I Swear By: White Turtlenecks

Here's why I don't think I could make it through the week without a white turtleneck.

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A white turtleneck look from Stella McCartney's fall/winter 2016 runway show.
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I met my soulmate on a Saturday in late August, four years ago. I was walking through Soho with my friend John, and he suggested we stop by a sample sale for the menswear brand Gilded Age. "Maybe they'll have a sweater for you, or...whatever," he said. Fine. I wasn't expecting much.

A model in Paris during fashion week this month. Doesn't she look cozy?
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But the minute I walked in, I saw it, and it was love at first sight: The thickest, chunkiest, dreamiest cashmere sweater I'd ever seen—it was cable-knit, soft as a kitten, and with a wide turtleneck that was perfect for burying my face into, all in my favorite color to wear—and it was snowy white. I bought it, and loved it so much, one year later I returned and bought the exact same sweater again for myself, as well as one for my mom. Wearing it is like wearing a cloud. It's almost unbearably soft (I resist the urge to pet my own arms and curl up into a sleepy ball every time I wear it), and it's probably the nicest thing I'll ever own. It's the first thing I would save from my closet if my apartment was on fire.

A sleeveless white turtleneck (be still, my heart!) on the runway at Pringle of Scotland's fall/winter 2016 show.


Once I had it though, I realized how much better, cooler, and more expensive everything I owned looked with it. It was a problem—I wanted to wear it literally every day. And thus began an obsession that completely took over my wardrobe. I started subbing in other white turtlenecks so my beloved sweater could get a little rest. At first I was all about the baggy, chunky knit. They look so good over my cropped, flared jeans, and also over wispy, bohemian dresses. I love wearing them with my hair tucked into the turtleneck (you never need a hair tie!), with the sleeves reaching down almost all the way past the tips of my fingers. It's like being tucked into bed all the time. What could be better?

Style star Veronika Heilbrunner in an extremely fun white turtleneck during New York Fashion Week, February 2016.


But then I saw a girl in a thin, ribbed, tight-fitting version of my staple item, and I had to have one, too. I started buying white turtleneck sweaters practically in bulk until I had more white sweaters than socks. I have one that's skin-tight that I wear with high-waisted midi skirts, and another that's fitted—but slightly fuzzy—that looks great with '70s-style jeans. There's one ribbed one that's semi-sheer, and looks fabulous layered under floaty, mid-calf length dresses, and another that's thick and structured—almost like armor.

A white turtleneck, denim dress combo on the runway at Each x Other's fall/winter 2016 show in Paris.

I'm not sure why, but lately I think nearly everything looks better when paired with a turtleneck. It's the perfect blank canvas to build the rest of your outfit around, and when I want to wear something a little bit more out there—like sequin stretch pants, or Carhartt canvas work trousers—a white turtleneck gives the perfect amount of balance so that the look doesn't become too costume-like.

There's been much said about having a wardrobe "uniform," which most people equate with being in a rut. And while I can see how that would be true, I think my wardrobe staple has allowed me to be a little bit more free and experimental with my clothing. If you keep that one item consistent, whatever else you build out around it will still look like "you." And the wilder, sparklier, and more flamboyant I become over the years, I'll always rely on my old favorite to keep me grounded. Such is the beauty of the white turtleneck. 

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