S is for Scale

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celebrity handbag
Why do celebrities carry huge handbags?

Scale is one of the most important elements to consider when thinking about dressing your body and personality.  It’s one of the tools we have to create optical illusion, we can use it to make ourselves or parts of ourselves appear larger or smaller (or just as we are), depending what we want to achieve.

optical illusion
Which bright blue circle is larger?

It’s the Ebbinghaus illusion – neither bright blue circle in the illustration above is larger – they are the same size.  But the one on the left appears smaller because of the larger navy circles around it, whilst the one on the right appears larger because of the small navy circles surrounding it.

When you translate this to your body, and it’s parts, you can use it to make yourself look smaller (e.g. carry a large handbag, like many celebrities do), or a part of you look smaller (wear large scale jewellery as I have done to make my bust look smaller), or to look larger (wear a narrow lapel to make your head appear larger or more balanced to your body).

Scale is used to create balance, from your feet to your head, you can play with the scale of items to use it’s optical effect to change how an area appears.

working with scale

Think about your feet and lower legs. For your overall build, are they slim, average or larger?

scale of feet and lower legs

What about your overall body size? The scale of patterns is something that it influences (as well as the size of your handbag).

scale of prints

Think about all your features.  Notice what is larger or smaller proportionally than you are as a whole.  Then use this concept to work with your unique body.  For example, if you have larger facial features, then wear larger scale jewellery near your face.  If you have tiny hands, wear smaller scale jewellery on your wrists and hands.  Large bust, large jewellery, or small bust, smaller jewellery.

Stick to these rules, unless of course, your personality speaks differently!

Of course, you can also use scale to play up your personality.  If you have a bold streak, then you will want to wear larger scale accessories and details than someone who likes to blend into the crowd.

rachel zoe collar

 

Rachel Zoe is an example of someone who plays with scale based on personality.  Here in this picture above the collar and lapel of the jacket completely overwhelm her tiny frame, but she wears it because it’s a personality statement.

The tip with scale, is when in doubt, go medium scale, but consider how the scale of all the elements of your body fit together, and how you can play with scale to upsize or downsize them.

 

Here are some other posts on scale

The Scale of Necklaces Relating To Your Bust Size

How to Wear Long and Large Scale Necklaces

4 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy a Winter Coat

Tips for the Plus Size

Top 7 Tips to Looking More Mature Particularly When You’re Petite

3 Essential Elements to Choosing Flattering Prints and Patterns

What to Wear – Petite and Busty

A is for Accessories

Tops to Flatter a Large Bust

How to Understand the Elements of Prints

What Size Handbag Should I Carry?

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26 Comments

  • This is a fantastic post.

    I am 5ft8, but everyone always assumes that I’m even taller because of being rather slim. Optical illusion.

    My hands are not small, but my wrists and fingers are long and thin. So what scale jewellery is best of that?!
    Same goes for me feet and legs, long, but thin…

    My facial features are not large, except for my nose, any tips for making just my nose look smaller?!

    • Slim long hands – I’d wear fine pieces, but multiples of them rather than just one at a time.

      If you have a larger nose, wear bigger earrings!

        • Looking at that chart I’d say it’s a little inaccurate. I’ve got a 6″ wrist and I’m nearly 5’7″ tall, but I wouldn’t call myself small boned. I’m very medium in scale naturally. The overlapping finger thing is really about the length of your fingers, not your scale – longer fingers will overlap. Mine do too! I’d say you’re medium in scale.

  • Very helpful topic. I am always amazed at the first example with the blue dots. In following your blog and seeing your clothing choices, Imogen, I picture you as fairly tall (5’8″) with medium to large bone structure. Am I right?

  • This advice seems contradictory. First you suggest that the perception of size can be affected by contrasting the size of accessories and prints, then you say that the size of the accessories and prints should match the scale of the body part.

    • What I was trying to say is that if you don’t deliberately want to change the apparent size of yourself or any body part, match the scale.

  • Good that you bring this topic up because this one of the parts of visual harmony that Im struggling with getting right. 😛

    But something I dont understand with prints on dresses – Is the scale based on our height or our weight?
    Im consider a “petite plus” (average tall 5,5″ but tiny bone structure). Im barely a size XS in most clothing but Im not petite/short either, so I dont know whats my body scale is. Ive no problem wearing buttoms or dresses that are on the longer side such as this dress: https://scontent-a-lhr.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-frc1/t31.0-8/1956833_234428016765820_3551598399988796362_o.jpg
    But prints I dont know…
    I often wear larger prints in lower contrast and small/medium prints in higher contrast, because I prefer to keep the prints simple (an area where my classic style take over, contrary to my mother who love busy prints).
    The only large area are my broad shoulders so I tends to wear darker jackets/sweater or dress more monochromatic or if wearing a printed sweater/long sleeve top, make sure that Im wearing bootcut leg on pants/jeans and flared skirts. (Ive a wide striped high contrasted cropped l/s top, its make me look “toppled” when wearing slim buttoms but works fine if they are flared out and highwaisted.

    Am I small or medium overall body scale?

    • I’d say you are on the small size of medium. Small bone structure generally wants a smaller scale. But larger shoulders may have you wanting to wear medium scale around your shoulder area. Sounds like you’re working the medium scale most of the time!

      • Thanks for replying! Its gets so complicated when many of my aspect in clothing/style is always in the middlepoint. =P
        The ying/yan concept, colorings/contrast and now bodyscale – even the formality I prefer to wear something thats neither casual or dressy or I feel out of place or not comfortable (like if wearing jeans, i alwyas dress them up – if wearing a pencil skirt or blazer I dress them down unless the occasion says otherwise. feels a bit strange to wear pumps or pencil skirt at a camping near a beach.).
        So, even I understand the concepts I cant figure it out on my own sometimes due to I cant fit myself into one group (not a biggest problem in the world since i only use this concepts as a guideline). :S

        • Lina – I often think that being in the middle is the EASY way to be – no extremes and you can play either direction should you feel like it!

          • Thats interesting because Ive heard it before where people told me that I could be go either way of warm and cold jewelry. The funny is that Ive dilemmas figure out where I “am” when it comes to these type of style guides but Ive no problem helping others because I understand the “guides” really well because its a hobby Im trying to expand to something more in the future. These posts help me to understand some areas better, while other blogs helps me with other aspects in clothing. ^^

            PS: it seems alike alot of people follow this scale concept unconciously. My mother *always* wear large scaled necklace because of her large bust and large printed dresses because she is heavy in the middle and thats explains why I can never like her dresses/accessories because they are too “overwhelming” to me! o,O;;

  • Great post, and relevant given that I’ve just invested in a Very Large Hobo and did so because I feel that the scale adds drama to my otherwise casual wardrobe. Now, to be sure, it’s a monochromatic hobo without logo or hardware, but the sheer size becomes a design element.

    When I post it on my blog, I will have to remember to refer to this article here. Thanks.

  • This explains why things in my wardrobe with large dramatic prints stay unworn. I’m petite and slim and they seem to wear me rather than vice versa.

    Talking of scale, I like large bags and carry a lot of stuff around. For evening wear or special events, I would like to carry a smaller purse/clutch, but with a cross body (I will not use anything that ties up one hand).

    I find most satin and glittery clutches too ornate and busy for me. I have a very structured, minimalist style. What would be an appropriate evening bag that doesn’t require holding?

    • May have been the origin, but these days it also helps to make them look tiny (which is what they seem to want, otherwise they’re on the front cover of a magazine being told they are fat… sadly).

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