Horizontal Lines: Friend or Foe?

The most misunderstood line is the horizontal line. The placement of it can make or break any outfit. A well placed horizontal line can stop the eye exactly where you want it to stop and balance out an area, creating an impeccable look. On the other hand, a badly placed horizontal line can stop the eye at a not so pleasant spot, creating a shabby look.

Horizontal lines are a part of almost every outfit, so understanding them is critical. In this post you will learn about:

  • Why understanding horizontal lines is important
  • How horizontal lines are created
  • The best placement of horizontal lines

Understanding Horizontal Lines

The magical effects of horizontal lines are as follows:

  • Stop the eye
  • Emphasize the area where the eye stops
  • Cut the body and make it appear shorter
  • Make it appear wider

The hazards of horizontal lines are as follows:

  • Stop the eye
  • Emphasize the area where your eye stops
  • Cut the body and makes it appear shorter
  • Make it appear wider

As you can see, the placement of horizontal lines will either help or hinder an outfit.

Look at this illustration:

Horizontal lines stops eyes

All of these rectangles are the same size and shape. Note how the placement of horizontal lines affects the appearance of the triangles by making some of them appear shorter and wider. Also note where your eye stops.

How Are Horizontal Lines Created?

You might think, Well I just won’t wear any horizontal lines. That is quite hard to do. You would always have to wear a V-neck, sleeveless, floor length dress.

Horizontal lines are created by:

  • Hems
  • Pockets
  • Plackets
  • Design lines
  • Necklines
  • Collars
  • Prints
  • Belts
  • Scarves

In the jacket below, you can see that horizontal lines are created by the collar, plackets on shoulders, pockets at bust, belt at waist, pockets at mid-hip, hem of jacket at hips, sleeve cuffs at hips and sleeve hem at hips.

Proper Placement of Horizontal Lines

As you just learned it’s very hard to get away from horizontal lines so the key is to understand the placement of them. There are three questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do I have an area I want to emphasize?
  2. Where do I want the eye to stop?
  3. What areas of my body are short or long?

My waist is smaller than my hips and shoulders and therefore one of my assets, so I have always emphasized this area by wearing belts and hem of jackets, along with various other details at my waist.

Let’s suppose you want to emphasize your face because you need others to listen to what you are saying. You can create horizontal lines in the facial area with:

  • Necklaces
  • Necklines
  • Scarves
  • Placket lines

Do you think there isn’t an area you want to emphasize? I can tell you — that is not true. It is only your critical voice talking. Just remember, you were created perfect and it’s about understanding the clues your body is giving you.

Next consider the areas you don’t want to bring into focus.

As described above, the most common horizontal lines are created by hem lines: tops, jackets, skirts, pants and sleeves.

How do you know where to place them in an outfit? First, figure out where you don’t want them. For example, when I was younger my hips were the largest part of my body relative to my shoulders and waist. As a result I avoided placing horizontal lines in that area because they emphasized my pear shape.

Second, place horizontal lines 2 inches above or below a problem area, that way the emphasis is drawn away from the area. For me placing top hems in the mid waist/crotch area or 2 inches below the crotch area did the trick.

The final step is to determine if your body length between different areas is normal, short, or long. A common length problem is being short between the bust and waist. This is known as being short waisted. Putting a horizontal line in this area will visually shorten it even more. If you are short waisted, then you want to avoid horizontal lines in this area. On the other hand if you are noticeably long in this area, then putting a horizontal line there is important.

Play around with hem lines to figure out their best placement for you. Also figure out the areas you want to avoid placing them. You will find in many cases that a top you think is horrid on you can be transformed into the perfect top simply by changing the placement of the hem.

Wear Your Greatness!!

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