One of the neat things about clothes is that you can use them to create optical illusions. So if you want to look taller, shorter, thinner, or heavier, you can use your clothes to do that. One of the most interesting ways to do so is by using the one third, two thirds proportion.

Even numbers create balance. Uneven numbers create interest.

So if you visually cut your body in half by wearing a top and a bottom of equal length, it creates visual balance.


But it can be boring. It can also draw attention to your trouble spots and make you look heavier if your hips are your widest part. If you tend to carry weight all over, this combination can make you look big all over. Not good.


So opt for a one third, two thirds proportion instead. It’s both interesting AND flattering.

Here’s how it works:

Imagine visually dividing your body into thirds: head to waist, waist to knee, knee to foot.

Divide Your body Into Thirds

Determine which third offers your most flattering feature, like a long neck, tiny waist, or great legs. Then, concentrate on featuring THAT third while downplaying the other two thirds. All the attention will go to your best feature while skimming over the trouble spots.

For example:

Great Top Third

Top ThirdStylebop

Top ThirdIgigi

Great Middle Third

Waist EmphasisStylebop

Waist EmphasisIgigi

Great Bottom Third

Feet EmphasisStylebop

Emphasis on feetIgigi

See how this works?

Regardless of your shape or size, people look at your best feature because that’s where the focus is. The uneven proportion also creates interest because it’s not the “same old, same old”.

Moreover, one third, two thirds can make you look taller or shorter than you are, depending on where you put the focus.

If you’re petite, keep the focus around your face by downplaying the rest of your ensemble. This draws the eye up and makes you look taller.



If you’re tall, put the focus on your mid section in a way that visually “chops you up.” This will make you seem shorter.



See how versatile this clothing trick is?

So instead of always striving for balance, mix it up a bit and see what happens. Try the one third, two thirds option yourself and see how fashion savvy you feel.

Diana Pemberton-SikesDiana Pemberton is an image consultant and author of Signature Style Blueprint, an ecourse that shows women how to create a signature style that suits their budget, body shape, and clothing personality. Get Signature Style Blueprint today.


    8 replies to "The One Third, Two Thirds Proportion"

    • Rosa

      Great tips as always Diana! I love that you illustrated this example with both slim and curvy models! They both look great and really drive the points home of how to use the 1/3 2/3 rule. Keep up the great work.


      • Diana

        Hi Rosa,

        I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for your kind note.

    • Anonymous

      Hello Diana,

      I just received your email with your comments about Downton Abbey, specifically the etiquette. My father always stood when a lady (and a gentleman always treats a “woman”like a lady, no matter what her station in life) entered a room and always stood if she had to leave the room. I still yearn for these manners, sadly missing today. I always thank a gentleman if he beckons me to enter the bus first. Always. And I make it clear to people if they are treating me with disrespect – politely but firmly. I wasn’t sure where to post this comment, but as this article was also in the email, I thought this might find you. Always a pleasure to read you.

      • Diana

        Yes, the habit of a gentleman standing when a woman enters a room is from a bygone era. When I saw in on “Downton Abbey” recently, it reminded me of how long it’s been since any woman I know was regularly shown that courtesy – which was in Texas, where I lived for a decade, in the mid-80’s to mid-90’s. Sad. There were a lot of good things that came out of the women’s movement – like better education and better work conditions for women – but it seems that these little courtesies paid the price.

    • Isabella

      How can we bring back good manners? I also noticed in Downton Abbey that the gentlemen stood up when a lady gets out of her chair. I really want to live in a world where those manners rule! I wonder if other countries still practice those good manners? It’s really such an easy thing to do and makes for lovely interactions.

      • Diana

        Through education, Isabella. It would require a MASSIVE effort, as most people have gotten so comfortable NOT bothering with dress, manners, speech, etc. It’s hard to go back when a whole generation thinks it’s acceptable to swear like a sailor, chew with their mouths open, and wear pajamas out in public. It CAN be done, but it would take A LOT of work.

        The best mannered in the world, according to various polls, include the Japanese, Chinese, British, and the Dutch. The best-mannered city in America is Charleston, SC.

    • Emilie Johnson

      Great article. I appreciate that you used images of various sized models for your examples. It is so nice to see someone who is my size illustrating your points!

      • Diana

        You’re welcome, Emilie. Glad you enjoyed it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Security Code: