The Elongating Value of Verticals

Any area, divided vertically, looks narrower.  That’s why vertical design lines are such a powerful way to look taller and trimmer in your clothes.  A vertical can extend the length of your entire look, or can be used just on the parts you’d like to visually narrow.

The vertical strip of red sweater showing between the front edges of Donna’s jacket minimize the width of her upper body and make her inverted triangle figure look more balanced. That is one of the things that makes me such a fan of 2-layer sop combinations.   

NOTE: If you’re going to wear a jacket unbuttoned, be sure it’s large enough that you could button it if you chose to.  Otherwise it will just look too small, and you’ll look heavier by default.

Here are other examples of slimming vertical design lines – some of them possibly surprising:

* Draped panels, center pleats, topstitched center seam or slit, a row of contrasting buttons or center trim panel as shown above … PLUS …

* A front band on a shirt-dress, blouse or jacket — especially if the band is a contrast color or outlined with piping or trim.

* Pressed-in creases or pleats in trousers – when those elements cycle into fashion:

* A center seam, zipper or inverted pleat in a slim skirt:

* The draped front edge of a cascade sweater.

* A jacket with a low button stance, expecially if the lapels are narrow, soft folds in a mid-calf full skirt (if the fabric falls close to the body).

* The overlap edge of a wrap skirt (although I could do without the strongly horizontal lower edge and the unbalanced proportions of that top):

* A Color Column – top and bottom that match in color.  Even when you add a contrasting over-layer (unbuttoned) or under-layer top:

* Hosiery in a similar color to the pant or skirt.

But even a detail as seemingly fail-safe as vertical lines needs to be used with care.  In the two skirts below, the narrowly-spaced vertical seams move the eye up and down. but the more widely-spaced seams actually move the eye side to side between them, creating an unintended widening effect — Oops!

And lengthwise stripes are vastly overrated.  While the can work find in a straighter garment style like a camp shirt or a drawstring pant, a more shaped garment interrupts the lines of the stripe with darts and curved seams and the result is often VERY distracting… like this look that was actually suggested as career wear in a recent fashion magazine:

What flattering vertical details can you identify or create in your current wardrobe?

About Nancy Nix Rice

I help other women feel confident about how they look every day - regardless of their age, budget, lifestyle or the size tag in their pants - so they put wardrobe concerns on the back burner and go share their gifts with the world.


  1. Sue P. on July 17, 2017 at 5:53 am

    Love these ideas, (except wearing black and white clown pants to work!), but what do you mean by “unbalanced proportions of that top” with the wrap skirt? Let me guess: for vertical proportion ratio to the skirt, it should be shorter?


    • Nancy Nix Rice on July 17, 2017 at 8:27 am

      #1 – “clown pants” is exactly the term that popped into my mind too. I just hope no woman looked at that magazine and seriously decided to wear that outfir for work – yikes!
      #2 – yes – the top is a bit too long to give a 1/3 to 2/3 proportion with the skirt. Shaping a little more and whortening a bit would gretly improve the look.

  2. Marlette on July 17, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Very good explanations with great examples, Nancy. Thanks for showing how a good thing can “go wrong” as in the widely spaced back seams in the tan skirt.

    An that last photo!! Oh my! I think she looks like she got bargain fabric at the tent supply! I can’t imagine anyone thinking that would be appropriate for any profession unless you were a clown! No wonder so many women show up to work wearing totally inappropriate outfits.

    Thanks again for a great blog

    • Nancy Nix Rice on July 17, 2017 at 9:19 pm

      That striped pant photo was part of a multi-page spread titled “Who Says You Can’t Wear Color to Work”. Giving color a bad name – and fashion magazines too!

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