My passion for knitting, in addition to giving me something to do with my ever-fidgeting hands, is really all about my passion for clothing. I love clothes. I love the way they change our appearance, I love the way they can reflect my mood. I love the way they can change my mood, if it needs to be changed.

There’s that moment, on the first crisp fall day, when I pull on my boots, slip on a favorite pair of cords, and shrug into my first woolly sweater day of the season. And that moment, in the hot, breezy days of summer when I put on my lightest cotton skirt and near-scandalous tank top, to feel the warmth on my skin. And that moment when, nervous about a big presentation at work, I pull on my most favorite suit–and my nervousness disappears in the act of pulling together a totally professional appearance.

(And, lest you think I’m getting too saccharine about all of this, all those times in college when I threw on a bunch of torn black clothing and combat boots, and instantly transformed into someone super-fierce.)

And so I’ve been thinking lately: If I love clothing so much, why isn’t there more of it here? If I take great care in the items I choose out, and spend more time than I want to admit stalking this or that online, why is this integral part of my knitting passion never explored on this blog?

Enter Fashion Friday. A weekly blog series where I deconstruct an outfit, explore a fashion topic, explicitly talk through what’s going through my head as I choose my clothing. Often related to hand-knitting, but not exclusively. I hope you enjoy them!

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Today, for this first installment in the series, I’m going to start with the outfit on my Fit to Flatter page and step through why the same clothes can give such a different visual impression.

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To begin with, let’s go over some basics. First, these are the exact same items of clothing, in the exact same lighting, makeup, etc. conditions. I’m smiling in both pictures.

I am uncomfortable as all get-out, though, in the right-hand picture, which brings me to my first point about fashion:

If you’re not comfortable in it, you won’t look good in it.

I say this on the Fit to Flatter page explicitly, but it bears repeating here: Your happy spot, clothing wise, is a very personal one. I’m not out to give you some crazy, restrictive rule set that you need to live slavishly by. I’m here to help you think about your clothing, the picture you want to paint to the rest of the world, and how your wardrobe can get you there. So if something doesn’t feel good? Don’t wear it!

There are four underlying principles for how clothing changes the way your inherent body shape looks.

  • Horizontal lines or visual impressions will broaden a region of the body.
  • Vertical lines or visual impressions will narrow a region of the body.
  • Covering it in a single piece of fabric/color/texture will lengthen a region of the body.
  • Placing many different pieces of fabric/color/texture will shorten a region of the body.

So what’s going on in these outfits? First, I should share my underlying body shape: I’m proportional, or balanced, from shoulder to thigh; my hips are narrower, I have a fairly straight waist and a larger bust. My torso is long, and my legs short, for my height.

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Let’s start with the right-hand side first. There aren’t really any strong horizontal or vertical lines present in the way I’m wearing my outfit–the hem of my sweater paints a small horizontal line, and the buttons on my sweater paint something of a vertical line–but they’re pretty subtle. So the eye travels elsewhere:

  • You can see many details of my figure underneath this very plain clothing.
  • You can see the texture of my tummy, particularly my lower tummy under my jeans.
  • Your eye is drawn to my hands and thighs, since they’re a bright spot.
  • My torso gets lengthened by the solid block of gray, and my legs (already short for my height) get shortened further by the different visual sections in my shoes, socks, legs, pant cuffs, and pants. My calves in particular look quite short.

Contrast that with the visual impressions I’m giving in the left-hand picture:

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  • The contrast and lines of the different colors and shapes draw the eye away from the exact details of my figure.
  • My tummy now sort of recedes behind the interest of the lines of the cardigan, tank, and jeans.
  • The eye is drawn to the strip of brighter orange down the center of my torso, and up to my face with the deep V-neckline.
  • My torso gets shortened by lots of different visual sections; my legs get lengthened by my plan, long-hemmed pants.
  • A curvier waist is painted through the use of buttons.

There are lots of reasons I’m more comfortable in the clothing on the left, and other people perceive me differently as a result. Again–I’m not saying one way is “right” and the other “wrong” for everyone–far from it! But for me personally, one outfit makes me feel beautiful, and the other dumpy. And that shows!

You’re lovely. We are all lovely. Shouldn’t our clothes make us feel that way, too?

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I’d love to hear your thoughts on this new series–do you like it? Hate it? Have a request for one topic or another? Please, get in touch in the comments or in email, I’d love to hear from you. See you next Friday!