Which are More Slimming, Horizontal or Vertical Lines?


Which are really more slimming horizontal lines or vertical linesI was alerted to this study done at the University of York by one of my lovely blog readers.  Apparently some scientists have found that horizontal stripes are slimming and verticals are fattening.  This is true, but horizontal stripes can also be fattening and verticals slimming, the study is flawed.

The participants were asked to look at this picture and nominate which looked slimmer.  The study found that the horizontals were 6% slimmer.Dodgy study that 'makes' the horizontal look more slimming by the addition of vertical shading to the outside of the dress with horizontal stripes

But I feel this is a very flawed study, as if you notice that the contrast of the horiztonal dress is lower, making it a less obvious pattern, and there is also a vertical ‘highlight’ detail up the centre of the ‘horizontal’ dress, giving it a vertical feel and also drawing your eye in to the centre of the dress, thus creating a slimming effect.

Horizontal Lines


It’s all to do with the width of the stripes.  Narrow stripes are harder to focus on, but wide stripes are easy to focus on.  When our eye focuses on something it lingers (and slows down, thus making the area appear larger), when the eye can’t focus, the eye moves more quickly over the area thus making the area appear smaller.   The wider the stripe, the more it widens and draws your eye outwards, more narrow stripes draw the eye upwards and are more slimming.  Whether horizontal or vertical, wide stripes makes us wider, narrow stripes are more slimming. But if there are only one or two stripes, verticals are more slimming than horizontals.



For example, horizontal distressing on jeans at the crotch widens the hips whist the vertical fading lengthens.

Also notice how the cuffing also adds a shortening and widening horizontal detail.


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  • Wow…if the data collected in that study depended on the figures you've shown here, then this study holds no water what-so-ever. Proper scientific method dictates you change only one variable at a time to observe the effect. Those images are different by so many variables, which you took good note to point out, that there is no way a conclusion could be drawn on that data. Just awful.

    Thanks for a much more reasonable answer to this age old question. =)

  • You are so correct, it is more about contrast than just vertical versus horizontal stripe…I am always nervous about wearing stripes and its visul effect on the fugure..

  • You're so right! A very flawed study. That highlight up the middle was one of the first things I saw, aside from the fact that the width of the stripes is completely different. Had they been equal (and of equal contrast as you pointed out) and still ended up with the same results I'd have been intrigued.

  • Very interesting. I definitely "saw" the horizontal stripes as making the woman appear slimmer. It looks like the study authors has predetermined the result and so designed the images to achieve it.

  • Definitely flawed – very interesting and the effect on the jeans is subtle but also true. ha ha – the word verification is "sally" as in Long Tall Sally!!

  • I noticed the center highlight right away (because you've taught me to be on the lookout for vertical lines), but the other thing I noticed is that on the vertical stripe picture, the rightmost stripe hits her at the widest point (the hip curve). If that line hadn't fallen there, I don't think it would draw the eye as much.

  • Thank you so much for addressing this study. I knew you and your readers would have interesting things to say about it. Gives me more things to think about next time I decide on a striped garment.

  • Well thank you for this. Now I know why my rather wide but low contrast striped top fails make any part of me wider. The low contrast combined with the cut causes it to drape and create much the same effect as the illustration here. I don't know why I never sorted this out on my own.

  • Any hints about how narrow is 'narrow'? I'm optically / spacially challenged when it comes to stuff like this. Great examples, though – even I can see it!

  • Really sloppy study design. Wonder whose money they wasted.

    Anyway, I don't think it's the highlight that makes Ms Horizontal look slimmer. Those shadows along her side recede and that does it. This reminds me of the reason women years ago wore dark, sheer hose. The dark color intensified visually at the edge of the leg making it look slimmer. Out of fashion now, but it works.

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