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The square neck is a type of neckline that forms a square-shaped frame around the collarbone. Square necks are popular features on a wide variety of garments, including tank tops, bathing suits, fitted shirts, and dresses. Square necks are flattering on virtually every body shape and size, and also provide a sophisticated frame to the decolletage and face without revealing too much cleavage. The square neck has been featured on several different formal and informal styles of garments throughout the years. The formal or informal nature of these fashions depends largely on which type of sleeves, bodices, and fabrics are also featured on the garment.
During the late 18th century and early 19th century, the square neck was a popular feature on women’s gowns, in combination with ruffled cap sleeves and shirred empire bodices. This style of square neck dress, sometimes referred to as a “Regency dress,” is often depicted in artwork that captures the Regency era. Many of the female characters featured in the works of Jane Austen are depicted in this style of dress in illustrations and films based on her work. During the Regency era, square necks were often worn in combination with a “modesty panel,” which is a piece of sheer fabric such as a scarf or shawl that was draped around the neck and tucked into the bust line, to avoid revealing too much skin. White Regency dresses were often crafted from fine muslin and worn as wedding dresses.
Since the Regency era, the square neck has remained a standard option for necklines, along with the boat neck, round neck, V-neck, sweetheart neck, and the slot neck, which is similar to the square neckline but features vertical edges that are closer to the collar bone and create a narrower, rectangular shape. In the 1990s, the square neck enjoyed a resurgence in popularity when the babydoll dress became fashionable, as it was often featured on dresses such as these which feature an empire waist. Also during the 1990s, the square neck was often featured on ribbed women’s cotton shirts. Since the beginning of the new millennium, square neck tank tops have become a popular wardrobe staple in both men and women’s fashions.