Illusions help you cut a finer figure

The human brain is susceptible to many things, be it food advertising or media influence which can steer fashion trends such as the man bun, while red flagging others like the flared skirt.

And although many of us would like to think of ourselves as unique, numerous studies indicate that we’re as predictable as time.

Red and yellow colours trigger our brains into thinking we’re hungry and the visual imagery of conformity in media may make us long for a product we don’t need simply because it’s popular.

All this may sound quite sombre, however, our predictability and response to colour and shape can greatly benefit our style when it comes to giving the illusion of form and height.

Most of us are familiar with the slimming “effects” of the little black dress but this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating illusions with clothing.

While horizontal lines have the unflattering effect of broadening our waist lines, vertical lines have a slimming effect on the body wherever you place them. This is why vertical striped shirts, seams and creases down the leg of your pants, for example, can make you look slimmer.

The placement of the vertical lines is also important. The closer they are spaced together, the slimmer you will look.

This applies to other patterns too, such as polka dots. The bigger they are, the bigger you look, the smaller they are, well you get the idea. Creating an optical illusion is a great way to enhance your assets and downplay the parts of your body you’re more conscious of.

Although these aspects of fashion may seem a little technical, or unnecessary, the reason I am highlighting them is because you may well be creating fashion optical illusions without realising it.

Whether the effect is doing your figure justice is up for debate.

Knowing the impact your clothing has on your figure can therefore be the first step in taking control of your look.

So back to horizontal lines, they have gotten a bad reputation for broadening your figure, but they can have a slimming effect if placed properly. A single horizontal line placed at the top of a shirt or at the bottom of a skirt can have a slimming effect, because the eye will travel up and down the body before being interrupted by the line, creating the illusion of height.

For some reason this also has a slimming effect. It’s been said that tucking in your shirt at your waist is cutting your figure in half with a horizontal line making you look broad. However, for shorter, broader figures, tucking your shirt in at your waist can create a waistline and balance out your body, whereas an untucked shirt could have a shapeless effect.

Now onto the patterns. This winter we’ll see lots of check shirts doing the rounds because the colour and pattern is rather forgiving and tends to work as a neutral by blending in with almost any item from jeans to black leggings. However, the square pattern tends to let the figure disappear.

A more forgiving pattern would be diagonals, as they make the figure look slimmer when placed at different sections of the body.

I am not exactly sure why, but in the same way that triangle-shaped food tricks us into eating bigger food portions unintentionally, diagonal patterns trick the eye into thinking that the object viewed is smaller than it actually is.

If the diagonal patterns are located at the waist, it could trim down your waist line.

Now onto the illusion of height, we all know that heels elongate the legs and emphasise the “bee-hind”, but I personally can’t handle heels for more than one day a week and due to the adverse health effects, looking at other lengthening options in the fashion department is more advisable.

So in order to keep the height without the flight, high-waisted clothing will come to our rescue.

High-waisted pants and skirts, which are still in, give the illusion of length.

Also, clothing such as tailored pants with a line down the centre, or panels at the side creating a line down the centre will make you appear taller.

Whatever you do when it comes to wearing patterns, avoid camo or any army print clothing, not simply because it is not a very forgiving pattern, but because the South African National Defense Force has issued a warning to the public that too many people are wearing similar clothing to the army.

In this case the fashion flavour could land you in serious hot water.

If you have any questions or enquiries regarding fashion, your figure and how best to wear your clothing, please email me your questions at