Helpful Horizontals … REALLY!

Horizontal design lines and details often get a bad rap for making your body appear wider.  But that ugly reputation is often undeserved.

First let’s consider horizontal stripes. Bold rugby-style stripes – especially in even spacing with bright colors like these and high-contrast combinations – can indeed draw the viewer’s eye across your body.  But if you want to make your top half look more filled out to balance wider hips, that can be a good thing, not a bad one.

And consider what happens when you add a jacket, worn open so that only a narrow band of the stripe is visible.  Now your eyes tend to “climb the ladder” of the stripes — moving in a slenderizing vertical direction

Narrower, lower-contrast, irregular and variegated stripes all tend to create that ladder effect automatically, or at least not form a dominant horizontal.  See how the examples vary in their “horizontal-ness”.

Design details can also create  horizontals within an ensemble — for better or worse.  Positive or negative placement of a horizontal detail depends on the body shape wearing it, and where that side-to-side attention is an advantage.

For most bodies – especially triangles, but not ITs –  horizontal details at or near the shoulder line balance fuller hips and thighs.  Yokes, patch pockets with flaps, broad collars all work this way. Compare the details on these two jean jackets …


You might think of bateau (boat) necklines in this same category, but before you jump on that bandwagon, realize that you can’t put a shoulder shaper into a neckline that wide.


The point where a shirt or sweater ends (or is tucked in) forms another horizontal — so it needs to hit at a flattering part of the body — such as the waistline of an hourglass or triangle body, or the hipline of a rectangle or inverted triangle.  The greater the color contrast between the top and bottom garments, the more critical this horizoltal line placement becomes.

Cory’s triangle figure is enhanced by moving the horizontal color break from her hips to her small waist. And the scarf brings a flattering almost-horizontal to her shoulder area.

The horizontal seam in this jacket makes the bustline look fuller.  Contrast piping or topstitch trim would make the effect even more pronounced. But if the garment was made from a print fabric, the effect of the horizontal would virtually disappear.

For inverted triangle bodies, horizontals below the waist can balance upper-body fullness and call attention to shapely legs. ( This skirt is a good example.)  For other figure types .. maybe not such a great idea.

Can you find helpful horizontals in your own wardrobe?  Tell us about them in the COMMENTS below.

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. Louise Moon on August 14, 2017 at 10:59 am

    What an eye opener! Thank you very much!

    • Nancy Nix Rice on August 14, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      Glad you found it helpful – what especially was a surprise to you?

  2. Kathleen MacDonald on October 1, 2017 at 9:43 am

    That jean jacket illustration was definitely an eye opener for me. I recently made 3 jean jackets and wondered why I’ve never been thrilled wearing them, although I love them on others and on the hanger! I’m lower body dominant triangle and that illustration with the waistband providing the horizontal line in the wrong place will be forever cemented in my head. I thought because my waist was small, that horizontal would emphasize waist and not hips. But visually that’s not what’s happening. Thank you Nancy

    • Nancy Nix Rice on October 1, 2017 at 10:36 am

      A softer bomber-type short jacket that blouses a bit over a bottom band that hits right at your waist of just below it should give you the effect you are looking for.

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