The Triumph of Individual Style – part 3

Having determined my face and body lines and shape/silhouette, I’m moving on to chapter 3 today – length proportions.

The first part of the chapter is an explanation of the “easy to dress” body – basically a body eight heads long with a 3:5 ratio between the top of the body (above waist) and bottom of the body (below waist). Also explained here is the Golden Mean ratio and how it’s used in clothing.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick /

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick /

On to discovering my own proportions: I taped a long sheet of tracing paper to the wall and had my husband mark the important points. To do this exercise, you’ll need to mark the top of your head, the bottom of your chin (head held straight), your waist, crotch level, and mid-knee. The paper should extend to the floor so that you can also mark that level (soles of your feet). And while you’re at it, get an accurate measurement of your full height.

Head to body proportion
Measure from the top of your head to the bottom of your chin. Divide your total height by the length of your head. Eight head lengths is in proportion, less than eight heads means a long head, and more than eight means a short head.

My numbers look like this:
65.5″ / 7.75″ = 8.5 which means my head is short in proportion to my body. Not only is it short, it also has a small circumference so all those one-size-fits-all hats are always too big. My short hair style accentuates the small size of my head but other people’s preference might be to increase the visual size with a more voluminous hair style.

Upper torso
Measure from the chin to the waist. Divide the number by the length of your head. Two head lengths is in proportion, less than two heads means a short torso, and more than two heads means a long torso.

My numbers: 16.25″ / 7.75″ = 2.1 which means my upper torso is slightly long in comparison to my head. After establishing that my head is small, this is not an unexpected result, even though I actually have to shorten commercial patterns above the waist.

Measure from waist to crotch level. According to the book, this measurement is only important if you wear pants but I think it helps even if you don’t. One head length is in proportion, less than one head length means a short rise, more than one head length means a long rise.

My numbers: 6.5″ < 7.75″ which means my rise is short. Very short even, considering that with the torso, the difference was .75″ over roughly two head lengths while here the difference is 1.25″ over one head length.

Measure from the crotch level to the soles of the feet. Divide the number by the length of your head. Four head lengths is in proportion, less than four heads means short legs, and more than four heads means long legs.

My numbers: 35″ / 7.75″ = 4.5 which means my legs are long. They don’t say this in the book, but the pictures show the mid-knee level as being the middle of the leg length. Mine is actually 15.5″ from the crotch level, which happens to be two head lengths exactly so at least my thighs are in perfect proportion to my head, lengthwise anyway. That leaves 19.5″ from the knee down – this is where all my extra length is.

My findings so far: short head, slightly long torso, very short rise, very long legs.

Curious woman that I am, I decided to see how my measurements compared to the 3:5 ratio of upper body to lower body. So 65.5″ x ⅜ = 24.6″, which is only .6″ below my actual waist. Hmmm… very very close to that ratio. And, according to the book, “relationships slightly off exact ratios are often more interesting than the “perfect” curves and proportions of the “easy-to-dress” body.” So not quite perfect, but definitely interesting!

The next part of the chapter contains suggestions for optically balancing short and long parts of the body. I’m liking the idea of wearing long sleeves to optically balance long legs – that way I don’t have to cover my legs and my arms will stay warm. It’s a win-win!

OK, this is a long post already so I will leave the balance points for necklines, collars, and jewelry until next time. It will also give me some time to learn the photo editing software so I can draw lines on pictures to show you what I’m talking about.

See you soon!

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3 responses to “The Triumph of Individual Style – part 3

  1. Toto sa mi páčilo! A ani sa mi to nezdalo veľmi formálne. =)

  2. Very interesting.

  3. Alexandra, Thank you; you know how much I am enjoying this series. It’s been a long time since I read that book. Somehow, I never registered the point about measuring the top of head to chin and using that head measurement as part of all of the following calculations. (I thought it was height / 8, then 1/8 for head, 2/8 for upper torso/ 1/8 for rise, 2/8 for upper legs, and 2/8 for lower legs. I’m going to have to get the book out because now I have to figure this out! Thanks again.

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