How to wear an oversize collar

Channel Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a collared top the right side of cute

Jess Cartner-Morley
‘Fashion’s latest collar is most definitely headline-grabbing.’ Styling Editor: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair and makeup: Sophie Higginson using Hair by Sam McKnight and Tom Ford. Styling assistant: Peter Bevan. Photograph: David Newby/The Guardian
‘Fashion’s latest collar is most definitely headline-grabbing.’ Styling Editor: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair and makeup: Sophie Higginson using Hair by Sam McKnight and Tom Ford. Styling assistant: Peter Bevan. Photograph: David Newby/The Guardian
Jess Cartner-Morley
Fri 13 Nov 2020 08.00 EST

The collar is the headline on your outfit, and everything else is the small print. A collar can stand as shorthand for your socioeconomic status – white collar versus blue collar – and can even, in the case of a dog collar, vouch for your godliness.

Fashion’s latest collar is most definitely headline-grabbing. The shape of the season is a supersize take on the Peter Pan collar, with a side order of Little Women, as if the lost boys had relocated from Neverland to the prairie. It makes you look as if you are either in a 1980s Laura Ashley advert, or a street style influencer at Copenhagen fashion week. (To be fair, it’s hard to tell the difference at the moment.)

I suspect you are looking at me in this shirt and thinking: Jess, you look a bit silly, and if I wear that I’ll look silly, too. Thanks but no thanks, see you next week. Or something along those lines. And I hear you, I do, but we’ve been through this before, and we both know how it goes. When pussy-bow blouses came back a couple of years ago, we were all like, no way José, Margaret Thatcher was never one of my style icons. And then, within about six months, we were wearing blouses and dresses with, if not an actual pussy-bow, then some kind of trailing silk neck-tie. History proves itself the antidote to dogma, in fashion as in all things. So keep an open mind.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that she wore her trademark contrast collars in order to bring “something typical of a woman” to her plain black robes. To keep a sweet collar such as this from veering into cutesiness, balance it with simple fabrics and shapes. Maybe simple trousers rather than a floor-sweeping skirt. Denim, the ultimate utilitarian fabric, tones down any potential Little Bo Peep vibes here. A root around eBay and Etsy will quickly turn up inexpensive secondhand detachable collars to give an instant new spin on an old favourite but slightly meh crew neck. A good headline grabs your attention, right? And this collar is this season’s big news.

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