43.Cutting Up The Body: The Revolution Continues - Design Lines


It’s been one of those days! I had the whole blog post written, and I was just finishing it up when I lost the lot!!! The auto save didn’t auto save and the website crashed and it was all gone…..sigh……and a little bit of crying.

The post was all about waistlines, but in this rewrite I think it will be more generally about design lines in garments and outfits.


It is incredible how the cut and design lines of a garment or outfit effect the look of your body. One day I could wear a dress with full gathers at the shoulder, belted in at the waist and hemmed at the knee and the next I could wear a straight dress with princess line panels, long to the floor which would make me look much taller and slimmer though I haven’t changed actual size at all.

There's a whole psychology around this I know, and on a very quick Google search the first options to come up were all about dressing for success. This can definitely be important, but what about dressing to help you feel your absolute confident best? Weather you want to dress on trend with current fashion styling or you are creating your own trends, understanding how design styling works can help inform your styling choices.

Horizontal design lines can tend to cut the body up horizontally causing it to look shorter and wider. Seams and stripes placed across extra long body parts could make them look more in proportion to the rest of the body, but worn on an already short or wide body part will exaggerate the width. For example wearing an outfit that is belted around the hips of a “pear shaped” person will make the hips look larger than they are, but wearing a horizontally striped top on a body that is long in proportion to the legs can balance the body to leg length proportions.


Empire Line Design

An Empire line is a seam that runs around the garment just under the bust. It draws attention to the bust area, is a good line it give the body shape while disguising a round belly or large hips, and can give a body the effect of being taller.


High waisted garments give an illusion of having longer legs, It is a popular design style for jeans and when teamed with flared hems can accentuate the body’s curves. High waists that are tapered to the hem exaggerate the hips and those that fall straight down from the hips give the most illusion of length. This is also true of high waisted skirts. The lower the hemline, the longer the legs look.

High Waisted Pants


The Natural waist is usually considered to be the narrowest part around the body between the bust and the hips but this is not always the case. A seam, waistband or belt around a small waist (in comparison to bust and hips) can make the waist look even smaller, however around a large waistline will make it look larger.


A Dropped waistline that sits several centimetres or more below the natural waistline can make the torso look longer, but can also shorten the legs and exaggerate the hips. If there is no fitting in the garment, the dropped waistline can look shapeless and boxy, if the garment is fitted it can look glamorous and feminine, and the dropped waistline can also be used to soften and add more design features to a garment.

Dropped Waistlines


Vertical design lines cut the body lengthwise giving the illusion of being longer and slimmer. This can slim and heighten a rounder shaped body or cause an already long thin body to look gangly.

Princess panel lines are seams that curve over the bust and run vertically down the length of the garment. They are used to create a slim fitting garment often in formalwear and corporate wear. They give a flattering long look with little fuss.

Centre front and centre back openings are both functional and design features. They can cut the body in half vertically giving the illusion of it being much narrower that it really is.

Pleats that fall down a garment are also vertical lines that can give fullness to the garment while still having the effect of cutting the body into long vertical pieces.

Panels are a way to add styling, splashes of colour, fitting and lots of vertical emphasis to your outfit.


Diagonal a-symmetrical lines cut the body up differently according to the degrees. If the vertical lines are more horizontal, they could shorten the body but if they are more vertical they can lengthen the body. Vertical design lines that curve around a garment tend to move the eye around the body drawing attention to different areas.

A V waistline that drops from the sides down to a point at the centre can lengthen the body and when fullness is added below the seam it will accentuate the hips. This was a very popular design for formal and bridal dresses in the 1980’s. A similar look can be created by simply tucking in your top at the sides only and pulling it down in the centres, or you could wrap a scarf around your waist with the corner pointing down at the centre front.

Wrap styles are particularly flattering as they create soft diagonal lines that tend to cinch in at the narrowest part of the waist area, then falling softly over the rest of the body.


There are literally as many versions of these design styles as there are people who wear them, what I have written here are just some very general rules to consider when you are choosing your own individual wardrobe pieces. Once you narrow down the design styles that you like and you know why you like them, you could add some examples to your styling vision board or fashion styling file so they are on hand to assist your future garment purchases or sewing projects.


Lately my go to lockdown wardrobe tends to be a casual drop waist look consisting of a loose top worn out over casual pants, however my actual styling preferences (when I get to leave the house) generally tend towards me wearing garments that are pulled in at the waist because otherwise I feel round and shapeless, but I soften this look by wearing a coat, open dress or loose top over the top.



Simply writing this blog post (twice) today has enticed me to want to explore how I feel in a few other style designs. You may soon see me in an 80’s style dropped V waisted dress or skirt, or a long lined pleated something…..?

Thank you so much for reading this, I hope it will help you with your future garment choices and that you are creating a wardrobe full of clothes that you love to wear, that help you to be your confident best person.

"All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because, God opposes the proud (haughty, boastful) but shows favour to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5


Love Suzanne

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