Have you ever heard people describe themselves as long or short waisted and wondered what they meant? I have. And while I might be able to tell with a simple glance if someone else has exceptionally long legs or a long torso, I have difficulty determining my own body proportions. But understanding our body proportions is one of the keys to discovering how to best dress and accessorize our bodies. It’s crucial in developing our personal style.
Dressed for My Day…My Way continues
Today we’re continuing our series I’ve called Dressed for My Day…My Way. We’re learning how to discover our body shapes, proportions and variations, as well as how to factor in coloring, personality and lifestyle when determining our personal style. We began our series here, in case you’d like to go back and catch up on all the information I’ve provided thus far. And you can find all the articles in this series here.
Also, I’ve been providing some worksheets to help you calculate the specifics about your own body, but you need to subscribe to my emails in order to receive those. You can find out more about the benefits of being an email subscriber here.
What do we mean by body proportions?
Previously we have discovered our body shapes. We basically said that you determine your body shape by looking at the silhouette of your body head on. It is calculated by measuring the diameter of your shoulders, waist, hips and thighs, not the circumference around them. It’s the front facing impression of your body shape. You could also say that your body shape is your horizontal body shape.
But your body proportions could be considered your vertical body shape. When we talk body proportions we’re talking about your “measurements” from head to toe. Predominantly, we’re looking at the length of your torso in comparison to the length of your legs. But more on that in a minute.
Leonardo Da Vinci developed a theory that the balanced human is 8 head lengths tall, and that the body is broken down into the following equal measurements:
- top of head to base of chin
- base of chin to mid bust
- mid bust to natural waist
- natural waist to leg break
- leg break to mid thigh
- mid thigh to knee bend
- knee bend to mid calf
- mid calf to base of foot
Of course, none of us are exactly eight equal portions. We are even more unique than snowflakes, you know. But when we measure these eight portions of our body we can then determine which is longer – our torso or our legs. So while we measure each of the eight portions, we’re really comparing the combined length of the first four segments (our torso) against the combined length of the last four segments (our legs).
Why you need to discover your body proportions
Artists, photographers and mathematicians are aware of the Golden Ratio or Golden Mean. This golden rule says that the most aesthetically pleasing proportions in art are a 1/3 to 2/3 ration. In other words, our eyes expect space to be broken up into thirds, but we then like to see consistency in 2/3 of the space and something different in the other 1/3 of the area. Does that make sense to you? Can you think of examples of how this is pleasing to you? Maybe art you’re drawn to, a shelf display you’ve created in your home, an outfit you’ve received compliments on?
Ok, so when we understand that our human bodies may be long waisted or short waisted, we then realize we may need to be a little creative with our clothing in order to achieve that pleasing Golden Ratio on our frames. So when we determine our body proportions, we’re really getting a grasp on the “canvas” we are dressing.
Next week we’ll learn how to dress bodies of different proportions in order to achieve the Golden Ratio, but for today we’ll just learn how to discover our unique body proportions. However, in a nutshell, understanding your body proportions will help you determine where your clothing should end. You’ll learn
- the best hem lengths for your shirts, skirts or dresses and pants.
- your best jewelry lengths
- your ideal necklines
- the best shoe styles for you
- and why a good bra is such a big deal!
How to discover your body proportions
Obtain a piece of yarn or ribbon about a yard long. You can use a tape measure, but you don’t have to. Using the ribbon, simply measure off the distance between the following points on our graphic below. So go ahead first and do all eight distances.
- top of head to base of chin
- base of chin to mid bust – Okay. As we age, this point migrates down. Ahem. Pull it up to where it should be if you’re wearing a good bra.
- mid bust to natural waist – The natural waist is where you bend at the waist; may or may not be at your belly button.
- natural waist to leg break – The leg break is where your leg bends from your body; should be slightly higher than your crotch; check where your pants crease.
- leg break to mid thigh
- mid thigh to knee bend – The kneed bend is where your knee bends. Okay, that was self-explanatory.
- knee bend to mid calf
- mid calf to base of foot – This is really the bottom of your foot.
You can either write down measurements for each of these or just see how the measurements compare. Which areas did you need more ribbon and which areas did you require less ribbon?
But you want to do more than just measure these eight areas. First compare the top four measurements against the last four measurements. This will tell you if you have a long torso and shorter legs or a short torso and longer legs. Or you may be basically balanced between your upper half and lower half.
If you are balanced, you want to combine the first two (top of head to mid bust) with the last two (knee bend to base of foot) and compare that measurement to the middle measurements (mid bust to leg break and leg break to knee bend). This will tell you if you have a short or long waist.
A very few of us (proportionately!) may be fairly equal in all eight measurements, meaning our bodies are pretty balanced. But in fact, the three dominant body types are:
- Short torso with longer legs
- Balanced upper and lower body with a short middle body
- Long torso with shorter legs
(Note: in the illustrations below, the woman is the same. Disregard her and focus on the grey measuring lines. )
If you are by chance balanced, then you have fewer restrictions or guidelines when it comes to hemlines and other lengths. But again, very few people are balanced. So don’t let that throw you. Your body proportions are not right or wrong; they just are what they are. And knowing them will help you dress in a way that creates that beautiful and aesthetically desirable Golden Ratio.
How to Dress Your Body Proportions
We will learn all about dressing each of the three dominant body proportions next week. But for now, here are a few interesting tidbits and helpful hints:
- Where we are long, we are often our leanest. Where we are short, we are often our fullest or tend to put on weight first. That’s just an established observation, and it might help you determine your proportions a little more easily.
- You’ll probably want to keep the shorter areas free of detailing and horizontal lines.
- Make sure you are wearing a properly fitted bra that is lifting and supporting appropriately. Since the mid bust is one of the points from which we measure our body proportions, you can probably understand a little better why lifted and supported breasts are crucial to our overall appearance. If the mid point of your bust is hitting too loo, your middle section is significantly shortened. Just wearing the right bra can fix a multitude of proportion issues really.
- Accentuate your longer areas with detailing such as floral prints, plaids, more color, etc.
- Use nude shoes when wearing dresses or skirts to create a longer leg if you have proportionately shorter legs.
- Use vertical lines in shorter areas to elongate.
Where are you shorter? Where are you longer? Have you always known your body proportions, or did today’s exercise help you discover your body proportions? When you consider your favorite outfits – the ones you get the most compliments on – can you understand why they flatter your body?
Lots to think about! And I hate to leave you hanging. But join me again next Wednesday to learn how to dress your body proportions.
Blessed for My Day
May you find sweet satisfaction in the boundary lines that God has drawn for your life. Sometimes we want so badly what someone else has. Sometimes we feel that we do not have enough or the right thing. And truly, sometimes the grass does grow greener on the other side of the fence. But we can trust that we have a God who knows best what we need to live fruitful and abundant lives. Today may God bless you with insight into how truly miraculous your life is. May He fill you with a sense of satisfaction that overwhelms your desire for more. And may He open your eyes to all that you have to be grateful for.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6
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