NEW YORK (AP) — From grunge to mod to preppy, the basic turtleneck — one of those wardrobe workhorses — can morph into almost any look you want it to be.
It's a bonus that it's considered a fashion-forward item this season.
"I can extol the virtues of the turtleneck," says Tracy Taylor, U.S. editor for Net-a-Porter's online magazine. "You can always transform into someone chic with a turtleneck and pants that are slightly clean — in a similar color to the turtleneck. Put on flats, and instant Audrey Hepburn."
Stylist and TV fashion commentator George Kotsiopoulos says the return to the mod look of the 1960s rekindles interest in the turtleneck beyond a layering tool under a ski sweater.
"The turtleneck will be the must-have item of the season," he says. "Look for turtlenecks in superfine cashmere knits to wear under sleeveless shift dresses, menswear vests, 'boyfriend' style which is great with leggings or skinny jeans for those comfy days, and body-conscious fits for trousers or even a bodysuit style for sleek looks with pencil skirts."
There's also the easy-yet-refined layered look of a turtleneck under a button-down shirt, suggests Banana Republic creative director Simon Kneen. Banana Republic's upcoming holiday collection was purposely styled this way for women and men.
If you don't want to be fully covered up, Kneen says a cowl neckline, basically a draped turtleneck, is an option to still show off your jawline and jewelry, but Taylor is convinced the high neck is the way to go. "The pendulum has swung ... and you're meant to be covered up this season," she says.
Kotsiopoulos notes, though, that not all turtlenecks are created equal: Attention needs to be paid to fabric, fit and feel. "Of course, cashmere is the prime choice but blended knits have come a long way," he says. You don't need to spend a lot, however, he adds, with stores such as H&M and Zara offering worthwhile versions.
"Fit is most important since a basic piece should always be your 'go-to' item that you know will always look amazing on you," Kotsiopoulos says.
The fiber is what allows the look to be worn in temperate climates, he says, with a silk-cotton blend ideal for his hometown of Los Angeles, he says.
Unsure what to pair it with? Taylor transforms the turtleneck into several styles:
"You might want to go back and Google Kate Moss in the '90s when Marc Jacobs championed this look," Taylor says. "The turtleneck was a big part of it."
Try it slightly oversized, sure to have the sleeves just a little too long, and pair it with a parka. Maybe wear it with a long skirt or baggier pants — and motorcycle boots.
With all the British schoolgirl get-ups offered for fall, the turtleneck is a key bridge item to make them wearable.
"What's better under a trenchcoat than a turtleneck ... and it goes under a peacoat or a blazer," Taylor says. "We're even seeing some shorts for fall, you can do a chunky turtleneck with cute wool short and tights underneath and boots, or it can be flannel miniskirt and wear brogues. It's a bit bookish but still cute."
This look is inspired by the Katharine Hepburn types, who can wear a refined version of the turtleneck, maybe a fine gauge, with wide-leg trousers or, as shown more recently on the runway by The Row and Yves Saint Laurent, with a pencil skirt.
It's a business look on the surface, says Taylor, but also very sexy.
The whole mod-turtleneck style is largely inspired by model Twiggy, who wore the top with everything from shift dresses to cropped pants. The same vibe comes from a trapeze-shaped jumper, especially if you have some square-toe, stacked-heel pumps or platform sandals worn with socks to go with it.
Try color-blocking with a black or white turtleneck and the opposite color sleeveless dress or top. Tights, too.
You can draw a straight line from Ali McGraw, a fashion favorite, especially in this 1970 film, to the current interpretation from Chloe and Gucci, Taylor says.
The palette here is aubergine, cinnamon and burnt sienna.
"With a corduroy blazer and velvet pant — high-waisted trousers — you're very early '70s," she says.
To vary this look, stripes create the collegiate effect, and a leather jacket skews a little more boho.
—Ski and sport
Sleek and streamlined, this is where the turtleneck might be at its best, says Taylor, but you don't have to be so literal that you have to wait to wear it until the snow is knee-deep.
It goes with black leggings with a zipper at the ankle, or a puffer jacket. A colorblocked pattern or a contrasting neck seem like upscale touches.
"This season, it's about a luxurious take on skiwear. It's not a snowboarder — it's skiing black diamonds in Gstaad (Switzerland)."