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Figure Analysis and Optical Illusions in Fashion Design

Hello Everyone,

Clothing is the universal means of nonverbal communication. No wonder it is being said, "Good clothes open all doors". The first impression that lasts is formed during the first several seconds of meeting a person. To overcome such bias is not easy and takes much more time than several seconds. smiley

Well-suited outfit expresses personality, makes woman feeling comfort and confidence. In order to create a harmonious look, there is no need to follow existing fashion trends blindly. It is important to find your own individual style. Many years ago, Coco Chanel said that fashion keeps changing but style stays forever. However, it is not very easy to find suitable clothes. Mass production is based on some averaged body proportions that obviously won’t fit all women. As a result, the large number of customers can’t find well-fitted clothing, which makes them feeling disadvantaged.

If you produce custom designs and some of your clients complain about figure “problems”, help them to acknowledge that their difference is not disadvantage, rather figure variations. Understanding and acceptance of normality of their uniqueness is a necessary step in building confidence and maintaining mental health by anyone as well as a good foundation for productive relations with the clients. Many perceived "problems" could be solved with various optical illusions, i.e. location of style lines, garment silhouette, coloring, fabric structure and pattern, etc. Such illusions can help to elongate or shorten, widen or narrow certain figure parts visually.

You can attract attention to a specific part of a human body by using bright garment details and accessories as focal points. On the contrary, you should avoid using such garment details in those figure parts, which sizes are not to be increased. It is not recommended to use horizontal lines in the widest part of a figure.

Some tricks, e.g. usage of a belt of the same color as a blouse or a skirt, visually elongates or shortens a torso. For a long-waisted figure high-waisted garments should be created, whereas, for a short-waisted figure pick up designs with lower waistline. Woman with narrow sloped shoulders should wear shoulder pads, even if they are currently not in fashion. Shoulder pads of various thickness can align shoulders if they are not at the same height. A scoop neckline will attract attention to a bust, a wide contrasting belt will emphasize a narrow waist and so on.

There are many similar tricks and fashion designers should know them. However, in some stores you can come across a garment denying common sense. Once, in a Toronto department store, I have seen a red velvet ultra-mini skirt, sizes from 4 to 18 (???). Such a skirt would look good on a young girl, but, obviously, it would not be flattering for Women's size figure!

It doesn’t make any sense to spend production resources on garments that do not fit customer needs. I am absolutely sure that even working in mass-production sector a good designer should always consider optical illusions and think how to make their core customers more attractive.

You can analyze figure proportions quickly in Adobe Illustrator by using a photo of a model. Such analysis may help to find out what corrections are required. In addition, this analysis will spark design ideas how to bring proportions of that particular figure closer to ideal.

In order to evaluate vertical figure proportions, posture, body bend etc., you can quickly outline a photo by using one of the following tools: Pencil tool, Curvature tool or Pen tool and create several horizontal lines within the head distance each by using the Blend tool. A figure with ideal proportions can be divided horizontally into 4 or 8 equal parts.

Have a look at two examples below. One figure has ideal proportions, whereas, the second one has the lowered bust line, a bit shortened torso and arms, drawn forward shoulders and so on. By using this method, you can assess horizontal figure proportions as well, shoulder bend, leg shape and so on. Ideally, hip width should be equal to shoulder width.


You can draw an outfit straight on a photo by using the Pen tool. Not only does it allow analyzing figure better, but also demonstrates various design options to a client.

It is recommended to consider golden ratio when creating new designs.


If golden ratio cannot be applied to a specific figure, create multi-layered outfit or a garment that has no defined waistline.

After you install Adobe Illustrator in iPad Pro, you will be able to draw in the application anywhere by using a stylus. Save your drawing as an Adobe Illustrator file and edit your sketch later on your PC/MAC. If you have an older version iPad, you can use Adobe Draw or Adobe Sketch apps.

Learn how to use Adobe Illustrator tools for drawing garments by studying with my e-textbook "The Craft of Garment Design with Adobe Illustrator".

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