Honest, Practical, Style Advice

Bodily Proportions – the optical illusion of successful dressing.



Bodily Proportions – the optical illusion of successful dressing. 


If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there can be no such thing as the perfect body. Nor should we even strive for perfection – how many of us have partners that love some of our body features that we feel self-conscious about? We all know the bodily dimensions we are supposed to covet — long legs being one — but in fact the most flattering way to dress is to make everything look in balance. Our focus should therefore be on ‘proportionality’.

So, what does this mean exactly? Well, it’s all about the proportions between your torso and your legs and between your waist and your hip bones. Clear?

Ok, perhaps not, so let’s start with body shape. The easiest way to understand your body shape is to know where your smallest point is — this determines how and where dresses and jackets should be cut. You want to show off and emphasise your smallest feature. For example, if you’re hourglass shaped, it’s your waist and you want to emphasise this. If, on the other hand you are more rounded, your waist is not your best feature and you want to look at garments that fit under the bust line then flow neatly.

Whilst it’s important to know your body shape (more on this in future blogs!), proportions are critical in enabling you to make conscious dressing decisions. If for example, you have shorter legs than your body, you should try to create smooth unbroken vertical lines from the floor to your waistline or above and avoid horizontal lines lower than your hip bones. But if your body is short in comparison to your legs (you will probably have the tendency to gain weight around your middle) you want to look for long line jackets and lower rise trousers.

In simple terms, to make our bodies appear balanced we are looking to making our big bits look smaller and our small bits look bigger. In effect we are creating an optical illusion.

So, some general rules for doing this:

Pattern, colour and detailing draw attention to an area, making it look larger.

Skim large hips or boobs and keep everything in that area as dialled back as possible.

Add in some fussy stuff — buttons, ruffles, embellishment, lateral stripes, pattern, bright colour — if you want to bring emphasis, and the illusion of centimetres, to an area. Any of the above will increase a small bust or add curves to an otherwise linear figure.

To elongate, vertical stripes work well. To disguise lumps and bumps diagonals can be the stuff of alchemy. Similarly, V-necks and flat-fronted trousers are universally flattering.

If you don’t have a waist — a particular problem for straight, rectangles and rounded body shapes — forget about belts, but don’t think that unwaisted styles are the answer. If you have a straight body shape, you can fake a waist with ramped-up shoulders and a fuller skirt. If you are rectangle or rounded, look for a dress or top that is fitted to below the bust, then flares subtly but doesn’t swamp — A-line will be your best bet.

Don’t worry if any of this sounds a bit confusing or complicated, just give me a call and we can create your own optical illusion.


© Copyright Lesley Clarke 2017