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.
The 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.”
Applying the Golden Ratio: The Rule of Thirds
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
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.
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 more styling tips and advice, check out my Style 101 posts!
For outfit inspiration check out 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.
30 thoughts on “Plus Size Proportions”
This is great information!! Makes so much sense!
Glad to be helpful!
What a great post – thank you so much!
You’re welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
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!
The rule of thirds doesn’t include your head. Hope that helps!
Thank you!!! Great info!
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?
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?
Thank you for that question and reply. The visual really helped me to understand what you are talking about – my natural instinct is to cover my stomach with a longer shirt tucked out. But sometimes i saw I looked slimmer with my shirts tucked in– and now I see why – because the additional layers completed the ratio correctly Thanks so much for the info and I wanted you to know I love your blog! Please keep them coming 🙂
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.
Makes sense since you have a very short waist, you probably need to make your torso look longer. Thanks for sharing.
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!
Me too! As an apple with a substantial middle and thinner legs and arms, I look best in a long swing top over leggings or skinny leg jeans.
I totally agree, Alisa, and I talk about that in my Apple Styling post. Thanks for sharing!
I am a classic apple with a short waist, huge boobs and long legs and arms so I get it! Love your your blog. Pinterest and Facebook site.
Does this rule work for apple shapes? As I try to proportion my heavy top half?
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.
Hi Alexa, I just found your blog and read this post. This is going to change my life going forward. Thank you!
Hi Aimee! Glad you found me! Thank you!
So happy I found this! Just got a new job where I’ll have to dress more professional. I’m struggling to find the right slacks or pants for my slim legs (pants always have extra material in the thighs) and the right blazers that won’t me look like a line backer lol. So tough to be an apple in a world where everyone thinks all plus size women are pears. This will help me in purchasing a fabulous new wardrobe!
Thank you for doing what you do! 🙂
Thanks, Rose! Did you see my post on dressing apple and “new apple” shapes? You might find that helpful! Thanks for reading! 🙂
I was looking for a clear explanation of the golden ratio as it applies to fashion and I really enjoyed (and understood) yours! In fact I’m linking your post to in a piece I’m writing about tips to stay fashionable after 50. I think proportion is key – especially as women’s bodies invariably change as they hit midlife. Thanks for a great post.
Thank you, Michele!
Love your visuals and explanations here. You’ve laid it out perfectly!
Thank you, Paula!
Great post! Your tips are spot-on for anyone at any age or size. Well done!
I am 5’10…big belly and long legs. I wear long flowy tops to hide my belly and wear skinny jeans or capris to show my long legs…I’m always trying to find things to flatter my body type without looking old. I wear cool jewelry and great earrings to bring attention up. I do wear cropped jackets over my tops! Blazers don’t close right so I avoid them!
Thank you for this! Been looking for something for women that is not for only 20 year olds for a long time! I want to look nice…not “way out there.”
Thank you for making this so easy to follow and helpful. I have been so frustrated with other sites that tell me I can’t wear leggings on a pear shape or I can’t wear booties. I am looking forward to finding new and proportioned outfits in my closet using these wonderful tips.