Body Proportions, Colour, look taller


Hello–thank you for the wonderful website.

It made me think while reading your advice on Column of Color–could you address the fashion rule of thirds for everyone–research does not reveal that much and I’d like it specifically geared toward what constitutes 1/3 and 2/3 with our outfits.

Thanking you in advance!

rule of 3rds


So what is the rule of thirds? It’s the breaking up of the body into uneven proportions (in thirds). You can see the two outside pictures are in 1/3 to 2/3 ratios, the two middle pictures are splitting the body into halves and it doesn’t look as visually appealing.

column of colour rule of thirds


When you’re using the column of colour concept it’s still great to dress using the golden mean ratio (which relates to the rule of thirds).

We really like uneven proportions, when we dress in a 1:1 ratio (halves) we find it looks blocky, boxy and unflattering. Using a 1:2 ratio where we have a longer proportion and a shorter proportion (1/3 or 2/3) will elongate your body and provide a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.

When you look at these examples it’s easy to see that using a column through the centre of your body then adding a shorter proportion in another colour is really pleasing.

It’s really common for

rule of 3rds column


You will notice in this example the outfit on the left with the longer top shortens the legs, and even though the jacket and pants create a column of colour, the longer top and alternate colour shoes shorten the overall look and create a boxy equal halves appearance.

In the outfit on the right with the shorter top and the boots (with heels) create a 1:2 ratio and a more appealing look.

This is why cropped pants can be so unflattering on many who are not particularly tall (and who have shorter legs than body proportions), as they shorten the already shorter proportion and throw off the balance.


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  • Hi Imogen —

    I really try to follow this rule and every time you post on it I get more ideas/clarity! Especially love the ratio + column of color overlap in this lesson. Thanks much.

  • This is so true! You have touched on my pet hate: cropped pants with a long shapeless tee shirt, which seems to be a uniform for some women. Please show us the secret to wearing cropped pants!

  • I’m failing this rule badly. Sitting here in shorts and a cropped sleeve detailed top – and belt, I won’t leave the house without a belt since reading your blog, I’m assuming I need a longer top because as at 40yrs with 3 children the top is not going any higher and it’s hot, I wear shorts or skirts mostly of the year. Thanks for a great post!

  • hm, this is a tough one for me. i’m short with short legs, and my waistline is sort of exactly my half way point. as a curvy H shape my tops can’t come down too low, and i tend to keep shirts/dresses at or above the knee. somehow i always come out 50/50. i haven’t tried the column rules yet – feeling not sure about them – i don’t love the idea of dark pants and dark jacket b/c it seems like so much dark color. i am definitely paying more attention to my shoes though, in an attempt to lengthen my leg line.

  • Imogen, I love this advice combining column of color and the golden mean concepts. I’m trying to decide how to apply it to wearing a pleated midi skirt on my slim H-frame with short legs (I’m 5’1″) and relatively long torso. I can wear a blouse that’s close to the skirt’s color, tucked in with heels and a darker jacket/cardi over the outfit, but it looks too dressed up and kind of schoolmarm-ish. I’d like to add an urban edge to the look, but ankle booties look silly with the midi and tall riding boots seem too cowboyish even though they’re sleek equestrian boots. Ballet flats feel frumpy with the longer length and pleats.

    Can you offer other options? Or perhaps the long pleated midi skirt look is just not something my short petite frame can handle and I should stick to pencil skirts?

  • Fascinating! There are various style concepts that I can understand in practice, and I know certain things do or don’t work on me, but I would never know how to explain it like this. I love when you do all these visuals. Thanks!

  • Oh my goodness! I had no idea – this is absolutely why an outfit I was wearing the other day just didn’t work, even though I like the individual components, etc. Great advice!

  • Great article!

    I’ve been contemplating why I look so good in cropped pants, and terrible in slacks, even though the slacks are made of the exact same fabric; they’re just longer version of the cropped pants. It’s something to do with the balance, but I haven’t figured out what yet. Also, the cropped pants seem to hang differently

    I’m short, 5’4″, with a short rise, & thicker thighs. You’d think cropped pants would look terrible on me, but they’re by far my best look.

    I think that the length of the slacks throws off the balance somehow…I’m going to have to think about the length of what I’m wearing with the slacks. Generally it’s the same top combination that I wore with the cropped pants, so I couldn’t see why the change to slacks made the outfit suddenly look frumpy.

    I hadn’t thought about the 1/3, 2/3 thing. Nor had I ever considered where my waistline was in relation to the rest of my body.

    All this stuff that I never thought about! Thank goodnees for your blog, which I only recently discovered!

  • Hi Imogen,
    I love your blog and have been inspired by it. I have gotten my colors re-done, bought new bra’s that fit, and also bought the book you mentioned”the triumph of individual style”. What I am still confused about is the 1/3,2/3 ratio. I am 5’4″ and short waisted. So I naturally look like I have longer legs. Am I supposed to counter this by wearing longer jackets so they are the 2/3 part. Or go with my body type and wear the shorter jackets so that my top half is the 1/3 and my legs are the 2/3rd. I can tell in a picture when I am doing the 1/2 by 1/2 and you are so correct that I look just like a box!! Please keep up the blog as I just so enjoy reading it.

    • Adrienne, thanks for your lovely comment! Bascially we can all go both ways, but as someone who is more petite you’ll find that the shorter 1/3 on your top half will make you look a little taller, but we all like variety so try them both and see what you enjoy the most.

  • Hi Imogen,

    How do you apply this rule when you are wearing shorts? You cannot wear a long top, because you hide then the short totally?

    My conclusion was, at least for a winter outfit: if you wear tights in the same colour as the shorts, you create a longer line, so that leaves the posiibility to wear a short top/cardigan/zweater or whatever after all on the shorts. Am I right?
    heres a picture of my winter shorts outfit –!/photo.php?fbid=363211460372815&set=a.355980614429233.99784.100000518926815&type=3&theater

    maybe the light tanktop doesnt help – it creates a third block…


    Oh, and here’s my summer variation on the shorts:!/photo.php?fbid=289506757743286&set=a.289506737743288.86847.100000518926815&type=3&theater

    again, too blocky?

    any suggestions/comments are welcome! Thanks!

  • Thanks so much for this artcile, Imogen! I am tall (5’10”) and skinny, and when I wear heels with pants, I’m having trouble finding a jacket that looks “right”. Finding a jacket to wear with a skirt or even pants and flats, is much easier than pants wiith heels as most of the jackets appear to be cropped on me. I figured out that a longer jacket is needed after experimenting with some at the mall but now I know why.

  • I’ve just been madly measuring myself and also looking at photos where I’m standing up and how true that proportions can make or break the look… One question though, when it comes to summer tops, and they don’t properly start from the shoulders (say spaghetti tops) or when a dress is sleeveless but has a low decoltage, does it make more sense to measure from the top of the middle of the dress, rather than from shoulders down? (this makes a difference to me, as I have a long decoltage and a short waist to high hip)

  • Hi Imogen,

    I heard that it is possible to calculate the right length for blouses, jackets and skirts with the help of the golden ratio. Could you explain how that works?


  • does anyone know if golden ratio has been used for making clothes? any bibliography for golden ratio and fashion? or a fashion designer who has inspired of this ratio for his collections? or even about sacred geometry and fashion… thank you

    • Sadly most designers know little about this so don’t make clothes in this ration. You can create it yourself though by altering hems for your height and proportions.

      • I was hoping I could find some informations about this topic cause i would like to use it as the theme of a research I need to do. But I haven’t found almost nothing so far. Unfortunatly, without bibliography, I better find something else. Thank you for your reply 🙂

  • I learned in about the Golden Mean/Rule or Fibonacci sequence in Visual Arts and design (graphic design) I think your referring only to the Rule of Thirds in these examples (which is small portion of the Golden Mean) because the golden rule contains 1:1 ratio but your saying that doesn’t work so your better off going with the rule of thirds for the title of your article. Golden mean. Golden Rule or Fibonacci sequence consider following count 1,1,2,3,5,8,13… all adjacent ratios are considered visually appealing. I think it best to call it the rule of thirds since all other ratios are excluded to prevent misrepresentation true golden rule

    Love your blog by the way.

  • Imagine my surprise when after years of following this rule, lots of photos and analysis has shown that 1:1 proportions are my best. What does this mean??

  • Nope, equal proportions are my best, not 2/3 in any variations. Confirmed by a big community of style women, much to our shock knowing your advice, and what works for most people.

  • I`ve longer legs and shorter torso, to look taller ((they say) I should use high waist pants/skirts, right? this should be the 1/3,2/3 look. Somewhat.
    Aren`t the best outfit 1/2 for the classic style? (those ppl have even proportions)
    Also, who has bigger head/small body (general perception) look taller. (I think)

    • Actually – long legs and short torso are better with mid or low rise – as you need to add length to your body.

      Classic – yes – there is a half half element – but it’s actually in thirds almost for the body. Also consider – a top tucked into a skirt at the waist is a shorter proportion than the length of the skirt (to the knee). Then you can have a jacket (same colour as the jacket) which creates a column of colour and doesn’t break up the top/skirt proportions.

      Yes a larger head can make you look taller.

  • Still wondering about crops and capris. I live in a very warm climate, so pants are really only an option for a few months. I’m 5’3 1/2″, short legs, thick thighs, busty. Shorts not really an option either because of knees and thighs. What can I wear? And how do I keep with your formulas?

  • Question about dressing using the golden mean…When you wear tall riding boots.. how do you observe the rule of thirds? Do you then dress 1:1:1: ? Could you show us proper proportions for weairng contrasting knee high boots?

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