Necklaces are one of those things that you can’t have just one of. They’re like a great chip: you may start with one, but you never finish there. Choosing the perfect necklace for an outfit means getting the right mix of necklace length, weight, and tone.
The ins and outs of jewelry selection can be quite subjective. However, knowing what factors influence the final decision can actually serve to help narrow down your options! This guide is great for someone building their jewelry collection, but it can help a gift giver pick out the perfect necklace for their recipient, too.
How to choose the perfect necklace length for everyday wear
Daytime wear is, in my opinion, always the easiest category to gift-give in. While evening wear only comes out on special occasions, casual and workwear items get changed up every day. The constant variation means that well-loved items see a lot of use, while things that might not suit someone’s taste can still emerge from the closet every now and again.
Necklaces fit this same general rule. You can have pieces that you love and want to invest in, like fine jewelry. Or, you can have pieces that you just want to have fun in every now and again, which is perfect for fashion jewelry. (Read more about fine vs fashion jewelry in another one of my Best Buy guides.)
For day wear, suit the necklace first to your body, then to your outfit. Longer necklaces will help elongate a short neck, while tightly fitted necklaces will accentuate the neck. Likewise, short to mid-length necklaces often work better on shorter bodies, which can be overwhelmed by a long necklace.
For comfort and visual coherence, simply ensure that your necklace sits separate from the collar of your shirt. 18″ necklaces are a great “standard” length for everyday wear: they sit below the scoop of a crewneck collar, but above the hem of a v-neck. This is referred to as a “princess” style of necklace, and is frequently seen in chains and pendants.
Make sure to vary your necklace weight
Casual wear is where I think you can really play with your accessories, so make the most of them by rotating in fun fashion necklaces. 18″ is a great standard necklace length for workwear and flexible pieces, but longer necklaces make a much bigger statement. Instead of complimenting your outfit, they become the main attraction.
Look for necklaces in lengths of 20″ (for a shorter frame) 42″ (for the very tall) when dressing casually. As the necklace gets longer, seek a weightier build: knotted chains and strand necklaces are a great way to select for this. By increasing the weight of the necklace as it gets longer, the necklace simply gains visual impact instead of looking too long or out of place.
Any time you want your necklace to be the focal point of your outfit, its weight should increase accordingly—whether that’s coming from multiple strands, or simply a plethora of pieces surrounding the loop. Adding weight can even turn 18″ necklaces into statement pieces, as is often seen in fashion and demi-fine jewelry. Chains, ropes, and single drop pendants are “light” in weight, but the larger (and especially wider) a pendant gets, the “heavier” it will appear.
Selecting the right choker
I love a choker-length necklace. They’re a great place to overlap between daywear and evening wear, too! Chokers are typically a weightier necklace, often seen with multiple strands of crystals on a wire frame or as a luxurious strip of ribbon. You’ll find them by two names, depending on where they sit: necklaces that rest around the base of your neck are chokers, while necklaces that rest around your neck are technically collars. Fashion collars are pretty much exclusively sold as chokers nowadays, but a jeweller will likely use separate terms for the two.
Because chokers emphasize the width and length of the neck so much, they pair best with open collars: thin straps, boat-necks, cascading folds, and so forth. They’re wonderfully versatile, as well. Plain black collars automatically make an outfit look a little more punk (or a little more riot grrrl, if you please), while coloured chokers with pendants can look incredibly dignified.
The collar (or choker) is a funny little accessory, and it seems to exhibit two idiosyncratic little rules. The first is that strapless dresses rarely look “right” with anything longer than a choker-length necklace: they help emphasize the neck and collar bones in much the same way as a strapless dress does. The second is that chokers rarely look “right” with deep v-necked dresses: the two shapes sit at odds with each other.
So, when you’re dressing for a night out, always opt for a choker in a strapless dress, sometimes opt for a choker in every other dress, and never opt for a choker in a deep v-necked dress. (Well, or in a turtleneck, but you probably should have known that one already.)
How to choose the perfect necklace length for evening wear
When selecting a necklace length for evening wear, many of these same rules can be applied. However, evening wear often involves longer dresses or evening-length gowns, which give you more room to play.
Don’t be shy with your necklace length or weight when dressing for a night out. Opt for varying lengths of fashion necklaces, strand necklaces, and strings of pearls. Mimic the shape of your other accessories in your necklace length: with long earrings, wear a long necklace. With studs, select a shorter chain. With bubbling little cluster earrings, choose a necklace with just as many unique shapes.
Canada is a pretty chilly country even in the summer, and I think we see a lot more high-necked dresses and sweater dresses as evening wear, especially over dinner. These are a great reason to pull out a truly breathtaking opera-length necklace, at 28-36″. With loafers and a princess-length gold chain, a black turtleneck sweater dress is office wear; with heels and an opera-length necklace, it’s an enviable dinner dress. You can even go further, opting for a multi-strand pearl necklace in a rope length (36-42″).
(Or, you know. When in doubt, grab a little black open-neck dress, snag your favourite collar, and head out on the town!)
Above everything else, remember that accessories are supposed to be fun. If you love a necklace that doesn’t fit these rules, who cares? Having an accessory stand out isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and truly enjoying your outfit does more for your style than any accessory ever could.
Shop necklaces online at Best Buy.