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How to Wear Fashion’s Weirdest Invention, the Sleeveless Turtleneck

The sleeveless turtleneck is a fantastical garment. It always looks great and the concept sounds stellar. No more bulky sleeves! And guess what? The wearer gets an elegant, long neck whether or not they had one to begin with.

But the whole idea behind a proper turtleneck is to keep warm, and a turtleneck without sleeves negates that purpose. In a way, it’s one of those garments that can only be worn in the perfect setting that is neither hot nor cold. Good luck finding that utopian mix.

Maybe, though, it is precisely the impracticality of the sleeveless turtleneck that makes it such an aspirational, somewhat impossible-to-wear piece of clothing. My colleague Vogue.com Fashion News Editor Monica Kim shared a good theory. “I used to feel about sleeveless turtlenecks the way I feel about wedge boots. They made me angry because they’re so unnecessary and feel like a weird cop-out between things — like you can’t make a choice,” Kim says. “It doesn’t make any logical sense but, at the same time, there’s something kind of great about how impractical it is.”

But those advanced in the art of layering say there is a practical side to the sleeveless turtleneck. “[I wear them] as a layering piece underneath a cardigan or blazer with skinny arms,” says Vogue.com Fashion News Director Chioma Nnadi. Another colleague, Market Editor Kirby Marzec, echoes this advice. “Wear the sleeveless turtleneck like you would a t-shirt or undershirt and let it serve as a subtle layering piece. Let it poke out the top of a crewneck sweater or wear with an open blazer,” she says. “The beauty is that you won’t overheat like you would with its long-sleeve sister but you still get that chic neck moment. If your sleeveless number is thick enough, you can try layering underneath it with a contrasting fabric or printed long or short sleeve top.”

Voilà! Conundrum solved. Still want to wear the sleeveless turtleneck without layering? Go ahead. Bare your arms but be sure to grit your teeth—you might look chic but may be a bit cold.

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