Boat Neck

Apologies for the lateness of this post – I have been on vacation. But better late than never!

AKA: bateau neck, Sabrina neckline

How to say it: as it looks

Traditional Features: 

body template

  • wide horizontal neckline
  • shape follows the collarbone
  • same depth front and back
  • shoulder seams


…of the style: The boat neckline was originally designed for sailors uniforms back in the day (apparently the French Navy) because the wide neck made the uniform easy to remove, particularly if wet.

At some stage the style crossed over into the fashion world, with striped tops similar to those worn by the French sailors becoming popular in the 1960s. A true boat neck is the same depth front and back, but as designers got hold of the style the back neckline was often changed to provide interest in the back of a garment.

The flattering effect the boat neck provides on different body shapes has made it particularly popular and the style can now be found in tops and dresses ranging from a casual cotton tee to the most designer of wedding gowns.

…of the name: I couldn’t find any documented reason for the name of this neckline by I assume it has something to do with the fact that sailors wore this style first and they worked on boats. Also, Bateau is the French word for boat.

For more info on the Boat Neck try wiseGeek, the Wedding Encyclopedia or check out A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion (Mary Brooks Picken).

Random Facts

  • the Boat neck is the traditional neckline for French mimes
  • boat necks are particularly flattering on small busted figures as they create the illusion of a larger bust. They are also flattering on pear-shaped figures as the wide neck balances larger bottom halves.
  • apparently Iron Age people also liked the boat neck as a 1700 year old sweater featuring the wide neck was discovered in Norway – check it out here.

21st Century Boat Necks

While still available in the traditional striped top, the boat neck is a popular option for all kind of tops and dresses.

alice and olivia burberry brit

Alice + Olivia, Burberry Brit

tory burch Herve leger

Tory Burch, Herve Leger


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