Cowl Neck

AKA: drape-front

How to say it: cow-l-neck

Traditional Features: 

body template

  • softly draping neckline that falls in folds


…of the style: The cowl neck is an unstructured, draping collar, that is cut on the bias (or the diagonal) causing it to fall in soft folds below the collar-bone. The style comes from the cuculla which is a hood and cape combination originally worn in the medieval times. The modern cowl neckline utilises the folds from the cuculla hood hanging down to create a draping effect. The size of the cowl can vary depending on the type of fabric and how much fabric is committed to the drape.

The popularity of the cowl neck can be attributed to Madeleine Vionnet who developed methods of bias cross cutting fabric in the 1920s. While she did not invent bias cutting (there is evidence it was used as far back as the Edwardian times) she definitely brought it into popular fashion, aided by starlets of the time like Ginger Rogers.

While the cowl initially appeared in evening wear fabrics such as silk, the neckline has become a popular choice in soft knits as it creates a cosy, scarf like effect for the wearer.

Nowadays the cowl is still very popular in evening wear and bridal gowns, but has most definitely crossed over into casual clothing in all types of fabrics. The cowl has also made its way to the back of garments, creating a softly draping backless style when combined with a boat neck at the front.

…of the name: The word cowl comes from the Italian word cuculla which means ‘a hood’ and was the term used for the garment developed in the Middle Ages to be worn by monks in Northern Europe.

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

Random Facts

  • the original cowl or cuculla is still worn by members of the Christian Church, particularly the Roman Catholic Church.
  • the cowl neck is particularly flattering for small busted figures as the extra fabric creates the illusion of larger busts.

21st Century Cowl Necks

No longer purely the realm of the red carpet, the beautiful drapey-ness of the cowl neck can now be found on the front, back and sleeve of garments in a variety of different fabrics from sports-wear to bridal.

badgley mischka donna karan

Badgley Mischka, Donna Karan

rochas helmut lang

Rochas, Helmut Lang


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