Why the black turtleneck sweater is the most versatile piece in your closet

The black turtleneck might be the most classic kind of closet staple, but the piece has seen its fair share of makeovers over these past few decades. Just look at who’s been wearing it.

Long before bloggers, celebrities, and the Kardashian/Hadid model army co-opted the turtleneck as their own, it experienced its first boost in popularity throughout the mid-1900s. Audrey Hepburn sported it in the 1957 film Funny Face alongside her pixie pants and loafers. Around the same time, it also became a symbol—albeit an exaggerated one—of the Beatnik generation of poets and artists.

The fact that it worked for both movie stars and moody poets alike proved the turtleneck’s unexpected versatility early on. And, although the item suffered an unsexy reputation (thanks to some unfortunate cuts and sloppy styling), it’s recently reemerged as an unlikely trend at Fashion Week.

The turtleneck popped up on the fall/winter 2015 runways, making appearances at brands like Erdem, paired with an ornate skirt,


or Tanya Taylor, who coupled hers with a suede mini and high boots.


Then there’s street style stars like Leandra Medine or Rachael Wang, who prefer a more casual take on the trend by wearing it with skinny jeans and a bright faux fur coat.

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The key to scoring this effortlessly cool result: balance the turtleneck’s clean lines and inherent simplicity (not basic) with an eye-popping item, like a pair of wild printed bottoms or some statement earrings.

Although it’s easy to put turtlenecks in the fall-and-winter-only category, it’s also a secret weapon for those awkward early spring days. When it’s too cold to go sleeveless, layer a turtleneck under a dress or a patterned tank. Or, take a cue from model Jeanne Damas with a black turtleneck and miniskirt combo.

Whether you decide to wear it layered or solo, the key is proportion and fabric. Stick with a body-hugging cut and make sure it’s not too cropped (you don’t want it to ride up). You likely already have a black turtleneck in your closet—but if not, add one now. It’s one truly timeless item that never gets old.


Liza Darwin is a New York-based fashion expert who enjoys covering the latest clothing trends and their history. She also writes about the fashion industry for eBay.com.

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