Now we’re going to talk about lines and curves, I tell my clients, offering to them the suggestion that we’re about to create some style magic! It provokes an interesting reaction.
Some laugh, others smile politely wondering what’s coming next,. While others look slightly bewildered wondering if I’m going to get my Potterish wand out!
What Are Lines And Curves?
Once you understand your colour palette, it’s time to start working on what suits your body shape and your personality in terms of clothing styles. In order to really make the most of this you need to understand lines and curves.
Let’s be clear lines and curves are not just about the fabric patterns or prints. As a fashion designer you would not be able to create a garment without lines and curves.
Lines and curves are created in clothing by:
- The shape/silhouette of the garment
- The seams and construction
- The fun stuff – finishes, details
- Fabrics – prints and patterns
The messages our brain and eyes exchange about lines and curves are always done in a split second but specific order.
How Do We See Lines And Curves?
Our eyes are drawn to horizontals first because horizontal lines help us to create balance. We then consider verticals, diagonals and then curves. We can create illusions because of the way that our brains and eyes work.
Without diving down a fascinating scientific rabbit hole, let’s keep this simple. Our vision depends on our eyes to see and our brains to interpret what our eyes see. The brain receives messages from the eyes but also adds two elements: memory and interpretation (or perception). Optical illusions occur when the messages sent back from our eyes conflicts with what the brain is expecting. Result = confusion!
The bottom line is that this is great news for us as we can use lines and curves to guide others to see what we want them to see. This will enable us to show off the great bits and downplay the bits we are not so keen on!
So let’s take a look at how we can use the way we interpret lines and curves to our advantage.
Most of us learn from an early age that you don’t wear horizontal stripes if you want to look slimmer and in most cases this is correct.
I’ll explain the exception in a moment!
Most of us are not looking to add width to our body, but if you have a small bust or a pear shaped body (hips wider than shoulders) you can create balance using horizontal lines.
You can do this by adding a horizontal line this can be in the form of:
- Padded shoulders
- Wide horizontal stripes
- A different colour yoke on a top or blouse, bateau necklines
- A shrug or bolero jacket in a different colour to the top underneath
Each horizontal line we create in an outfit will have a widening and shortening effect. This applies to hemlines, changes in colour, trims and decorative details.
If you want to add height and like wearing skirts or dresses the easiest way to do this is have tights the same colour as your shoes and outfit. This way you do not create a break of colour at your hemline.
Our eyes also take two short horizontal lines and ignore the gap. What do I mean by this?
If you have a large bust and wear short sleeves that finish at the level of your bust, our eyes will follow the line from one sleeve hem to the other and see it as one horizontal line.
However there is an exception and that is very narrow horizontal lines. When the horizontals are too fine for the eye to follow along one at a time, and when there are multiples of them, they can actually start working like a vertical line and become elongating.
Vertical lines lengthen, our eyes move along them more quickly than horizontal or curved lines. So anyone wanting to look taller or slimmer should look to include vertical lines in their wardrobe. The good news is that this is so easy to do, as I mentioned earlier you do not need patterns and prints to add lines and curves to your wardrobe.
You can define verticals simply by:
- The way you layer clothes, leaving a jacket open, wearing a sleeveless jacket are great examples.
- Accessories are a great way to create verticals too. A long pendant or a long scarf will add vertical lines.
- The structure of garments: vertical darts, pleats, trouser creases will all add vertical lines. Knitwear that is ribbed creates a vertical line.
- Details on garments – piping down the side of trousers, buttons in a contrasting colour on a jacket or blouse. Pussy bow blouses also add a vertical line.
But it is important to also note that just as horizontals can have an elongating effect, verticals can have a widening effect! Vertical stripes that are too wide in contrasting colours will add width.
You don’t want to add vertical lines to the widest part of your body, as they will draw attention to this area. If you have large hips or tummy then avoid verticals on these areas.
You can create a single vertical with an outfit and negate the effect of any horizontal lines by using the column of colour. An outfit all in one colour will have a lengthening effect.
Diagonal lines create movement and action. They direct the eye from one element to another. We can have real fun playing with diagonal lines!
As we read from left to right, we tend to read diagonals this way. So let’s take a one-shoulder top as an easy way to look at this.
If your left shoulder is exposed then the eye will follow the diagonal upwards towards your face and neck.
Alternatively if your right shoulder is exposed then the eye will follow down from your left shoulder towards your bust and body.
So clever isn’t it!
You don’t have to wear off the shoulder tops to create diagonals! You can create diagonal lines with the following details:
- Patterns and prints – look for designs that draw the eye in different ways – you’ll be amazed how differently you look at clothes. Joe Browns and Desigual are both brands that make good use of diagonals.
- Wrap-over tops and dresses. A really flattering way to guide the eye across your body
- V-necks. These do have diagonal lines, but depending on the depth and shape of the v-neck these lines can also be interpreted as vertical or horizontal lines. A deep plunging neckline will act more as a vertical. A wide, shallow neckline will create a horizontal.
- A cross body bag – great way to draw the eye up or downwards.
- Chevron stripe fabric. A lovely way to create a very slimming effect on a dress if the angle points downwards across your tummy.
The slowest line we see is the curved line. As our eye follows the curve it slows down and we follow the curve with our eyes. The effect is that curves add volume to our bodies.
Curves create a place for the eye to rest. Want to draw attention to an area of your body that you really love? Then add curves. Curves also add a feminine soft touch to an outfit.
As with diagonals our eyes will follow the line of the curve from left to right.
Curves can also soften the effect of straight lines. A curved hemline on a top will soften the horizontal line, particularly if this is ending on your hips.
We find curves in clothing in:
- Structure – necklines, hemlines and sleeve shapes, gathering and lapels (note how some lapels are very angular but some are rounded)
- Detailing – frills and lace are great examples
- Fabrics – patterns and texture. Softer fabrics will drape and naturally fall in a softer more curvy way than stiff structured fabrics.
Use curves to their best effect if you want to add balance to your body.
Again let’s take the example of a pear shaped body where the shoulders and bust are narrower than the hips. Add puff sleeves to add width to your shoulders. If you have a small bust use a gathered neckline to make your bust appear larger.
Hopefully this post will have given you lots of ideas about how you can use lines and curves to create some real style magic with your wardrobe.
Give it a try…. why not try to work out what the lines on this dress are doing? Answers in the comments below!