Symmetry and Proportion

There is a certain symmetry and proportion that is naturally attractive to the human sub-conscious – a perfectly symmetrical face attracts our attention for example. You might initially think almost all of us have symmetrical faces but in fact very few of us do. 

You can test for your own symmetry, or most likely lack of it, by looking in the mirror and alternately hiding and revealing each side of your face. Most people find the two sides are remarkably different.  This is why seeing ourselves in photos can surprise us – because we’re accustomed to seeing ourselves flipped in our reflection, but this is not how we appear to others.Although our eye is attracted to symmetry, perfectly symmetrical faces can present as a bit flat or boring. Another thing humans very often find attractive or engaging is an animated person, and the more animated someone is, the more character they will have in their face, and this very often results in asymmetry, which can be intriguing.

If you love your asymmetry, wearing symmetrical clothing will highlight it but if you find the asymmetry in your face disturbing, dressing in asymmetrically designed clothing will harmonise well with you, rather than providing contrast for your asymmetry. A biker-style jacket with a diagonal zip is an example of asymmetrical clothing.

129768614_6199e714c9The sub-conscious is also attracted to certain proportions over others – this is so in nature, art, architecture and the human body. The ‘ideal’ proportion for the human body (according to Leonardo Da Vinci) is eight head heights, meaning the body from the tip of your toes to your chin would measure seven times your head length and be evenly divided at key points with the crotch being the absolute vertical centre of the body.

But before you start scrutinising your own body please note that hardly anyone has these so called ‘ideal’ proportions, least of all fashion models whose legs are often Photoshopped to such ridiculously long lengths that they end up looking quite weird! When playing with the proportions of our clothing we’ll generally find particular looks we prefer; it’s because we find that certain looks give us the appearance of proportions we like. There are all kinds of tricks and optical illusions we can play with our clothing to give the appearance of alternate proportions and silhouettes. For example, tucked in tops versus untucked tops.

Throughout history humans have played with shape and proportions in their clothing to introduce fun, excitement and novelty to the way we dress. Every part of the body has been padded, bound, or wrapped to elongate, curve, maximise, minimise, enhance natural contrast, streamline – you name it, we’ve done it. For a fascinating description and sociological narrative of some of the more popular shapes we’ve inflicted on the human body check out Danielle Meder’s blog post: Silhouettes and Signals:

Photo credit: Roger Smith / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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