Bad Design Find – Horizontal Line Rule


badly designed skirt

While out and about in my local mall the other day I walked past this display in one of our high street fashion stores. It struck me that the designers paid no attention to the wishes and desires of many of their customers when choosing to create this skirt.  So often we hear in the media about how retail is having such a terrible time and that nobody is spending money, yet I have clients who want to and need to buy clothes, yet when we go shopping, we are surrounded by unflattering garments.  I often wonder – do retailers/designers ever thing about what is flattering on the ‘average’ woman?  Does that even enter their consciousness as they put out the latest fashions?  If retail is suffering, then maybe retailers should start to pay a little more attention to the design of their clothes to make them work for a greater part of the population.

What struck me about it was that either they are completely unaware of the rules of line and design (as you would hope that the fashion design courses are teaching designers such basic things).  Or they only want to dress the super slim and so design garments that the majority of women would feel are unflattering on them (based on what my clients tell me, 99% of them don’t want their hips and thighs to look larger than they already are).  This skirt is all about making your hips and thighs look larger with unflattering horizontal lines created by the patch pockets and then highlighting that with the colour and fabric selection!

So let’s look at all that bad design:


example of bad clothing design


So next time you’re trying on a garment and it looks terrible, remind yourself that there is a lot of bad design out there in fashion retail land!  There is nothing wrong with your body, it’s the clothes that are unflattering.


I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

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    • Me too. Not only don’t the designs suit, but the fabric and sewing are awful too. I don’t mind buying good quality, flattering clothes, but I really resent forking out money for a lot of this rubbish. So I don’t. But I think the market they really want is a certain kind of young female, who wants new things, the latest thing, every few months, so doesn’t care if it’s rubbish and falls to pieces.

      And they do buy things they shouldn’t – you see them out there every day.

  • I must be one of the 1% who want the opposite because I definitly wouldnt mind my hips to look larger than they are, then. 😉 Personally I find bottom heavy body types more attractive the top heavy ones, because this is something most people want – want something they dont have. (Ive a defined waist and happy with my bodyshape, I just find other bodyshape more attractive)

    I don’t see all the hate with the design of the clothing and our clothing size and something I keep hearing my everyday life when relatives discussing something similare. “I cant wear it, you need to be a size XXS or super tall”. “You can wear it because you have body for it”. “Only young people can wear skinnies, low cut tops etc” and something Ive been hearing from both age and size spectrum. The thinner girls complain clothing are too big or “old lady like” for them, while average and plus size women complain everything is “suited for super models, not for full figured women”. I never look at the model dolls, celebrities, icons etc when shopping and I think this is a mistake most people do. They are looking at the wrong places or the wrong models.

    Funny thing is that I wore a graphix printed midi skirt in that lenght with a black turtleneck, black tights and black combat boots not-so-long ago and that was one of my favorite outfits. But I wore it somewhat monochromatically though which made my lower body look even thinner…almost too thin. If it wasnt for the pockets, I would that skirt you used as an example. Not because Im thin or young, but because I like such outfits but I dont like the details. Its looks like the placed the pockets wrong when creating the skirt, but then ended up keeping the design. 😛

    Hmmm…. seems like Im part of fashion/style rebels again, sorry if my comment sounded negative. Its just an opinion and something I could relate to.

  • Imogen,

    Your comments are so true! I see so many horizontal lines placed in an unflattering way. So many designs are just hideously unflattering.

    Even more sadly, the “plus size” section of the market often has the absolutely worst patterns and shiny fabrics for flattering anybody, regardless of size.

    Sometimes it seems that the label has tried to copy a fashion item but by the time it has been made in a cheaper fabric and with cheaper tailoring ( ie worse cut) it is a sad travesty of the item it was trying to copy.

    The main fault is huge scale patterns, able to totally overwhelm the wearer.

    Apart from super-unflattering clothes, there seems to be a strong trend to cheaper and cheaper construction, even at high price points. Linings have often disappeared, bust darts have gone and the sleeve is fast disappearing as huge arm holes are left just gaping on the shoulders and showing all the rolly, jiggly upper arm bits which sleeves conceal.

    Consumers need to educate themselves about sewing and good garment construction as there is so much awful stuff out there. One label can have badly made and well made clothes, depending on the quality control the label insisted on during the production process.

    Back to your point on the tsunami of unflattering clothes in mall-land, my basic principle is that if it doesn’t make me look slimmer/more chic as soon as I try it on, then it is staying in the store.

  • You are so right!! I am hipless and I wouldn’t wear that skirt, because it looks so unflattering. “Don’t put something where you don’t want people to look” is a very basic fashion rule. Designers seem to be making clothes for a tiny fraction of the population and it can be so frustrating. But maybe I’m just angry because I’m 5’2″ and a midi with loafers just looks silly on me. LOL

  • I think another reason why that particular skirt looks so poorly designed it that rectangular patch pockets like that really need to hang straight up and down. The way those have been placed on the sides of the hips is giving them a curve that is ruining their line. If the pockets had a curvy shape they might not look so sloppy (and curves to the pockets could help alleviate the horizontal effect).

  • I think this design is bad all around but worse for some. As I slim person with especially narrow hips I could probably “get away” with this look, but other skirts would be so much better. True, the enormous horizontal pockets would make my bottom half look wide and more in proportion, but they wouldn’t make me look curvier. Instead of making my boyish shape look more womanly, they would make it look more manly.

    The fabric is so cheap looking. I think one of the main reasons women often wear too dark colors is that darkness can hide, too a degree, cheaper fabrics and poor quality stitching. This color, which would be great in a very high quality fabric, contributes to the horror of this skirt.

  • That looks a lot like almost every single skirt I tried on at JcPenney here in the states.

    I was trying to find a new skirt for a job interview and there were no plain straight A line skirts. All of them had weird stitching or pockets or waistlines like the above.

    I ended up with a cream colored skirt but was unsure about it so I tried it on for my mom. She spotted that the waistline was funky and drew too much attention to my abdomen which isn’t in the best of shape after having two kids.

    So it went back to the store. I know that the claim is that the stuff on the racks is designed for “average” women. Who are these average women that designers are using?

  • I am sure the skirt will end up on the sales rack shortly, for all the reasons mentioned.
    However, isn’t it possible the skirt is designed specifically for the woman or girl who wants to emphasis their hips? If so, it accomplishes that. If it was styled differently, would we like it better? I’m trying to imagine a belt, feminine top or sandals.

    Regardless, there is no excuse for poor construction which is evident here.

  • Great post!

    “If retail is suffering, then maybe retailers should start to pay a little more attention to the design of their clothes to make them work for a greater part of the population.”

    I have had this same thought on numerous occasions. It is ridiculously hard to find clothes that really dependably flatter. I am in pretty good shape, probably slimmer than average for my age but with high hip, short waist, flat behind. So much of what I see and try on in stores just does not work.

    I really think the fashion industry needs to rethink the model.

    We the individuals should be the focus of the art of dressing, not the clothes themselves.

  • I think that the most important thing I’ve learned from you, Imogen, is how to translate the look of the garment on the hanger to how it will look on my body. Even though I’ve sewn and fitted my own garments since my teenage years, I still had trouble looking at a garment or pattern and knowing if it would suit me. No longer! I can now breeze through a store or pattern book and have a firm idea of what will look nice. You have saved me countless hours and lots of tears in dressing rooms. I now understand that most of the time the problem was the cut of the clothing, not my size or height.

    I’m also more forgiving of the fashion industry than I used to be, now that I realize that the clothes that fit my curvy shape would look terrible on some other women, and there has to be something for everyone. This is especially true in the US, where our “melting pot” culture means that there is no dominant body type. Expecting (all) stores to carry (only) clothing to suit me is, I suppose, a little selfish!

  • Hi Imogen. What a good article. Since finding out about my body shape from your posts, I now dress to look taller and thinner whenever possible. This limits me to certain styles/patterns. I am 5ft 7in and have a very short and broad ribcage and high hips, however I have slim thighs and legs. Balance and proportion are important, so I would feel top heavy if I wore skinny jeans. I dislike the fabrics today, polyester and elastane, so much static electricity and they cling in all the wrong places. Love receiving your posts. Margaret Elizabeth

  • I work as a p/t sales associate for a well known women’s clothing brand which caters to those over 40. Even then, I am sometimes amazed at the designs for the store which don’t have women’s bodies or needs in mind. I read a wonderful book “Style Is Not a Size” by Hara Estroff Marano. She made a very interesting observation about the lack of training for future designers in the art of draping for a real body. Most designs are flat, sketch pictures and lack a relationship to a 3 dimensional body.

  • Imogen – thanks to your blog I immediately knew what was wrong with the garment before I ever read the text. Thank you for giving us that information. I’ve been reworking my wardrobe due to a significant weight loss. It’s been painful finding clothing that fits my body shape (X, high waisted). As you said, I have money to spend but I’m not spending it just because the clothes aren’t out there! It’s been slow going on the wardrobe front.

  • This skirt seems to have cargo pants pockets on a tailored skirt base, so I get the design intention, but it might be difficult to find someone of any shape or size who wouldn’t feel anchored by those pockets. If you want bigger-looking hips, anchors with a downward pull are not necessarily the best design solution. But, hey, whatever floats your boat, right?

  • Yup, sometimes it’s just best to close ranks on the “fashion designers” and all the other wannabes out there and just take control of your own clothing choices. After all, at the end of the day, you’re the person wearing it, and that’s what this article is really all about. Thanks Imogen!

  • I ask myself those questions all the time. Thanks to you, Christine Scaman (12 Blueprints) and bloggers like passage des perles, I feel like I’m buying and wearing better quality, more flattering and comfortable clothes. My style is simple – pants, scarves, earrings, cashmere sweater for winter, linen shirt for summer, bracelets and necklace as needed. Yet I still have trouble finding clothes that fit and make me look good. It really shouldn’t be so hard, given the vast number of garments produced every season.

  • This is why I sew. If you are older, I’m 64, and not thin, clothing is either dowdy, unbecoming or way too young. This is particularly bad, both in design and how the store styled it.

  • I so agree with your post Imogen. I am desperate for some new clothes but can not find a flattering style. Most clothes tend to grab around my hips and thighs and as you say I don’t want to draw more attention to my hips. I’m 5’10” and love dresses but find there all to short. I know people complain about having to alter dresses that are too long but I can’t add material that’s not there! It’s just sad that I’m ready to spend money but can find very little to spend it on. Love your Blog.

  • This is a great post, and that garment is not to my taste. I dislike patch pockets on any garment and will pass by coats, jackets, skirts and dresses that have patch pockets on the outside as a feature on the garment. I agree with what other have commented on, that designers don’t seem to be listening to what customers want. I dont buy if I cant find what I want, or I am not happy with the fit, colour or shape or fabric.

  • Thank you Imogen. It’s so true, and it’s the same thing here in Europe. Because of clothes like this, women don’t look stylish anymore.

  • With my V shaped body and my long legs, I could probably wear that one. I am quite happy that there are “bad designs” like these, that help me make more of my thin lower half. I don’t feel that this is common, I do think that most designers imagine their customer to be a clear pear shape with curves they want to hide. I have troubles finding light, patterned or volumising clothes for my lower body. It’s mostly all black skirts, dark trousers. The playful colours, cuts and patterns are all wasted (from my perspective) on tops, which I really need to be dark and slimming. I have to wait for sale season to get the stuff others don’t want.
    Having said that, I must admit this skirt is just plain hideous. And I love the idea of that post, it is hilarious. We should devote a blog to impossible design finds only!

    • Lara – yes V shapes still need clothes – though there are way fewer of you than the other way round! I see so many clothes ruined by bad design. And retailers wonder why they’re not making money!

  • Truly, what were they thinking? I often wonder about the placement of pockets on some skirts, pants, and especially some blouses. There have been more then a few shirts in my life I have carefully removed the front pocket. They add nothing to the design, and are often distracting. Less can be more.

  • I’m also tall and hippy. It is possible to add a contrast band to the bottom of skirts or dresses. You may also be able to hire someone to sew a garment for you for a reasonable cost if you don’t sew yourself – ask at fabric stores (I find German sewing patterns are cut for taller figures than American brands, and need very little alteration). Finally, some retailers have tall sizes. Boden has some beautiful, affordable dresses in a long length, as do Eddie Bauer, J Crew and Soft Surroundings.

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