The Impact of Color Breaks in Dress

First you probably want to know what a “color break” is. It is the point in an outfit where color changes from one color to another. A simple example would be the place where a top meets a different colored bottom. White shirt…brown slacks….color break at the waist. Unless we wear an outfit that is all the same color, there will likely be color breaks at different areas of the body. Even a one color outfit can have a color break if it has obvious contrast with your skin. A short sleeved dark top has an obvious color break on your upper arm if your skin is light.
A color break attracts the eye and causes the eye to follow it. If it is horizontal like the one at your waist, the eye will follow from left to right. If it is vertical, like the one we see when a dark jacket front is left open to reveal a light top worn underneath, the eye of the viewer will follow it up and down. The impact of the break is of little importance when the two colors have very little contrast. It’s when colors of very obvious value or hue contrast meet that they will impact the ‘apparent’ visual shape of your body.
So why is this worth writing about? Because unless you have ideal body proportions, you can flatter your figure by paying attention to where color meets color in your outfits. Judicious color breaking can make you look taller, shorter, wider, or thinner. Parts of your body that you wish to look thinner should not have horizontal color breaks. Not just in obvious places like the waist or hips but other parts of the body. Heavy calves? Avoid capri length pants that put a horizontal break at the calf. Heavy upper arms? Avoid a short sleeve that breaks around the fullest part. Wide hips? Avoid contrasting jackets or over tops that that end at the fullest part of your hip.
Since far more of us need to use this trick as a visually slimming strategy I am focusing on that but the same rules apply if there are parts of your body that need widening. An example would be that rare bird with a very long slim neck. While this ‘body particular’  is considered by many to be a real asset when clothed in a deep plunging V neckline the visual result is overkill and the neck seems excessively or disproportionately long and slim.
Short legs? In the two photos above, in which photo does the woman appear to have shorter legs?  Left or right? This model has two color breaks that are impacting her horizontal proportions. First she has a top that contrasts with her bottom and the point of contrast is well below her waist…shortening her perceived leg length. Second, she is wearing capri length pants that do the same. While the contrast is not as extreme as it might be if the contrast were greater, as it would be in black and white, it is still impacting the perceived impression of her body proportions. In the picture to the left she has visually lengthened her upper body and shortened her lower body. In the picture to the right, I have changed the length of her top and that one step alone makes her legs appear longer and in better proportion.
If your legs are proportionately short there are only two ideal hem lengths if there is to be an obvious color break. Very short or very long. As in….no bermuda length shorts, capri length, or ‘high water’ pants. The horizontal break will visually shorten your legs. And if you are not at the beach; are over 25 years old or over weight….skip the short shorts.
This is not to say that you can’t wear shorter pant lengths in warm weather. It just means that if you do buy them, make sure there is very little color contrast to draw the eye between the color of the pant and the color of your skin. I’m focusing on strategies for short legs here because there are few women with long legs trying to make them look shorter but the truth is, women with very long legs and very short torsos could use these strategies to make their proportions appear more balanced.
Do you have a ‘body particular’ you find challenging to dress? Your welcome to tell me about it in the comment box and I will suggest the best color break strategy for you.

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