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What is a Peter Pan Collar?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 21, 2024
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A Peter Pan collar is a specific type of shirt collar, usually found on women's and girl's clothing. The collar evokes a sense of innocence, and the simple design appeals to many women of all ages. Like many fashion trends, the popularity of the collar waxes and wanes, but a few examples can usually be found on the racks of a department store, especially in the girls' section. It is also possible, of course, to sew your own clothing with a Peter Pan collar, or to modify an existing shirt collar.

Several things distinguish a Peter Pan collar from other types of shirt collars. The first, and most distinctive, is the rounded edges. The edges of the rounds may meet or overlap, or there may be a gap between them. The collar also tends to be small and unobtrusive, as well as close fitting. Typically, a shirt or dress with a Peter Pan collar is modest, since the collar hugs the neck, not leaving room for display of décolletage or cleavage.

The name of the collar is a reference to Peter Pan, a fictional character who lives in Neverland in the novel of the same name, written by J.M. Barrie in the early 1900s. The story is a fairytale about a little boy who never grows up, and the Peter Pan collar is intended to evoke the same fairytale sense of eternal youthfulness. On clothing for young girls, the collar is a perennial favorite since it is a classic, simple look. On older women, it is often a subject of debate in the fashion world, with many women either loving or hating it.

The shape and name of the Peter Pan collar appear to have originated in the mid-20th century. The design became very popular for school uniforms, and began to spill over into popular culture. Despite being named after a masculine character, it is associated primarily with feminine wear, and rarely appears in men's fashion.

Many sewing patterns for shirts and dresses include a Peter Pan collar, or an option for creating this collar. It is also possible to modify the collar of an existing shirt in many cases, by carefully cutting the relevant sections apart and re-sewing them to form the classic rounded edges.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a BeautyAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By orangey03 — On May 12, 2012

@wavy58 – I like the look of those large Peter Pan collars. I think that they are much more free-spirited than the smaller ones that sit so close to the neck. I feel like I'm choking when I wear those.

I have a beige blouse made of thin, crinkly material that has a huge Peter Pan collar. It has a big enough gap in the middle to allow for more freedom of movement. The collar spans the width of my shoulders, and it feels really elegant.

I also own a dress made of cotton with a big collar like this. I know that many people say that these collars are for the elderly, but I love them, and I think your grandmother is cool for wearing them!

By lighth0se33 — On May 11, 2012

A Peter Pan collar jacket is part of my uniform. I am a waitress at an upscale restaurant, and we are required to wear black jackets with white rounded collars, along with black skirts.

The boss says that this is so the customers can distinguish us from other patrons. I don't mind the collar, but I do wish that it were on a blouse rather than a jacket, because I get so hot sometimes having to layer up.

The jacket also has cuffs to match the collar. Since they are white and I work with food, this seems like a bad idea. I have to apply stain remover to them often.

By wavy58 — On May 11, 2012

My grandmother had several dresses with white Peter Pan collars. She often wore them to church, and she would also wear them on any special occasion.

All of her dresses had a floral pattern. The cool thing about a white collar is that it goes with any pattern and any color. She had a black dress with tiny white flowers with this type of collar, and she even had a pink polka-dot dress that looked good with this collar.

Though some Peter Pan collars are small, hers were always large and covered a big area. They made me think of baby bibs.

By StarJo — On May 10, 2012

I think that Peter Pan collar dresses are a real throwback to a more modest time. They are cute, and I actually own one.

The dress has a white background, and it is covered in red cherries with green stems and leaves. The collar is round with scalloped edges, and it is solid red with green ribbon trim.

I like wearing this dress because I know that no one else will likely be wearing one resembling it. I like to be unique, and wearing Peter Pan collars is one way to do that.

By indemnifyme — On May 10, 2012

@ceilingcat - I don't see anything wrong with an adult wearing a Peter Pan collar. At least it's a modest style! These days so many women's shirts are so revealing, I wish Peter Pan collar blouses would come back into style.

Also, even though Peter Pan collars are usually left to girls clothing now, I heard that they were very popular on wedding dresses in the 1930's. Wedding dresses are definitely for adult women, not children. So I don't see how a woman wearing a blouse with a Peter Pan collar is trying to reclaim her youth.

By ceilingcat — On May 10, 2012

When I was younger, my mom loved to buy my sister and I clothes with Peter Pan collars, especially Peter Pan collar dresses. As the article said, this type of collar is popular for young girls.

I didn't mind wearing Peter Pan collars when I was younger, but I would never dream of wearing something with a Peter Pan collar on it as an adult. I think shirts with this type of collar on it look just ridiculous on grown women. It almost looks like they're trying to hard to reclaim their youth or something!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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