Traditionally it hasn’t been for everyone. There are, after all, inherent risks with a plunging neckline. Some have been dangers of an aesthetic nature, where as others can concern a girl’s modesty. That changes for summer 2012’s fashions – the plunging neckline expands and has options for all, from the sultry to the sporty.

After the break we’ll take you through examples of the statement cut for the coming season, including all the key styles and necessary tips. And as always, you can keep up with all the latest trends and styling advice by subscribing to Fashionising.com’s RSS feed or Facebook page.

Click the thumbnails for full pictures
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration
The line that draws the eye: picture inspiration

Plunging necklines in fashion

The neckline plunge of spring / summer 2012 is not a scoop neck. It’s a deep, plunging cut, generally in a v shape, that ends somewhere between the breastbone and the naval. When Fashionising.com last penned a trend guide about it, the plunging neckline was dominated by statement dresses that balanced glamour with effortlessness. Thus, for fall 2011 the plunging neckline was all centred around a lightly relaxed fit rather than a gravity-defying, tight one.

That changes this year. The idea that a plunging neckline is best only for evenings is thrown out, and instead the look is expanded upon, layered across different styles and interpreted through the lenses of the other fashion trends we’re coveting this season.

That’s not to say that the evening interpretation is out of fashion, anything but – you’ll have no trouble finding ways to indulge in a dress with a plunging neckline. Here, like all other interpretations of the statement, you should look for the pieces that balance it out with other trends. And, honestly, there’s only really one that it has been consistently interpreted with: the high dress split. All “Angelina Jolie’s leg” quips aside, it remains the statement way to wear the neckline and is the interpretation that sits at the uber-daring end of the spectrum. But it also remains amongst the most difficult ways to wear it. Don a dress with thigh high splits and a plunging neckline to the wrong event and you’ll look over the top or, worse, cheap. Don such a dress without having a figure that it compliments and you might end up looking like you don’t know how to style yourself.

thigh slit dress plunging neckline
Thigh slit and plunging neckline dresses from Elie Tahari and Azzaro

Toning it down, but perhaps ever slightly so, are the glamourous interpretations of the plunging neckline that work pleats into the equation. Akris gave something of a Grecian air to the look, layering a sheer skirt into the equation but taking it a step too far by also making the chest sheer – the plunging neckline is all about hinting that the chest isn’t too far away and not showing off breasts in all their glory. Grecian is a good point to remember all the same: gold is one of the most on-trend colours this season.

thigh slit dress plunging neckline
Grecian plunging neckline dresses from Akris and Elie Saab

If you’re looking for an interpretation of the plunging neckline that isn’t dripping in glamour, then this summer also brings tailoring into the mix. Here you have looks for both day and night that interpret the neckline through this season’s architectural and minimalistic motifs. Think tailored blazers and structured dresses and don’t be afraid to invest in a blazer of universal use: styling it with nothing underneath for this trend, and equally working it to show your fashion styling credentials alongside the coming winter’s androgynous trend. And don’t forget that an unbuttoned shirt works equally as well for this variation of the plunging neckline.

thigh slit dress plunging neckline
Tailored plunging neckline jackets from Akris and Anne Valerie Hash

Frankie said relax, and so the plunging neckline did. This season works something new into the equation, a casual, sporty-chic vibe courtesy of summer’s sports fashion trend. Barbara Bui mastered the look with summer brights contrasting with dark hues and the extra material-as-detail also serving the functional purpose of holding the two sides of the plunging neckline together (something that’s often a problem, or at least a fear, with this cut). If sports isn’t your thing but relaxed is, you can also look to the alternativism of Anne Demeulemeester where the neckline was interpreted alongside summer layering.

casual plunging neckline
Casual plunging neckline tops from Barbara Bui and Anne Demeulemeester

The alternative to the plunging neckline’s deep-v

At the peak of its winter 2011 popularity, the plunging neckline comprised of only a single cut of neckline: the deep v. That’s not the case for spring / summer 2012. With the influence of vintage fashion dominating the current aesthetic, there are a number of designers who have sought alternative cuts for it. Some seem toned down, others riskier. Designer Elie Saab experimented with both with plunging necklines dresses that squared off below the breast-bone and others that were cut as a fusion between a scoop neck and a deep v.

deep plunging neckline
Elie Saab interpretations of the plunging neckline with a deep v

Toning down the plunging neckline

Deep v or no deep v, the plunging neckline is a statement, one that requires not just confidence but also the right figure and décolletage. If, for any reason, the plunging neckline isn’t for you, there are still alternatives that allow you to indulge in the trend. Here you’re looking for tops and dresses that communicate the shape of a plunging neckline, often with a different cut. Andrew Gn designed what is perhaps one of the best examples of an alternative to the plunging neckline in the guise of a white blouse with a plunge no more than a few inches wide, the illusion of a plunging neckline heightened by the use of a patterned sheer cloth. Iceberg toned down their broad v neckline by filling it with a seasonal mesh and styling it with visible underwear.

plunging neckline alternatives
Subtle plunging necklines from Andrew Gn and Iceberg

Plunging neckline: what to wear underneath

The best way to wear a plunge is sans bra. Going braless means smooth, unbroken lines. It means no fussing about with stick-on bralets or clear adjoining straps – while these solutions can work, they’ll never quite suggest the same effortlessness as throwing on a plunging top and resisting the urge to layer it over something else.

The other and perhaps better solution to wearing a bra and trying to make it invisible is to wear a bra and make a statement of it. Naturally that statement has to sit inline with your particular style. If you’re wearing the plunging neckline with an air of glamour or refinement, then you should choose the kind of underwear that’s made to be seen: a soft lace triangle bra, a bold cutaway piece, one with a very deliberate print – and let it casually peep out from below your plunging top or dress. If you’re styling the neckline at the casual end of the spectrum, then you can look to a bandeau. Iceberg did this to great effect on their spring 2012 catwalk (pictured above), utilising the season’s yellow colour trend () to make balance out the look.

Plunging neckline styling updates

For more inspiration on how to wear and style a plunging neckline, click on the thumbnails and peruse the gallery of examples from off the runways.

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