The Triumph of Individual Style – part 5

We’ve looked at face and body lines, shape/silhouette, length proportions, and balance points. Let’s move on to chapter 4 where we examine the symmetry/asymmetry in the face and body, body contour in the side view, and then address specific body particulars.

Starting with the body, I don’t see any obvious asymmetry, nor do I have to adjust patterns separately for left and right side, so I’m saying my body is symmetrical. My face, however, is a very different story. This is how I look to the casual observer:

Face original

I see some asymmetry, especially the eyebrows, which I had noted in the lines in the face exercise. I figured there might be more and to see it, I cut the picture in half and mirror-imaged the halves, then spliced them together right-to-right-and left-to-left. The result – two different faces:


The face on the left has a more angular/masculine jawline while the face on the right looks more curved and feminine. The neck on the left looks a little wide, but I think that is thanks to the tilt of my head in that picture because in other pictures (of course I played with other pictures, too, you didn’t think I was going to post these for everyone to see without making sure I couldn’t do something better, did you?), my neck looked about even in both pictures. I keep looking at the symmetrical pictures, but I still like the original the best.

So, definitely asymmetry in the face*. What does that mean in terms of clothing? It means that asymmetrical styling details will harmonize with my face. (This may explain my preference for tying scarves with the knot to one side.) Asymmetrical details could be a collar with an extended “tie” that is worn over the shoulder, or a slanted closure as in the Vogue pattern below, or maybe even a brooch pinned off center as in the Butterick pattern below.

Vintage Vogue 3370Vintage Butterick 9926

If your face is very symmetrical, then symmetrical details will be in harmony with it. If you decide to wear asymmetrical details, they will create a dramatic effect because of the contrast with your symmetry.

*Update: Based on Steph’s recommendation and the visuals from her link (see comments), I am changing this assessment to symmetrical.

You may have a symmetrical body and face, or both asymmetrical, or a combination. The asymmetrical body requires separate alterations to right and left side of the garment or pattern. Details may be symmetrical or asymmetrical, depending on the face (and the wearer’s choice, of course).

On to the whole body side view contour. We’re looking at wavy vs. flat contours, and straight vs. slanted waist. In the picture below, you can see that my contour is quite wavy. To imagine a flat contour, think flat butt, minimal back curvature, and small bust. To highlight a flat body contour, you can use stripes or other straight details (horizontal or vertical). Diagonal construction lines or details will highlight a curvy body contour.

View side

Similarly, to highlight a straight waist (level front and back), you could wear straight horizontal belts, and even add straight horizontal lines, say as patch pockets on a safari style jacket. To highlight a slanted waist, you can repeat the diagonal line in an angled skirt yoke, angled jacket hem, or a slouchy belt. I think mine is straight, even though it’s hard to tell from the photo.

OK, that’s been quite a bit of how to highlight this, harmonize with that. And there’s more. The whole first part of this chapter (29 pages of it) contains suggestions for highlighting and camouflaging specific features, such as forward slanting neck, sloping shoulders, square shoulders, etc. The beauty of it is that for each feature, there are both highlighting techniques and camouflaging techniques so each reader can decide which combination of features she wants to show off.

Let’s take my square, straight shoulders as an example: I can downplay them by creating a gentle curve at the shoulder and adding a collar to break up the horizontal line. Or I can highlight them by exposure (say, a halter top) or by repeating the straight horizontal line (in a yoke, for instance).

There is no good way for me to convey all the information in this section, mostly because it is not an exercise but more of a reference. You may choose to emphasize some features one day and different ones the next, especially if variety is important to you. Or you may decide that you have several assets that you will highlight every single day and develop a uniform around them. No prescriptions, just lots of options. I like that. But it does leave you with all the responsibility of making your choices which is potentially a trade-off (or turn-off even) for some people.

This post is getting quite long so I’ll wrap it up now, but not before I tell you that the next chapter is all about scale. I hope you come back to read about it.

See you soon!

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2 responses to “The Triumph of Individual Style – part 5

  1. Hi Alexandra!! just totally digging this series 🙂 right on!

    i did want to chime in and say that IMVeryHumbleO, your face is on the symmetrical side. If you take a ruler and obsess about millimeters, yes, your eyebrows aren’t EXACTLY the same. But compared to the faces i see every day on the street, on the web, and so on – you’re much more symmetrical than average. So, in my book, i would classify you as symmetrical.

    When these kind of ‘close calls’ come up (which actually happens a lot), then i like to try both ways and see which i prefer (in this case, emphasizing the symmetrical vs. emphasizing the assymetrical). I think this project looks like fun:

    Wow, you’re almost done with Project TIOS! Brava Alexandra!!! Happy day, steph

    • Steph, thank you for commenting. That is a neat link. When I wrote this, I wondered just where the symmetrical/asymmetrical line might be. I will do what you do and try it both ways.

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