Have you ever looked in the mirror and felt dissatisfied with what you see, yet you’re not too sure what isn’t right? In these instances it is very likely the issue is one of balance, or more precisely, the lack thereof. Balance is defined as the harmonious relation of parts to each other or to the whole. Visual balance exists everywhere in nature, so it should not be surprising that the human eye finds balance aesthetically pleasing; balance is comforting and attractive. Visual imbalance can actually make us feel unsettled, disconcerted or disturbed. Who doesn’t feel compelled to straighten a crooked picture on the wall or rearrange the cushions on a sofa to get the balance right?
Creating visual balance when we dress is an important part of looking fabulous. So, how do we achieve visual balance? Well, the answer comes in two parts.
- Firstly, we need to create the illusion of a balanced body.
This means balancing our shoulder line with our hips and our length of leg with our length of torso. To do this we may need to minimise or maximise our bust/waist/ hips/neck. When one element of our body’s shape is disproportionately larger or smaller than the rest of us, balance is lost.
- Secondly, our clothing needs to reflect the proportions of our body. With the waist as the dividing line, the body’s proportions can be expressed as either two parts above the waist and three parts below or three parts above and five parts below. So, a garment or an outfit that can be divided into uneven or unequal parts creates better balance than one that is divided one to one or two to four. A 1:3 ratio or 2:3 ratio is more attractive than a 1:1 ratio.
“Have enough difference for interest, but not so much that it creates imbalance”. (Mathis and Connor, 1994). In design, even halves is usually perceived as dull while uneven sections or parts is visually more interesting. This is true in fashion as well.
In dressing, even halves can appear staid, matronly or even frumpy. Uneven divisions between our top and bottom halves, gives us more chance of looking youthful, trendy or edgy.
Here are a couple of (imperfect) examples but hopefully they illustrate the point.