How to Find the Best Necklace for Any Occasion

By Heather Lomax

necklace stock photo

There is a difference between admiring a necklace on a model or on a stand and wearing it in a way that complements you and your outfit. When choosing the right necklace, you need to keep in mind three main factors: your own physical characteristics, the occasion you are wearing it to, and the neckline of the garment you are pairing it with.


Necklaces come in a dizzying variety of shapes and sizes, but almost all of them adhere to a scale according to length:

  • 14-16 inches - The shortest one of all is a choker, which closely circles your neck. Depending on the factors we will discuss below, you may wish to wear a pendant on a choker.

  • 17-19 inches - The next shortest and the most popular length is the princess length, which enhances the collarbone and frames the face. This is the easiest length to wear and fits most shapes and necklines.

  • 20-24 inches - The matinée length sits between the collarbone and the bust line.

  • 24-32 inches - The opera length is often wrapped around the neck twice for added emphasis.

  • 32+ inches - Lengths over 32 inches are all rope necklaces and they are almost always layered with shorter options.

Some necklace styles are simply not a good choice with certain face shapes and neck lengths. Round faces and short necks can look stubby with chokers, but they can be visually lengthened

with longer choices such as operas and matinées. A long neck can be downplayed with several layers of necklaces in various lengths, and a heart-shaped face is nicely balanced by a choker. It is important to start with pieces that enhance your natural beauty so that you never need to second guess your dressing choices.

When it comes to selecting necklaces for an occasion, a good rule of thumb is to keep the longer and more dramatic pieces for the evening and the shorter, simpler necklaces for the daytime. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when selecting a necklace for the right time and place:

  • A princess length can go from formal workwear to a bohemian dinner with the simple addition of complementing jewelry and different clothes. Princess length pearls are a popular choice for office environments, formal lunches, and daytime events.

  • Single chain chokers with a small pendant may be worn in an office setting. A longer necklace can also do well in a professional setting if it is the only statement jewelry worn at the time and it matches your neckline. You can complement matinées and operas with small stud earrings and thin bracelets.

  • For eveningwear, operas in pearl and large beads are often a popular choice, and beaded rope lengths layered with shorter chains can be a good option for evening outfits.

Lastly, you need to make sure that your necklace enhances and doesn’t distract from your neckline. Finding the right necklace that works well with your clothing can turn the outfit you put together into an ensemble. Some complementary necklace and clothing combinations include the following:

  • Chokers will do well with crew necks, strapless dresses, halter necks, and some collared shirts, especially if you add a pendant that fills out the space between your collarbone and the last button of your shirt.

  • Turtlenecks, cowl necks, and boat necks are usually a good match for longer pieces and a layered look.

  • Princess length enhances sweetheart and V-necks, as long as you make sure that the necklace fills in the neckline, especially when you are adding a pendant.

  • Scoop necks can accommodate large pendants and multiple strands of beads while square necks go well with angular pendants.

  • Asymmetric necklines are best balanced with asymmetric necklace designs such as a combination of beads and chains, but you need to make sure that the overall look still fits the occasion you are planning to wear it to.

Heather Lomax is a contributing writer and media specialist for Lovely Jewelry Organizers. She regularly produces content for a variety of fashion and beauty blogs, based around accessorizing your style with jewelry and other accessories.