’s crack on. Firstly a quick spiking update. I had my telephone call with the Inquiry Manager for the Home Affairs Committee last week. She turned out to be a midlifer who is also horrified by the increase in spiking incidents across all age groups and demographics. She asked me to give written evidence to the Select Committee, I’ve now submitted that and it will go before them this week. Hopefully it will then form part of the presentation that they’ll be giving to the Home Secretary – securing her focus on it is the next hurdle. In the meantime the committee has read through the blog post, your comments and the comments on Instagram so I just want to assure you that we’re being heard and I’ll keep you updated with any feedback that I’m given.
I was encouraged that so many of you enjoyed the conversation about colourblocking in last week’s post. I want to build a balance this year between our usual ‘what’s in the shops’ chat and a focus on sustainability. I’m hoping that the inclusion of little style tips like colourblocking here and there might help you to view what you already have from a different angle and get more wear from your existing wardrobes. At the same time it might help you to focus on any gaps so that when you do buy new clothes, you’re shopping thoughtfully.
How to make necklines work for your body
So my style focus today is on how to make necklines work for your body. You see we tend to put a lot of thought into things like the size of our waist or bust… the length of our legs… the shape of our arms… and how they affect the way things look on us but we forget one of our most important structural features and that’s our neck. It’s something I’ve always worked around instinctively because I’m forever trying to compensate for mine. Then I came across a piece by fashion editor Anna Murphy who crystallised the problem very visually by saying that we fall into two camps – the swan or the duck.
With that you instantly know what I mean don’t you? If you have a swan neck, you’ll have a beautiful jawline and side profile however old you are. Think Audrey Hepburn or Helen Mirren. It gives you an instant elegance that no amount of dieting or working out at the gym can achieve – it’s just about great proportions and you’re either born with them or you aren’t. Her research showed that the majority of women aren’t and have a duck neck.
How can you tell which you are? I’m sure you already know but swan necks look great in a tight polo neck jumper; duck necks don’t however hard they try because it emphasises the lack of real estate between chest and chin. Other necklines that you’ll find have the same visual truncation are crew necks and classic shirt collars (where the buttons come right up to the collar).
(For the sake of clarity here I should say to US readers that in the UK a polo neck is what you might call a roll neck – it comes almost up to the chin and folds over in a double layer. A turtle neck for us is simply a slightly raised neckline, a single layer that comes halfway up and often sits away from the neck).
I’m a duck neck, I hate catching myself in side profile, particularly as I age and the skin under my chin ‘relaxes’ even more. But there’s nothing any of us can do about it so we just have to learn to dress around it with a bit of visual trickery. So how do we do that? Well in spring and summer it’s easy, we can extend our necklines to our clavicles by wearing a scoop neck, a boat neck or a V neck. In the UK we probably won’t be revealing our necks for at least another couple of months though so how do we extend our necks visually and still keep warm?
The most important thing is to avoid a classic polo neck or anything that sits tight against your skin. So one option is to wear a loosely arranged scarf but unless they’re worn to wrap up with coats, scarves have been mostly relegated to style’s hinterland for about seven years now – they must be due a comeback soon. Cowl necks are flattering in theory too but along with waterfall cardigans can be a bit of a shortcut to midlife frumpy so things to look out for are:
- a polo neck or turtle neck where the knit of the collar starts below the clavicles
- a turtle neck (i.e. a neckline that comes halfway up your neck and sits away from it)
- a quarter or half-zip neckline that you can adjust to suit your own proportions
- a mandarin style collar on a shirt or blouse
What doesn’t work for a duck neck
I’ve been digging around in my archive photos again to find examples I can show you. Here are pictures mostly from the early days of the blog before I’d worked out what to avoid:
Tight, high polo necks
High heavy roll necks
Button to the collar shirts and round necked coats
How to make necklines work for your body – solutions for a duck neck
And here are the necklines that I’ve learned to look out for:
Polo or turtle necks where the knit of the collar starts below the clavicles
My old, cheap as chips H&M favourite – can you see how deep the start of this neckline is, visually elongating the neck and standing out to frame the face rather than squoosh the skin?
This one does the same thing
A low turtle neck has the same trickery
A quarter or half-zip neckline
These are hard to find but you can always rely on Me+Em for a few.
Mandarin style collar on a shirt or blouse
I always try to find winter blouses with a stand collar like this because they work in the same way. Leaving them unbuttoned also gives a neck-elongating V.
Alternatively a pyjama collar has the same effect
If you have a jumper that you really love and the neckline doesn’t work for you, you can always add a layering top like this:
New season neck-lengthening jumpers
I had a couple of emails at the end of last week from people who are desperate for new season wardrobe update ideas and at last, the new drops are starting to land so here are some neck flattering suggestions.
- Long mid-grey jumper – alpaca blend, responsible wool standards
- Espresso brown turtleneck with front seam detail – responsible wool standards
- Navy stand collar – also available in rust or oatmeal, felted lambswool
- Navy striped turtleneck – also available in olive – the neckline disrupts the top stripe for a lengthening effect
- Pink turtleneck (recycled, great value and 10 colours available – the same as my pale grey one above)
- Blue turtleneck – also available in green, dipped hem, responsible wool standards
- Long grass green turtleneck – great value and a longer length
- Soft blue deep neck (great value, also available in deep or mint green)
- Green fisherman’s rib turtleneck – merino, responsible wool standards, wear unrolled for a flattering effect
- Boxy olive merino turtleneck – also available in black
- Bright blue raised neck – good reviews and a split hem for easy front tucking
- Emerald green cotton jumper with frame collar – also available in sky blue
- Ivory structured split neck – side slits, deep cuffs, hip length, responsible wool standards
- Structured ivory jersey top in organic cotton – great if you overheat in wool blend knits
- Ivory ribbed hip length jumper – the rib lengthens and streamlines the body, selling fast, be quick
- Soft camel raised neck – flattering ribbing and waist, neck and cuffs for visual elongation of those parts
So hopefully that’s given you a new angle on how to make necklines work for your body. The neck is so often overlooked when it comes to the impact of an outfit but dressing it well will make a huge difference to your overall look.
What I’ve been doing and wearing
There are just a few pictures on my phone, mostly of the weekend before last when we went back to Newcastle. You may remember that I was a bit apprehensive after the spiking but going back with friends was the best thing we could have done. I’ll move onto that in a moment but first the pictures from before they arrived because we went over early to see mum-in-law. We set off straight from a meeting (colour blocking in action again):
Whistles coat (AW18); M&S top (SS18); Me&Em trousers (SS18); Suede boots
We spent some time with m-i-l the following day, returning via The Biscuit Factory on the hunt for art for the our living room project at home.
Whistles coat (AW18); Boden jumper (AW21); Boden scarf (AW13); Coated jeans; Boden boots (gifted AW21)
If you go to Newcastle, The Biscuit Factory is an absolute ‘don’t miss’. It’s an independent gallery with a large selection of art, both prints and originals sourced from all over the UK and Europe. Prices range from £20 to a huge amount of money and you’ll find ceramics, sculpture and jewellery too – plus a really good cafe.
You can shop online but it doesn’t compare to the gallery experience where everything is so beautifully displayed.
We always spend longer there than we mean to, it easily fills an afternoon and you leave feeling creatively nourished.
Whistles coat (AW18); Boden black jumper (AW21); Boden scarf (AW13); Coated black jeans; Boden boots (gifted AW21)
Sarah and Matt arrived the next morning – they’re becoming familiar faces on here because they’re some of the few friends who are willing to have their photo taken! We haven’t been together for quite a while because they had a really tough second half to last year. Matt left work to walk to the station one evening and the next thing he knew he was in A&E. A previously undiagnosed congenital heart condition had chosen that particular moment to do its worst and he’d had a huge heart attack on the way up the hill.
Thankfully a group of bright teens saw him collapse, called for an ambulance and gave him CPR until it came. He’d also broken his cheekbone, collarbone and ribs when he collapsed forwards. Urgent tests found that since birth one of his heart valves had been too small and he counts himself lucky because just a few days before he’d spent a week hiking solo in the wilds of Scotland.
Things continued to get more complicated but he finally had extensive surgery in October and one of the reasons that he couldn’t have visitors is that in the meantime he had to keep his heart rate at under 70 beats per minute (and of course I jest that we’re far more exciting company than that). He certainly seems to be turning the corner now and we feel very lucky to still have him here because he would have been a big loss in our lives – and if he sees that in writing I’ll never hear the end of it!
Seriously though, it’s scary thinking that there was a ticking time bomb inside him all this time. As you can imagine he now has a lot to say about living life because it’s short and precious – and he’s absolutely right. So, we’d chosen this particular weekend for them to come over because their beloved rugby team Gloucester were playing Newcastle Falcons. It was just our luck that Storm Malik decided to hit that day, I’m not exaggerating when I say they were the strongest winds I’ve ever felt and it was actually a bit scary up in our 12th floor eerie. The match was postponed from 2pm until 7pm which messed up our plans for an afternoon of sport and then a nice evening in the toon. It didn’t matter to the guys but it meant Sarah and I had no option to get changed later on which messed up my outfit plans.
Here we were heading out for something to eat and a couple of drinks before catching the metro to the ground. That’s a hat in my pocket by the way, not a small animal…
M&S jacket (SS18); Boden black turtle neck jumper (AW21); Coated black jeans; Boden boots (gifted AW21)
The winds closed the metro but we made it in time, them in their cherry red for Gloucester…
… and us in our black and white for Newcastle.
And what a match it was, I know I say this every time but you can’t beat live sport. Last time I saw the two teams play each other was on Sarah’s hen weekend – so it’s been a while.
That time, to my joy, Newcastle won. This time, to our guests’ delight, they didn’t. Even so it was a good evening, we walked back to the flat via a few different places and ended with a curry – what is it that makes men ‘need’ a curry at the end of the evening? Sarah and I were propping our eyes open by that stage.
I think I was the chirpiest the following morning. Matt and Sarah had to rush off earlier than planned because there was another east coast storm on its way and they needed to get to Glasgow before it hit so we wandered out for breakfast. We have a lovely Sunday market on our doorstep every week.
Whistles coat (AW18); Boden navy jumper (giftedAW21); Monsoon scarf (AW14); Indigo barrel leg jeans; Boden boots (gifted AW21)
I didn’t do a very good job of taking photos last week – just this one when I was heading down to London – my goodness it’s buzzing again down there, it felt great. And I know I’m wearing a crew neck but this one’s special because it reminds me of my music loving dad. I like the way the white text picks out the pinstripe on the trousers but I should have added a layering shirt.
I had my hair cut while I was down there, to my horror Premlee was off with Covid so somebody else had to step in. Here’s one of my rubbish ‘loofies’ – is there anyone out there who doesn’t feel like a complete idiot when you’re taking a selfie? Anyway I needed one before I left so I’d remember how he’d styled it – it’s very short again, almost a pixie cut.
A fantastic bargain gift to self
And that’s it, I just have one more thing to tell you about. One of the nicest parts of my Christmas was a wine advent calendar. It was a gift to self when I realised that Mr MC had already bought the beer one I usually get for him – apparently I was so busy he was worried I’d forget! Anyway, I nearly went for the Waitrose one but then decided this was better value. I’ve been watching it because I knew there was stock left over and it’s now half price in the sale.
The wines were almost all delicious and there was a half bottle of champagne for Christmas Day. I’ve found them really good to have in the house so that I don’t fall into the trap of opening a bottle of wine and then finding we’ve got through it between us by the end of the evening. If I fancy a glass I just open one of these little bottles. So I’ve ordered two more now – one for next Christmas and one for summer – maybe I’ll open it as a countdown to my birthday. I’ll stock the fridge on the decking and they’ll be perfect for a drink after work by the canal. If you’re careful when you open the box you could probably refill it and use it again. It’s such great value that I had to bring it to your attention.
Wine advent calendar – 23 bottles and a half bottle of champagne
I’m being frowned at so now I MUST go and be romantic – 21 years of marriage is worth celebrating after all. If you’re wondering where we are you’ll find us on Instagram and I’ll see you next week with the first of the new season posts that we’ve been shooting while we’re away. We may be buying advent calendars but spring is on its way at last!
Disclosure: ‘How to make necklines work for your body’ is not a sponsored post
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