"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."
This week's blog is about the second part of my consultation process with my client- 'design lines.' By design lines I mean the outside and inside lines of a garment- outside lines are the 'profile' of the garment- such as an A line skirt vs. a straight skirt, or skinny jeans vs. bell bottoms. By inside lines I mean a double breasted vs. single breasted jacket, seaming details, such as pocket placement, princess seams, etc. Although inside design lines may seem comparably unimportant, they can have a surprisingly big impact on overall appearance.
In fact, both inside and outside design lines are probably more important than you realize. It's second in importance only to color. The design lines you wear determine to a large extent how your proportions come across- if you look wide, tall, skinny, short, and how your various bits and parts seem to visually relate to each other. It determines whether you are visually balanced or not.
Most advice I see tends to 'compartmentalize' individual areas of the body- 'if you have wide hips, wear bell bottoms to balance out your hips.' Well, this can be true if you're tall; but if you have short legs and a round torso, this may make you look even shorter and rounder. And even that I'm not willing to commit to- there are just too many potential variables. 'If you have broad shoulders don't wear ____ because you want your shoulders to look narrower.' This might be true if your shoulders are considerably wider than your hips- but if you have rubanesque hips, you may be better off not trying to minimize your shoulder width, as your wide shoulders create 'balance' for your hips. And again, balance is what it's ALL about…
So here's what you need to remember. In order to made something look longer or thinner, use vertical (up and down) lines- diagonal lines usually work here, too. In order to make something look wider or shorter, use horizontal (side to side- like the horizon) lines. You may have heard the generalization that if you have wide hips your shouldn't wear horizontal lines on your lower half because you'll make your hips appear wider and your legs shorter. This is why. (And I'll commit 85% to this generalization, too.)
For example: if you have a rounder torso, belts might be a problem for you. Generally, being a horizontal line they emphasize width exactly where you don't want it emphasized- but there are a few tricks you can employ here if you just cannot give up your belts. Keep the belt the same color as the garment you're wearing; that way it's an 'inside design line' yet not a total 'line break'- a line break is where something visually breaks your appearance in to separate pieces, and is, as a general rule, one of the first places the eye is drawn to. So be careful where line breaks occur. Another trick is to wear those vertical lines with the belt- such as a jacket or fairly tailored sweater over the belt, and only have the belt showing at the front, where the sweater or jacket is open. This works if the topper you have on 'skims' or 'drapes' over the body- if it's tight it won't work. And that's always true when using vertical lines to make an aspect of your figure look longer/thinner- the vertical lines must hang well- they must drape or skim over the area. If too tight they can sometimes almost become a horizontal line, or have wrinkles that are so pronounced as to become horizontal lines right where you're trying to work the 'vertical' thing. This is one reason I always say it's so important to stick with the highest quality knits you can afford- not only do they always hang, drape or cling better, but they tend to last longer, too.
And the last element I want to bring in is hemlines- they also profoundly affect whether or not a figure will appear 'balanced.' Lets take our above example again- say she's gone with the old standby of a top that falls below her behind, and a pair of pants. We know she's a little on the shorter side, and her midsection is one of the widest parts of her figure- how's this going to look?
In this next example we've changed 2 things- first, we shortened the hemline on the top; we made it end at her high hip. This alone will create visual balance between her top half and her bottom half by making her legs look longer. Second, we've made the pants and top either the same color or very close. This visually reinforces the vertical lines, making her look longer and leaner. Add some pretty accessories, and voilà- a lovely image. Success indeed.
Well, there you go. A tiny example of how just a couple of small, easy changes can have such a huge impact on one's appearance….