What is a Portrait Neckline?

The portrait neckline is a 'high' neck style. It is very similar to three other styles; the Bateau (or boatneck), the Off The Shoulder style and the Sabrina neckline..

I will quickly discuss the style itself before reviewing it's three close relatives.

  • The Boatneck
  • The Off the shoulder
  • The Sabrina

I will then move onto discussing their varied suitability for big busted women.

Katy Perry ina a stylish portrait neckline

The portrait neckline typically is a wide gentle curve from one shoulder blade to the other. Katy Perry knows a thing or two about style and unsurprisingly wears this unusual style; however it is generally not a good look for the big busted.

It is named as such because it frames the shoulder blades, clavicles (bones at the base of the neck) and the neck itself. These features are very sensuous in a really subtle way. Because of this subtlety, the portrait neckline is always considered a very refined look.

For these reasons it is a favourite of wedding dress designers. It also looks really good when a trim accentuates the line of the aperture.

Many people confuse the following styles, which is understandable because they are much alike.

The Boatneck

Judy Greer in a Bateau neckline
Christina Hendricks Boatneck style

The portrait neck is similar to the boatneck (or bateau neck - I did say this was confusing!), but tends to be wider and slightly deeper, although not as deep as a scoopneck. I actually devote a far lengthier analysis on this style on a page shared with another bad neckline for busty women, the crewneck.

This style suits the more modest bust of Judy Greer above, as opposed to our own Saint Christina. Yes Christina has a very nice neck, shapely clavicles (if that does not sound a little weird), the sleeve length is good and she is wearing black on her top which will naturally 'slim' her chest.

However this photo does not show her whole top half and even with the very clever bobbles feature, there is still a large amount of material across her chest with no effective camouflage. I wish I had more photos of this to prove my point but I was really trying to show the boatneck style itself.

Off the Shoulder

off the shoulder neckline

It is also similar to the off the shoulder style (see below) but usually has straps on the shoulder blades, whereas the straps on the 'off the shoulder' are unsurprisingly either at the tip of the shoulder blade or even on the upper arm.

This can be cut as high or low as you like but as you can see, even a low cut style is still modest with no cleavage necessarily on show. The off the shoulder neckline is therefore a look that you can wear. I like it for it's adaptability.

The Sabrina Neckline

A classic Sabrina neckline
A Sabrina neckline really suits petite women

Finally it also similar to a Sabrina neckline but that is actually a straight line across usually an inch or two beneath the neck. Interestingly this was named after the iconic garment worn by Audrey Hepburn in the movie of the same name, Sabrina.

I think the Sabrina neckline can look very elegant and on the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Michele Obama and Keira Knightly it will look great. But style is knowing what suits you and what does not.

You may love the Sabrina neckline but if it does not suit you - forget it. Unfortunately if you are a big busted lady, it is highly unlikely you can wear this unless you have no problem with people staring at your chest.

Does the Portrait Neckline Look Good on The Big Breasted?

A portrait neckline

Generally the portrait neckline is not a suitable style. The main reason is that the neckline is high and high necklines are not a good look for busty women. As previously discussed, the main issue for a busty woman is to not have too much material across the chest itself. 

The best styles for women with a lot up top usually involve a lower neckline. This does not mean it has to show a lot of cleavage but there needs to be a break in the material. The ironic thing about those styles is that they show a lot of flesh but are actually often very modest.

By having a lower neck you are not presented with an unbroken swathe of material with a large bosom pressed against it. A top with nothing to distract the eye from your chest is going to draw a lot of unwanted attention.

One possible alternative for this style is to have a two tier effect as above. The net, lace or gauze forms the higher neck but there is a lower line as well. You would have to judge this for yourself as it very much depends on the top or dress itself.


Did you like this page, did you learn something, maybe it reinforced you own views? I want to give as much (hopefully helpful) advice to the busty sisterhood as I can.

Please remember, we are all different. You may like to wear certain clothes and styles which I am suggesting that you should not. That is your absolute right. Do what makes you feel good. This site undeniably goes for the more modest approach because I feel all busty ladies already know how to be more racy if they wish.

It would really help me improve the site profile if you would click the Facebook 'Like' button. Pretty please! Susan

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There are a number of other examples of necklines to avoid if you have a large bust, the good news is that there are also plenty of styles that do suit a large bust. For both good and bad look at Necklines for big busts.

Alternatively, if you are interested in other issues relating to clothing, head back to the home page at Clothes for large breasts.

The ever glam Michele Obama

I love to use photos of Michele Obama because she normally always dresses beautifully. However, because she is not a busty lady, she is a wonderful role model for us in what not to wear.

The lesson being, these styles are very elegant and really suit some body shapes - just not a big busted woman.




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Susan