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Wear Diagonal Lines to Look Taller and Thinner (and More)

look thinner with diagonal lines

by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)

You can use optical illusions to make yourself look taller and thinner. I’m not 100% sure why dresses with diagonal lines make a woman look longer and leaner, but my guess is that slanted lines are confusing to the brain. Whatever the reason, diagonal lines somehow force your eye to follow each line up and down... and you can benefit from these tricks every time you wear the right prints and patterns.

I’m not a clothing designer, but I was an art major. And, a long time ago, I read about how the human brain grew used to looking at the horizon (horizontal lines) but is a little less used to seeing vertical lines (such as trees). This means that many of us notice vertical lines more than horizontal lines.

Also, I remember that the brain is drawn even more to diagonal lines, but I can't remember why. Could it be because we are watching for falling trees? Well, I do recall that curving lines appear as movement to our primitive brains, so we notice swirling and curvy diagonals as much, if not more, than straight-line diagonals. And, you can use these concepts when you're looking at cuts and patterns of dresses, tops, pants, and skirts.

It's possible to visually sculpt your body with these optical tools... making people see the areas you want to highlight and blurring the areas you don't like.

Diagonal Striped Dresses

It’s not possible to say, “Wearing diagonal stripes will always make you look taller and thinner,” because there's much more to the gestalt of each outfit. You have to look at the slant of the line, the contrast in the pattern, the colors used, the point where the line hits your body, and lots of other elements. And, you have to try each garment on your own body to make sure the outfit isn't drawing attention to some area you’re trying to camouflage... turning a flaw into a focal point.

look thinner

Diagonally Striped Maxis

Slanted Lines Get Your Attention

Diagonal lines give you the feeling of movement, while chevrons and zigzags make your eye move up and down an entire pattern. Look at the maxi dresses above and I’ll give you my artistic interpretation of how I think each one will read on most women’s bodies.

Monochrome Chevron Dress from Phase Eight: The first place your eyes land is on the uppermost point of the inverted chevron. Next, you follow the lines up and down the skirt. After that, the focus is on the bustline. And, because of the placement of the stripes, this type of dress gives the illusion of curvy hips, a thin waist, and a nice bust.

Red Color-Block Maxi Dress from Very: The first thing you notice is the area where the curves nip into the waist. Next, your eyes bounce up and down to the hips and bust.

Graphic Color-Block Dress from Phase Eight: This dress has two chevrons -- one at the neckline and one at the hemline. Your eyes bounce back and forth, totally avoiding the midsection (stomach and hips). Next, your eyes see the middle line that flows up the skirt. After that, you notice the purple of the skirt, neckline, and waist in that order. This type of color blocking gives a good silhouette because your eyes bounce around and never stay long in one place.

Orange Tropical Print Dress from Dorothy Perkins: This print has zigzagging diagonal lines which allow your focus to drift up and down the pattern made by the floral garland. (Good for camouflage.)

Diamond Tribal Print Dress from Get The Label: The first place your eyes land is the middle… the stomach area… but that is not a problem because the rest of the pattern becomes like arrows that point your eye up and down. This type of pattern gives you a feminine shape… and focuses on the curve of your hips.

diagonal line optical illusion

Short Diagonal Dresses

ShortDresses with Diagonal Lines

  • Orange Crisscross Dress from Lovarni: This short bandage dress pulls your eye into the bust area and accentuates everything above the waist.
  • Mono Striped Dress from M&Co: This black and white mid-length dress pulls your eye into the waist from all directions, giving the illusion of broad shoulders and a tiny waist... and the illusion of length.
  • Pink Pencil Dress from Lipsy: This cute pencil dress is perfect for the Kardashian in all of us. The curving, vertical lines make your eye swoop up around the hips and towards the bust. Next, the secondary lines wrap your attention up and towards the hips. Sexy mama!
  • Black and White Lace Dress from Lipstick Boutique: The black lace forms a zigzagging chevron pattern across the bustline, making that area the focal point. Then, the halter straps pull your eyes up to the face.
diagonal lines optical illusion

Dresses with Diagonal Patterns

Examples of Diagonal Dresses on Models:

  • Tribal Maxi Dress from River Island: This vibrant dress draws your eye to the lower hip area, and then the arrows point your attention up and down from neckline to hemline.
  • Sequin Chevron Dress from Warehouse: The focus starts at the face because of the contrast. The secondary focal point is from the middle and down to the hemline.
  • Tropical T-Shirt Dress from Oh My Love: It's impossible to know where to look first on this garland pattern. Your eye jumps around, then you wind up following the middle line, and then you move on to the length of the other lines.
  • Green Chevron Print Dress from Monki: When you look at this print, all you see are arrows pointing up to the face. The chevrons are good for camouflaging imperfections.

In art, it is said that the diagonal line has more visual intensity than any other kind of line. You should use diagonals and chevrons in your clothing to make people see what you want and ignore what you hate. And, the longer the line, the taller you'll look.

More Articles for Baby Boomer Women Over 40:

How to Use Prints and Patterns to Hide Fat and Balance Your Body

Swimsuits for Plus Size Apple, Pear & Hourglass Body Types

How to Wear Color Block Trends

7 Prints and Patterns that Work as Neutrals for Mixing and Matching


read about diagonal lines

Main Photo - Diagonal Lines are Flattering

Photo Credits: All photos from prshots.com. Main photo from M&Co.

What do you think of this article? Do you see the clothing the same way I do? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page or give us a Google Plus.

Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

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  1. kay kerns

    OMG that was awesome! No wonder I like wearing dresses like these.

    • Tina-Boomerina


      Yes, I think we're naturally drawn to diagonal cuts and prints. Even polka dots make a diagonal pattern most of the time. I didn't know that until I started looking critically at different patterns. It's really interesting.