Fourth Body Element - Body Proportion

Body Proportions — Out Of Balance?

If you don’t understand your Body Proportions you might be feeling out of balance. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are some areas of your body seem longer and others seem shorter when you look in the mirror? 
  • Feel like some clothes emphasizes the longer and/or the shorter areas? 
  • Do you feel out of balance when wearing these clothes? 
  • Have you ever wondered how to visually shorten one area and lengthen another?

Keep reading and you will learn how to create balance. 

Developing Body Proportions Element

When developing my five body element system, I talked to a lot of stylists to discover their thought processes when dressing a woman. One of them told me she looks at the space between body areas, for example, between the chin and bust the larger the space the larger the necklaces or the smaller the space the smaller the necklaces.

I found this idea interesting and it made perfect sense to me. As a result, I began exploring other body proportion clues which lead me to the placement of horizontal lines.

As you learned in Horizontal Lines: Friend or Foe, horizontal lines visually shorten an area.

Horizontal lines stops eyes

In my experience, many women possess little space between their busts and waists. I also saw many of these same women with a longer space between their waists and crotch areas (much easier to carry and birth babies).

Body Proportions

Why Most Waistband Are Below The Natural Waist

In time more and more women adopted the trend of lower waistband pants. Why? Because these women instinctively knew a waistband below their natural high waists looked better because it created more visual space between the bust and waistband.

On the other hand, those women with a long waist to crotch area put the waistband below their waists which visually shortens this area.

In time the waistband height stabilized at or just below the belly button (it is 1 to 2 inches below the natural waist). This horizontal line visually lengthens the space between the bust and waist. It also visually shortens the space between the waist and crotch.

Short waisted

In the beginning of my research I found a book about body proportion in art. This book stated that an 8 head tall body creates the best balanced body. Further research confirmed this statement.

Body Proportions

As a result of putting all this information together I created the fourth body element “Body Proportion.” This body element gives you clues about the: 

  • Horizontal line placement
  • Vertical line placement
  • Scale of accessories and prints that lie within each body area

In this post you will learn:

  1. How to determine your body proportions
  2. Placement of horizontal and vertical lines
  3. Scale of accessories and prints

Determine Your Body Proportions

You determine your body proportions by getting out a tape measure and measuring each area. Once I understood my body proportions, I really started to understand why certain clothes worked for me and others didn’t.

To understand your body proportion compare your actual length to an idealized length. The idealized length is:

  • Top of head to chin – 1 head
  • Chin and bust – 1 head
  • Bust and natural waist – 1 head
  • Natural waist and crotch – 1 head
  • Crotch and knees – 2 heads
  • Knees and floor – 2 heads

To determine your idealized length you divide your height by the length of your head.

Tools you need:

  • Wall or door that marks can wash off easily
  • Pencil (I find pencil marks can wash off easily)
  • Yardstick or long measuring tape to measure your areas
  • Paper to write down your results

Steps In Determining Body Proportions

Steps to determine body proportions:

  1. Lean up against a door or wall
  2. Make a mark for height
  3. Mark under the chin
  4. Draw a mark at the nipple level (if possible make sure “the girls” look straight out because that creates a better measurement)
  5. Make a mark at the natural waist (when bending to the side your natural waist is that bending point)
  6. Draw a crotch mark
  7. Mark at the knees
  8. Measure your total height and between each area and make a note of your measurements
  9. Divide your total height by 8 (this gives you your ideal head length for your height) and make a note of this length
  10. Compare your actual length to the ideal length for each area 
    1. If the actual length is shorter than the ideal length then you’re considered short in this area 
    2. If the actual length is longer than the ideal length then you’re considered long in this area                                    
  11. Make a note if you are long, short or same in each area

I am:

  • Head to chin – Same
  • Chin to bust – Long
  • Bust to waist – Long
  • Waist to crotch – Same
  • Crotch to knee – Same
  • Knee to floor – Short

Placement of Horizontal and Vertical Lines

In past posts I explained how horizontal and vertical lines affect an outfit. To review horizontal lines go to: Horizontal Lines: Friend or Foe, and vertical lines: Vertical Lines Can Be A Foe.

In the first body element Body Shape, you figured out the placement of horizontal and vertical lines to create balance within your body silhouette. Go to What Are Your Body Shape Clues? to review Body Shape and the placement of horizontal and vertical lines.

Now that you understand your body proportions you can more precisely understand the placement of horizontal and vertical lines within each body area.

Do you have short areas? Avoid horizontal lines at all cost. Putting them in this area causes the area to appear even shorter. Instead place vertical lines in this area to elongate it. Another strategy is to place a horizontal line in the area above or below as shown in lowering the pant waistband.

I’m short between the knees and the floor so I avoid capris. When I wear them my legs appear much shorter than my torso causing my body to be out of balance.

Do you have long areas? Place your horizontal lines in these areas because they will help this area appear more balanced.

I wear a lot of wide belts and whenever I wear them I always get a lot of compliments. The belt creates a horizontal line between my bust and waist causing my torso to be more in balance with my legs.

horizontal lines shorten

Placement of Vertical Lines

With respect to vertical lines, place them in short areas. By doing this these areas appear longer.

Even before I knew my legs are shorter than my torso, I always wore my trousers with a center crease. This center crease acts like a vertical line creating length in my legs.

Vertical line lengthen

Go To Closet

Go to your closet and put on that outfit you love to wear. Note the horizontal line and vertical line placement. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are there horizontal lines in your short areas? 
  • Do horizontal lines land in areas that are same or long? 
  • In your short areas, do you find vertical lines?
  • Does this outfit create an overall balanced look?

Note the placement of horizontal and vertical lines. This is your guide when buying future clothes.

Now put on outfits you don’t wear very often and look at the horizontal line placement. There are three reasons why you don’t like wearing them:

  • Horizontal line placement
  • Vertical line placement
  • Second scale clue

Poor horizontal line placement creates the feeling of being out of balance.

Scale -- Second Clue

Body proportion gives you the second of three scale clues. This clue tells you the scale of prints and accessories in a particular area. For example, the length between your chin and bust affects the scale of your necklace.

The overall scale increases or decreases depending if you’re short or long in a particular area:

  • Short body proportion — scale decreases
  • Long body proportion — scale increases

If you are short between your chin and bust, you decrease the size of your necklace. On the other hand being long between your chin and bust, you increase the size of your necklace.

necklace scale body proportion

Go back to your notes above and add further notes to decrease scale in short areas and increase scale in long areas. Save this information for the post on bringing all three scale clues together.

Now you understand the clues your body proportions give you:

  • Placement of horizontal lines
  • Placement of vertical lines
  • Second scale clue

Just understanding the placement of horizontal lines will go a long way in creating a closet full of clothes you love to wear.

Did you have any “ah ha” moments, like I did, when understanding your body proportions? Share your “ah ha” moment in the comments below.

The next post will be the last body element: Body Frame Size.

Wear Your Greatness!!

2 thoughts on “Body Proportions — Out Of Balance?”

  1. Tracy S Oliver

    Hi Joy, Here is what I got:
    Body Proportion:
    Head to Chin: Short 7 1/2
    Chin to Nipple: Short 8 1/2
    Nipple to Waist: Short 7 1/2
    Waist to Crotch: Long 10
    Crotch to Knee: Long 10 1/2
    Dress pants with crease down the front-no pockets on front
    Dress pants free flowing with no crease, straight vertical lines
    Jeans: all fit lousy. Low rise doesn’t work as I have no hips (waist 36, hip 36, not good-sad face here)
    Tops: mostly solids, some small prints, scattered patterns
    Colors: Pinks, white, blues, greens (not lime), teal, reds
    Cuts: Rounded neck, some with a collar,

    1. Excellent job Tracy. Understanding your body proportions lets you know very few horizontal lines above your waist and use them between your waist and knees. You might think having no hips is a bad thing but you will have an easier time finding pants that fit because the fashion industry designs for this shape. The key is to look for the manufacturer who design for your curves.

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