Plus Size Proportions

How to wear your clothes in a more flattering way

If you have ever watched Project Runway, you will have undoubtedly heard Tim Gunn say, “Make it work.”  Love him!  And you also likely heard Nina Garcia mention proportions.  And even if you didn’t know exactly what she was talking about, you knew she was right in saying something was “off” about an outfit.  So I’m going to try to make sense of what she was talking about.

Plus Size Proportions - How to wear your clothes in a more flatting way, Alexa Webb alexawebb.com

Golden Ratio

The complicated explanation is: the golden ratio, or a ratio of 1 to 1.618.  I won’t get into the math (not that I have the ability to).  But I will try to summarize its significance.  There is a ratio or mathematic equation that is found everywhere.  It is found in nature, such as the shape of the leaves of trees, the spiral of a snail’s shell, the organization of hurricanes, the layout of the human face, and even in our DNA.  This ratio has been used in art and architecture for thousands of years before it even had a name.  It is even found in music.  And interestingly, the closer something is to the golden ratio, the more attractive we find it.  It is the equation of beauty.

The less complicated answer is:  A ratio of 1 to 1 (or 1/2 + 1/2) is less appealing.  A ratio of 1 to 2 (or 1/3 + 2/3) is better.  So how do we apply this to fashion?  Take a look at my example outfits.  The left outfit is less attractive because it uses a 1:1 ratio.  The three to the right are more flattering because they have a better proportion, using the “rule of thirds.”

Plus Size Proportions

Plus Size Proportions - How to wear your clothes in a more flatting way, Alexa Webb alexawebb.com

In the first (left) outfit, the body is basically broken in half because the length of the shirt is about the same length (visually) as the pants.  This is not very flattering.  It makes your torso look too long and your legs too short.

The next outfit has a tucked-in top resulting in the body being visually broken down into 1/3 on top and 2/3 on the bottom, which is more appealing.  But don’t fret, this doesn’t mean you always have to tuck in your tops!  The next outfit shows a cropped denim jacket on top of an un-tucked t-shirt.  The bottom of the cropped jacket creates a line roughly 1/3 the length of the body, leaving 2/3 at the bottom.  Not that I recommend belting a t-shirt, but the last outfit shows that you can add a belt to a top for the same effect.

Plus Size Proportions - How to wear your clothes in a more flatting way, Alexa Webb alexawebb.com

Regardless of your size and height, or the length of your pants, skirts, or dresses, this “rule of thirds,” as it is called in fashion, should keep you looking your best.  Keep it in mind when you are getting dressed or deciding on an outfit.  You’ll soon have the Nina-Garcia-like ability to know when something is “off.”

Most importantly, remember that feeling good about what you are wearing is the most important thing.  Rules be damned.  Your confidence is what matters most.  You do you.

For outfit inspiration check out my Polyvore sets, my Pinterest boards, and my Instagram!  Oh and please “like” my blog on Facebook!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on or purchase through certain links, I may receive a small commission.

16 thoughts on “Plus Size Proportions

  1. This makes total sense- quick question- when figuring out my 1/3rds do i measure my entire height (top of head to bottom of feet) or my outfit height (neck to feet)? Thanks!

  2. Why does the crop jacket in the first set of pictures satisfy the rule of thirds but the long cardigan in the second batch doesn’t?

    1. Because ideally you would have 1/3 on top and 2/3 on the bottom. It’s really about giving the appearance that your torso is a 1:2 ratio to your legs. Does that make sense?

  3. I actually don’t agree with this. I look far better in the style to the left than any of the others. Iam a size 12, with 6 kids, I have a very very short waist so I’ve always carried weight there but more so after having kids, I have muscular legs, and a rather large chest. I think the outfit on the left is best for me because it minimizes my chest a bit and hides my tummy…the other three would accent it.

    1. I totally agree, most plus size folks aren’t an hour glass shape with a flat stomach and nice waist to show off. Cropped jackets, belted waists, all make large tummy’s look pregnant which is basically my worst nightmare. It’s all about hiding the belly and showing off the legs for me, and the left does that the best!

    1. Hi Sondra,
      My answer is yes, but… Remember this is all about creating the “illusion” of the “ideal.” You also want to balance your body shape. For an apple, throwing a belt on 1/3 down your body won’t be flattering if that area is the widest part of your body. You still want to draw the eye up, so playing with your neckline, jewelry, and the cut of tops/dresses is more important. An empire waisted v-neck top or dress is going to look great and put your waist at just below your bust, which is most flattering if that is the smallest part of your body. It will flare out over your tummy and then show off your legs. If your bust is large, it should visually look close to the 1:2 ratio. You can also throw a jacket or blazer on top with a small shoulder pad (not 80s, but very small 😉 ) to help the balance and create new lines.

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