Making Necklaces That Flatter: Why Necklace Length Matters

When I'm working on a necklace making project for myself, I have to pay attention to the length of the finished necklace. I recently realized that I have quite a long neck for someone who is so short, so when I wear very long necklaces (like lariats or opera-length pearls), I sort of look like a very short giraffe. That explains why I tend to gravitate towards shorter necklaces for myself like chokers or princess length necklaces.

Figuring out the perfect length for your necklace making projects can be a challenge, but there are a few things that you can do to get the perfect fit.

Start in the middle. If your beaded necklace has a focal point or centerpiece, begin by stringing or stitching that part first, and then add the necklace ends as you go. Don't worry about making the centerpiece or focal point of your necklace too short. It's always easier to extend the length of a necklace than it is to shorten it! Jean Campbell has some great suggestions for necklace making

My Back to Byzantium necklace can easily be adjusted to any length, thanks to the herringbone tubes on either side.

extensions, including:

  • String extensions onto pieces of bead-weaving for a longer necklace.
  • Use a pre-made extender chain (or make your own).
  • Use a detachable extension that can double as a bracelet to adjust the length of your necklace.

Don't forget about the clasp. The length of the clasp will add length to your necklace making project, so remember to include that in your calculations. You should also take into account any kind of seed bead loops that you may have to make to attach your clasp to the necklace you're making. All of these things can add to the finished length of your beaded necklace.

Use a dressmaker's dummy. I've seen lots of serious necklace making done with the aid of a dressmaker's form to get the sizing just right. Some of you might remember the fun television show, Project Accessory. I love the way those accessory designers used the dressmaker's form to judge just how long their finished necklaces were going to be. Using a dressmaker's dummy also helps if you're trying to assemble a more elaborate necklace making project that's composed of several different components.

When am I going to wear my necklace? When you're working on your necklace making projects, think about when you might wear the necklace or with what kind of clothing it will be worn, too. Each different necklace length is better suited for a different type of necklines.

A lariat necklace works well with almost any type of neckline. (Drawing by Jean Campbell)

The clothing that you wear with your beaded necklaces is important, too. Do you have a favorite neckline for your shirts, blouses and dresses? In the winter, I wear lots of turtleneck shirts and sweaters, so something like a choker wouldn't be very comfortable. But a longer lariat, beaded rope, or even a large bead embroidery collar would work very well with my favorite winter turtlenecks. Summer means lots of scoop and v-neck tops, so that's when I wear my collection of light and delicate chokers and princess length necklaces.

Ready to find some new necklace making projects? Check out the back issue sale in the Beading Daily Shop! Through July 21, 2012, all back issues (including special issues like Favorite Bead Stitches 2011) are on sale for 50% off! Stock up on any issues of Beadwork magazine and Jewelry Stringing magazine that you might have missed, complete your collection, or start your digital magazine collection with instant downloads.

What are your favorite tips for sizing when you're making a necklace? Do you use a flexible cloth tape measure when checking the length of your necklace, or do you lay everything out on a flocked bead board? Share your tips, hints, and advice for perfect necklace making lengths here on the Beading Daily blog!

Bead Happy,


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Jennifer VanBenschoten

About Jennifer VanBenschoten

Born in New Jersey in 1974, I escaped to the Adirondacks for the first time in 1995, making it my permanent home in 2000.  I have been interested in beads, buttons and making jewelry as long as I can remember.  It's probably my mother's fault - she was a fiber artist and crochet historian, and whenever she ordered supplies from one mail order source, she would order a huge bag of assorted buttons and beads for me and my sister!    

6 thoughts on “Making Necklaces That Flatter: Why Necklace Length Matters

  1. I love the idea of using a dress form to help with designing. I would suggest that when making necklaces to sell, it is important to remember that not everyone has a 16 inch neck. Larger women need to have a longer length necklace to have the drape in the proper place for the style. Also bust size makes a difference in drape.

  2. Having a variety of lengths, for both necklaces and bracelets, is a very useful sales tool. Also having some ‘ready to go’ extenders that you can add if needed, is very helpful.

  3. I’m JUST back into creating necklaces after a LONG time not. Mainly I’m making necklaces to sell, so I’m doing a variety of lengths. I’m starting off with a themed project, for which I already have the pendants. So far, I’ve done 3 necklaces, and the lengths have related to the pendant size. I don’t have a dress dummy (good idea!) but I have mySELF and mirrors, so that’s how I assess how the necklace and its length appear! I find that a necklace can look very nice on the flocked beading board, but put it “on,” and NOPE! So if you were to peep though my window, you’d see me adding beads, running to the full-length mirror, holding it on my body, and rushing back to my chair, staring at the necklace and muttering to myself and choosing some more beads, ETC! !! It works!!

  4. I took a style a d fashion class that said the most flattering neckline or necklace length is approximately the same distance as the hairline to the chin. Measure that distance down from your chin; either your necklace or neckline should hit that mark to be most flattering. The actual necklace length will depend on the shape, angle and thickness of your neck. And if you typically wear your necklines that length, the necklace wil need to be shorter or longer.

  5. I keep several diferent extender chains in my jewellery box to fit the various necklaces I have. Some are adjustable with chain and a lobster or round clasp and one with a screw clasp section at each end. I also use 2 identical silver bracelets to make a ckoker length for pendants.