A cowl is one of the most flattering neckline styles, but it has to be accessorized with the right necklace so it doesn't lose its soft lines. Cowl necklines can vary widely as designers have shifted the traditional cowl into different shapes. Adapted from 12th century monks' clothing, early styles were draping turtlenecks, some with multiple folds. Now, cowl necks range from elegant tops with flowy, rounded necklines to dolman-sleeve blouses with a deep V-shape and multiple layers of folds that may be tricky to accessorize. The formality of the occasion and the texture of the fabric both affect what jewelry you should wear. However, there are no rules -- just some ideas that will work well with each cowl shape.
With knits or flowy fabrics, wear a necklace close to your collarbone so it doesn't interfere with the draping neckline. A short silver or gold chain with a small pendant or string of pearls offers a classic look with a lightweight fabric for a formal occasion. A less formal look is a long pendant or a Byzantine cross on a velvet ribbon that hangs well below a turtleneck-type cowl. If you're wearing a pendant over a knit cowl neck, make sure it's heavy enough to weigh down the layers.
With a V-neck cowl, a small beaded pendant that sits above the V-shape is a pretty accent. With a deep V-neckline, wearing a necklace is less common, and earrings are a better choice in jewelry. A deep neckline is often a focal point of its own in lightweight jersey fabrics. Designer Micheal Kors' sleeveless tanks, gowns and bulky,knitted cowls are often formed into a V shape. You can also wear a longer, heavier pendant that falls above the deep V neckline or onto the draping folds. Necklaces of beads, rope pendants or semiprecious stones are best for day clothes, while pearls, jewels and chain pendants are best for evening wear.
Some gowns or blouses have a side-draping cowl neckline with an off-the-shoulder effect. The long, flowy lines are the whole point of wearing a cowl neck like this, so the dramatic curves are best left alone without a necklace. Wear bangles and earrings instead for a finished look.
An evening gown often has a low, but subtle, cowl neckline. The dramatic look is best uninterrupted by a necklace. You can wear a gown with earrings instead. A blouse with a low cowl neckline is also best accented with either no necklace or a single pendant along the collarbone.
Paule McKenna is a celebrity makeup artist for print TV and film who began her career as owner of Los Angeles' first makeup studio. She has a makeup line and enjoys writing, marketing and real estate at the beach.