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Creating Pleasing Proportions with Your Outfits

August 31, 2020

Happy Monday! I’ve kinda fallen into the habit of uploading these Oh So Pulled Together mini-series posts on Mondays, so I think that’s what I will try to continue to do. Of course, now that I’ve put that out there, something will come up next week and change all of that! But today let’s carry on with our new series and talk about creating pleasing proportions with your outfits.

Creating Pleasing Proportions with Your Outfits

Series Notes

In this little mini-series I try to keep the posts short and easily digestible. I don’t want to throw too much at us at once. Plus, I want us to be able to take action on these tips immediately. So rather than feeling overwhelmed, I want you to feel equipped to make a few simple changes and get results.

If you enjoy today’s post, be sure to share it with friends. Girlfriends help girlfriends look more pulled together! You can find all of the Oh So Pulled Together posts here.

Creating Pleasing Proportions with Your Outfits

Fashion is both utilitarian and art. But when we take the time to style the clothes we wear, we’re choosing to participate in that art form. We’re creating art. So, like every other type of art, style is quite subjective.

That’s why I hesitate to share today’s tips as rules. For every rule there is an exception. But I do have tips that can help us more consistently create outfits that aesthetically please the eye. That’s because, like for all other art forms, there are proven formulas for outfit composition that most people find pleasing to the eye.

The Rule of Proportions

The rule of proportions in fashion is simply based on what is known as the Golden Ratio, which is approximately 1:1.61. I’m not a mathematician by any means, so I won’t bother to explain the mathematical equation behind this aesthetically pleasing ratio. But the bottom line is that the human eye seems to appreciate a balance of these proportions as illustrated in the Golden Rectangle below.

The Golden Rectangle
The Golden Rectangle

We can use components of our outfits to create these proportions, too.

Golden Proportion in Style

Depending on your body proportions, you’ll use clothing lengths and fullnesses as well as accessories to create those visually pleasing silhouettes. To discover your personal body proportions check out this previous post. To review or learn how to dress your unique body proportions, refer to this previous post.

In the photo above I used a simple partial tuck to create these proportions in my outfit. I did the same in the look below.

golden proportions in fashion

Ha! I just realized I’m wearing the same top in both of those first two looks. Oh well, the point is that if I didn’t tuck that top in, even loosely, I would not achieve that Golden Proportion and the outfit would not look as nice. So tucking your shirt in is not so much about showing off your waistline as it is about creating the pleasing proportions.

That’s why I appreciate the partial or front tuck so much. I use these techniques frequently to adjust the lengths of my garments so that I can achieve that pleasing 1:1.61 proportion. But you can also just wear a shorter shirt. And since cropped tops are quite popular right now, it’s easier than ever to find these.

In the photo below I’m not wearing a cropped top. But this particular t-shirt (now under $10!) does have a more fitted silhouette at the hemline so I’m able to kind of bunch it up just a tad and wear it untucked and still almost achieve those perfect proportions…but not quite. Alas, I don’t think it’s that important to dicker over an inch or so. But you can see why the right length shirt makes a difference.

Now I have pretty balanced proportions to begin with. So for me it’s just a matter of tucking or leaving untucked most of the time. But if you have a long torso or a short torso you’ll have to make other adjustments. Be sure to refer back to my post, How to Dress Your Body Proportions for more details concerning your unique proportions.

Other Proportions to Consider

But when you’re trying to put together winning outfits, it’s not just about creating that 1:1.61 proportion with blocks of clothing. There are at least two other proportions I suggest you keep in mind.

Full to Form Fitting

Generally, if you’re wearing something form fitting up top, you want to pair it with something fuller on the bottom. And if you choose to wear skinny jeans or a bodycon skirt you’ll want to wear something fuller up top.

dape collar blazer
In this look I paired skinny jeans with a blousier top and a flowy blazer.

Now these garments don’t have to be very slim and very full. You just want to steer clear of wearing skinny jeans or tight shorts or a tight skirt with an equally tight top. Likewise, I’d generally suggest you not wear something very full on the bottom with something very full up top.

However, there are exceptions to all rules, as I said earlier. And I think the key to those exceptions is to consider the fabric and the type of look you’re wanting to achieve.

For instance, let’s look again at the outfit where I paired the linen pants with the gauze top. I think that combination works simply because of the fabric choices and the very relaxed, vacation look I wanted to achieve.

elegant & effortless summer neutrals

But the key to pulling it off was tucking in the shirt. As you can probably imagine, if I hadn’t tucked in the shirt I would have looked like one big puff of fabric. So again, achieving that 1:1.61 proportion really saved the day here.

The photo below is from about two years ago, but I think it’s the best I have for illustrating this concept. I don’t always get this one right, but here I think I nailed it. I paired wide leg crop pants with a form fitting faux wrap top. I need to remember this the next time I try to style wide leg pants.

Marled Knit Wide Leg Crop Pants

Here’s another example of when I think I got it right. This top is not as form fitting, but it’s definitely not blousy either. and tucking it in keeps the look proportional.

Skin to Covered

Another proportion to be aware of is skin to covered. Generally if you show some skin up top – say with a low cut blouse or even a cold shoulder top or other cut-outs, you want to stay more covered below. And if you wear a shorter skirt or shorts, it’s wise to stay more covered up top.

Bottom line? Don’t bare your skin all over! Ha! I don’t bare a lot of skin usually, but I do occasionally wear a low-cut blouse (since I don’t really have cleavage, in the true sense of the word!). So I make sure I’m covered below if I expose more of my decollete.

Ruched Wrap Top + Bootcut Jeans

Hahaha! I had to look waaaay back in the archives to find this photo of me wearing a low-ish cut top. But check out all the other portions going on here, too. Notice the 1:1.61 proportions achieved with the long boot cut jeans. And notice how I wore a slim fitting top with the wider boot cut jeans, too. This is another one I got right. Like I said, I’m quite aware that I don’t always get it right with proportions. I think it takes a lot of practice and intention.

How about you? Is this a new concept to you? Or one that you know about but don’t always follow? (That would be me, obviously!) Or maybe you’ve got this down. I’d love to hear your thoughts today.

Don’t Miss a Post:

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Blessed for My Day

Today I’m starting a new series in this section of my posts. (I obviously have a thing for series! I think that’s just how my brain works.) I’m going to be looking at the words in red, the words spoken by Jesus in the book of John. I invite you to join me. These will still be very brief thoughts, so I invite you to consider the scriptures even further.

Today the question is simply posed, “What are you seeking?” When two men began to follow Jesus after hearing Him proclaimed “the Lamb of God,” Jesus wanted to know what they were looking for. Today let’s pause and think about why we are following Jesus. What do we seek from Him?

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?”

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xoxo, Kay
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14 thoughts on “Creating Pleasing Proportions with Your Outfits

  1. I did not know or ever hear about 1:1:61…..but I can see it makes total sense when I see all the styles you showed us!

    I like doing the front tuck which just adds more interest to an outfit.

    Enjoyed the word today,

  2. I think you look great no matter what you’re wearing and the color combinations are always spot on. I’m not sure I understand how the ratio works but I’ll keep trying. Fingers crossed.

  3. This concept is really helpful, thank you. I’m generally not a “tucker” and when I do the half tuck I don’t like the look from the side very much because I think it makes my backside look bigger. Haven’t quite figured that out yet. One thing I’ve seen you do is the blousy tuck, I don’t know what to call it obviously!!, but you tuck in all around then pull the top out of the waistline a little to create a very slight blousy effect while maintaining the proportions shown here. I have more luck with that! But this is very good to remember, keeping the proportions in check. It really does look much more pulled together and “finished.” This is a great mini-series!

  4. Until I started following blogs like yours I had never heard of dressing in proportions. Most other bloggers refer to the proportions as 1/3 to 2/3. I am not a numbers person, but I believe all of these numbers are similar (when looking at the graphics). Seeing your outfit pictures really helps visualize this concept. It would have really helped to see outfits with the tops untucked, side-by-side to the ones posted, to really grasp the proportions. I find myself standing in front of the mirror with these numbers in mind, but invariably leave my shirt untucked. I have hidden my waistline for years, and despite taking off some weight, I still dress the same way. Habits are hard to break.

  5. Thanks for your always informative blog posts!?. I had heard of using the 1/3 to 2/3 proportion rule when dressing – similar idea. How would you use that when wearing a longer tunic length top and pants?

    1. Hi Pat. Yes, I’ve even explained it here before as 1/3 to 2/3. But I thought this time I’d use the more technically correct terminology ?. When wearing something like a tunic you really give up that proportional composition, which is fine. But you can create a more balanced look by wearing shoes the same color as your pants or skirt so that the bottom portion of your look appears longer.

    2. Following this response, because it is my exact question. I often wear skinny jeans or nice leggings with a tunic top. Or a long cardigan with the same type bottoms. It’s just more “me!”Is that a sort of reverse of the proportions?

      1. So if your tunic is very long, more like a dress, then it does achieve the same 1:1.61 proportion. But if it hits just below the rear, as most tunics do, then you do sacrifice that particular ratio. But that’s okay. You can, however, still create an aesthetically pleasing proportion by choosing your footwear carefully. I suggest either wearing shoes in the same color as your pants or nude colored shoes to match your skin tone. I found this helpful post for you gals. Well, really for all of us!

  6. Hi Kay! How do you achieve the proportions when wearing cropped (or even ankle-length) pants? I haven’t figured that one out yet! Thanks!

    1. When wearing cropped or ankle length pants it’s all the more important to wear either a cropped top or to do a bit of a tuck. Otherwise your legs will look really stubby. Also it’s smart to create a long leg visual effect by either wearing shoes the same color or intensity of color as your pants or in a flesh tone. This is one of the reasons why, although cropped pants are trending, they are really hard to wear and it’s difficult for most of us to embrace them. They definitely require more careful footwear consideration. I taped a video Saturday about jean silhouette and lengths and how to wear them, but it doesn’t air for three weeks.

  7. Good afternoon Kay! I started reading this post very early this morning but my brain just wasn’t absorbing what I was reading, so I’ve just finished reading it. What you shared makes a lot of sense, and it is something that I don’t always get right. Thanks to you, Jo-Lynne, and Cyndi, I am getting better at it. And when I look in the full length mirror, if something just doesn’t look right, I now check the proportions to see if that’s where an adjustment needs to be made. Enjoy the rest of your afternoon!

    1. Hahaha! I’m sorry for testing your brain so early! I totally get it. I’m hoping you gals are understanding that this is just one of several ways to look “oh, so pulled together.” We absolutely do not have to achieve this perfect 1:1.61 ratio with every outfit. But I’m so glad we’re all making a little progress. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Some of us are like a level with our bubble in the middle. I just can’t tuck unless I wear a foundation garment which I hate to wear. So I don’t tuck. But I am going to give it a shot again. It does look much better.

    1. Hahaha! Well you absolutely don’t have to. Remember this is just one way to look more pulled together. And you can also just choose shorter tops that lay nicely over the waistband of your pants.