A jewel neck is a plain, basic neckline that is rounded and reaches just above the collarbone. It was named after its ability to showcase a piece of jewelery such as a pendant or brooch against the fabric, so that the eye is drawn upward to the jewelery and the face. This cut is featured on a wide variety of both men’s and women’s garments, including T-shirts, sweaters, and dresses. Jewel necks are also particularly common in workout wear, and often featured on bodysuits, cycling shirts, and muscle shirts.
A jewel neckline is very similar to the boat neck or “bateau” neck, which is another modest, rounded neckline but doesn’t cover the collarbone. The boat neck got its name from sailors’ uniforms and other nautical outfits that have the same neckline. Jewel necks are sometimes also mistaken for crew necks, which cover above the collar bone and are rimmed with an extra band of fabric or collar.
Another more revealing version of jewel necks are scoop necks, which follow the same curved line as the jewel and boat necklines but then scoop into a dramatic dip just above the cleavage. Sleeveless jewel neck shirts and dresses draw attention to the arms, and are especially flattering to body types with toned arms. A top or dress with this kind of cut looks best with another garment layered over it, such as a cardigan or jacket to add some texture to an otherwise plain neckline. Jewel neck tops are also a good choice to pair with short skirts or shorts, as they give balance to the outfit and prevent it from looking skimpy or otherwise too revealing.
The jewel neck is one of the most popular necklines featured on “modesty wedding gowns” worn by brides who are married in churches or temples with certain dress codes that require a high neckline. This design was also popularized by style icon, Audrey Hepburn, who favored the neckline for its ability to cover her collarbone, about which she was self-conscious. The jewel neck was also favored by another 1960s style icon, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who often wore shift dresses and cardigan twinsets that featured the neckline along with a string of pearls to accent it.