Seeing is believing; but when you look at lines, seeing is deceiving…Optical illusions do not confine themselves to such things as squares and top hats; they can happen to you. They do happen, in fact, when the lines of your clothes mingle with those of your figure and when hat and coiffure shapes come in contact with your face. They can happen for better as well as for worse, and our concern…is to make sure in your case, the lines of clothes contrive to fool the eye in a way that shows your figure at its best. ~Emmi Cotton, Clothes Make Magic, 1949.
I have an hourglass figure. No matter how much I weigh, my waist is usually about 10″ smaller than my bust and hips. If I wear a “boxy” style top, I look about 10 pounds heavier than I am…and it is all because of optical illusion created by the line of the top. Conversely, garments that are too tight can break up the line of an otherwise flattering garment. Our “what to wear” mentor, Miss Cotton, tells us that we can give a nod to fashion but we must honor the best lines (optical illusion) for our figure within the fashion trends.
We will examine the best lines for the different figure types in future lessons, but today Miss Cotton wants us to look at optical illusions:
We can use the line of a garment to create optical illusions. For instance, the reason we love those 1940’s suits and dresses so much is because they created an optical illusion of smaller waists (even without girdles) by subtly extending/emphasizing the shoulders . In fact, I learned while earning my custom clothing certificate that better quality clothing will often use shoulder padding or shaping to help with the line of a garment.
When The Mister is teaching his figure sculpting class, one of the things he emphasizes is the use of lines that force a viewers eyes to move around the figure to the best advantage. In Michelangelo’s “Pieta,” our eyes are forced around the sculpture by the draping of the fabric and the angle of Christ’s body. Even Mary’s hand helps create an illusion of an extended line at the bent knee.
In much the same way, we will be learning how to use optical illusion to create lines that flatter our figures.
Miss Cotton ends this lesson with two points she wants us to remember:
There are two things I want you to keep in mind…The first is that without good posture no figure can look its best, nor can the most becoming of clothes work efficiently for figure flattery. Cultivate good posture, if you don’t have it; it costs nothing but effort, but the lack of it costs dearly in loss of beauty, poise, and vitality. The second thing to remember is this: if you are overweight or have a figure imperfection, don’t wait until you’ve lost ten pounds or remedied the defect to wear more becoming clothes; start improving your figure now, the line way. It will help you accomplish your objective in half the time, because the better your figure seems to be, the better you are going to want to make it.
How have you used optical illusion to your advantage when choosing garments?
To your flattering Technicolor life!