Read Between The Lines – Part 2

Jun 04, 2014 1 Min Read

The Image You Send When You Go Diagonal Or Circular

And we are back again on stripes! Last month we were at verticals and horizontals. A quick recap – to slim and elongate, verticals are our best friends; to broaden and shorten, horizontals would be our choice.

What about their cousins – the diagonals and circular lines? Not many people pay attention to them, especially diagonals. However, diagonal and circular design lines exist in our daily lives much more than we realise. Think collars and necklines with their Vs and Us – notice their diagonal and circular lines?

Diagonal lines & designs

diagonal clothes
Diagonal lines have almost the same effect as verticals but they give a softer appearance, thus accentuating the curves of the body. A wrap dress is a good example of a diagonal line that flows from the top to the bottom. A bias skirt is another.

Diagonal design influence is any design line or feature that causes the eye to move from side to side on an angle – for example, Grecian necklines, V-necklines and ragged hemlines.

The physical effect of it is that diagonal lines shorten and widen or lengthen and narrow depending on degree of angle.

Psychologically, the imbalanced features of diagonal lines give a dramatic, energetic, restless and active feeling.

Here are some principles for you to ponder upon when using diagonals:

1. The longer and more vertical the diagonal line, the taller and slimmer the wearer will appear to be; the shorter and more horizontal the line, the shorter and wider the area will appear.

A good example is using a V-neckline to elongate our necks. The longer and the sharper the neckline, the longer your neck will appear to be. Plus, it will help you look taller as well.

A wrap dress is another example. The longer the line of the wrap is, the slimmer the person will look. Picture a headscarf with a diagonal front? It will make the wearer look taller.

2. Triangles fall within diagonal influence and are one of the most common design elements seen in fashion – for example, V-necklines, V-lapels, V-shaped necklaces with pendants.

Compare the difference between peak and notched lapels. With peak lapels, one will always look taller as your eyes follow the sharpness of the triangles on top; whereas with notched lapels, your eyes will look down at where the cut-out of the lapels are located.

3. Our eyes are led to the widest side of a triangle.

Thus, with a short jacket that opens at the base, your hips will appear wider as the angle increases. Similarly, wearing a wide V-neckline will definitely make your shoulders appear broader.

4. Our eyes will travel to the direction of a triangle tip.

Guys, time and again it is reminded that your ties should end just at the buckle. Any shorter, our eyes will be attracted to the tummy where the triangle points. Ladies, the same principle goes when you wear a deep V, cleavage-showing neckline.

A word of caution:

While diagonal design lines work to make our body look leaner and longer, excessive use of them create a dramatic effect and produce restlessness.

Therefore wearing too much of it can decrease your level of professionalism. Think of it this way, would you consider wearing a toga-styled blouse underneath a jacket to a boardroom meeting? I would certainly advise against it.

Circular lines & designs

Circular dress
No, it is not only about polka dots or wavy lines. Circular features also include scooped necklines, flounced hems, ruffles, puff sleeves, swirly lines and patterns, rounded pockets or lapels and floral designs.

Compared to verticals, horizontals, and diagonals, our eyes tend to move a little slower around curved lines. Therefore, they look elegant, soft and feminine and even more graceful when used in a diagonal direction.

If your objective of the day is to look warm and approachable, then pick garments with circular designs!

Here are some principles for you to ponder upon when using diagonals:

1. Circular design lines increase your approachability factor.

Compared to their vertical cousins that send the message of power and professionalism, circular design lines are much gentler and softer.

If your intention is to appear warm, friendly and welcoming, then lace, ruffles, ribbons and bows should be your pick. But too much of it will decrease your level of professionalism. So do reserve your floral shirt or dress for parties and not for business presentations.

2. Circular design influence is useful when you want to appear fuller and more rounded.

A jacket with a rounded hemline will add weight and width to the hips. This would be good for ladies with a boyish frame, but would not be recommended for those with a triangular, round or oval body shape.

3. Circular designs can be employed to balance the upper and lower body when one area is larger than the other.

For someone with a full hipline, having a wide oval scoop neckline or a puff sleeve will balance up the bottom.

4. Curved lines can be used to re-emphasise or define your figure because the female body is naturally curved.

A slim woman with small waist who wishes to appear more womanly can seek out garments that have curved or rounded internal design lines or patterns. Now you know a little more about verticals, horizontals, diagonals and circulars, the next time you look in your wardrobe, think about the message you are sending. Remember to read between the lines!

Click here for Part 1 of this article.

Wendy Lee is president of Mabic (Malaysian Association of Brand & Image Consultants) and a director of BII (Brand Image International Institute). She is a firm believer that with style… there must be substance! For more articles like this, click here! 

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This article is published by the editors of with the consent of the guest author. 

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