I’ve been wanting to perk up my style lately. I’ve become a bit lazy when I dress in the morning, grabbing my “go-to’s” that don’t feel very creative. I typically enjoy creating outfits that offer a little surprise or that incorporate a fun design element, but lately that hasn’t been a focus for me. I decided that I need to start paying more attention to dressing using the “rule of thirds” for a start.
You are probably familiar with the concept that a ratio of thirds is aesthetically pleasing. We see this concept in architecture and photography. The theory dates back to the ancient Greeks who established that a 1:3 ratio was a more aesthetically pleasing division of space than a half and half or a 1:2 ratio.
The rule of thirds applies to fashion as well. The horizontal lines of our clothing visually divide our bodies. It is more flattering to style outfits that incorporate a rule of thirds design.
I decided to pull some photos from past blog posts and compare the outfits that do and do not incorporate the rule of thirds. You may recognize the photo below from my recent red jeans post that I’ve used to illustrate the rule of thirds.
One thing to keep in mind is that all bodies are not created equal – that applies to how different our bodies are from each other as well as the reality that each body is not perfectly proportioned. I’m short-waisted and long-legged. You can see in the below photo that each third of my body is not equal. That affects my rule of thirds dressing in some ways. Since my legs are long and my torso is proportionately shorter, even if I wear a top with a hemline that ends at my hips, it could create a 1:3 ratio on me but may create a 1:2 ratio on someone whose top half and bottom half are more balanced.
The following photos illustrate both 1:3 or 3:1 ratios and 1:2 ratio looks. In most cases, you will probably agree that creating outfits that divide your body into thirds is more flattering and interesting.
Both of the looks below illustrate the rule of thirds. The tied blouse with the long skirt is a 1:3 ratio while the long white blouse paired with skinny jeans is a 3:1 ratio.
Similarly, the two photos below show outfits in thirds: a 1:3 ratio with the tucked in blouse and the mid-thigh length jacket creating a 3:1 ratio.
The next two photos feature the same outfit pieces, a white blouse and skinny jeans, worn two ways. The style on the left is a 1:2 ratio, the blouse hem creates a visual horizontal line right in the middle of my body. The right photo shows a 1:3 ratio created just by tucking in the blouse. It’s a much more interesting look.
Here’s a comparison of seemingly similar looks: a shirt with tails untucked paired with black jeans. The difference is that the shirt on the right has a longer hem in the back and the dipped line that’s visible from the front creates the 3:1 ratio. Additionally, the long scarf creates a visual that gives the outfit a 3:1 look. On the left, the denim shirt’s hemline cuts me right in the middle.
The outfits below feature the same wide-leg pants topped with a tucked in shirt and an untucked shirt. The tucked in shirt creates the 1:3 ratio, even though the jeans jacket does hit in the middle of my body. The pink shirt hemline divides my body right in half, creating a 1:2 ratio and a much less interesting look, although the long length of the pants helps a bit because it elongates my bottom half.
Finally, we are back to the red jeans looks. I didn’t intentionally plan to create the ratios for demonstrating the rule of thirds, but here they are: 1:3, 1:2, 3:1 (sort of – to be truly 3:1 the top should be a bit longer). Which proportion do you think looks most interesting?