AKA: scoop neck, scooped neck, u-neck, horseshoe neck
How to say it: as it looks
- scooped neckline that makes the shape of a U or horseshoe
- cut low on the body
- can be on the front or the back of a garment
- can extend quite low to display the décolletage
…of the style: For what I thought was quite a common style, the history of the U-shaped neckline is surprisingly hard to follow. Whilst I assume the style has been around forever, the earliest evidence I could find of it was in a drawing of women in the second half of the 14th century in Italy. True U-shaped necklines that is, not the shallow, vaguely rounded necklines that abound in historical costume.
After the 14th century, the popular styles of neckline seemed to see-saw between very high collars, square cut and v-necks; the U-shape either wasn’t worn or was just so common that it isn’t included in any of the historical images.
The style did pop up in the late 17th century in France, but then disappeared again until the last couple of decades in the 18th century in the French Court, right before the Revolution. Think Marie Antoinette. At this time necklines were cut low, often extremely low, displaying an amount of cleavage that would be deemed too much even in today’s society. The U-shape remained popular through the start of the 19th century with the introduction of the Empire style; however the Empire U-neck was more demure than the French necklines of the previous century.
After the that, necklines seemed to head back up towards the chin and if the U-shape appeared it was much less pronounced that before.
During the Edwardian era the necklines plunged again on evening wear (not on day dress) and were cut very low to allow ladies to wear lots of jewellery. The U-shape was popular during this period as it exposed a lot of space for jewels and often mirrored the shape of the necklaces worn. At this time the bust was suppressed into a monobosom so little to no cleavage was revealed by these styles.
Mention of the U-shaped neckline does not pop up again in fashion history until the 1930s when it was again popular in evening wear styles until it apparently crossed over into day wear and blouses in the 1950s an 60s.
In the 21st century the U-shape is often called the ‘universally flattering’ neckline and can be found at various depths on every kind of garment from evening gowns to blouses, casual tops, swimwear, bridal and sportswear.
…of the name: The shape of the neckline is shaped like the letter U, hence the name.
- technically, a scooped neckline is different to the U-shaped neckline as the scoop extends out to the shoulder, creating a wider neckline than the U-shape.
21st Century U-Shaped Necklines
Always popular and always flattering (as long as you have the correct undergarments and don’t go for anything too low) the U-shaped neckline can be found in abundance in the fashion marketplace.
6 Shore Road, Helmut Lang
Herve Leger, Oscar de la Renta