Clothing Can Create an Optical Illusion - Good or Bad

Sarah J. Doyle

Too frequently, even the most accomplished sewer finds the results of her efforts simply hanging in the closet or being worn self-consciously.


In most cases, such discouraging experiences cannot be blamed on the actual sewing, but rather on the optical illusion that was created because of the pattern design that was used, or the fabric chosen for the garment.

Keep in mind that every pattern design looks becoming on the models used on the pattern envelope; however, if you're like me, we all have lumps and bumps and problem areas that those models don't reveal. The planning stage of every garment should be done with the realization that garments nearly always create SOME kind of an optical illusion. The trick is to make sure the illusion will be flattering and not disappointing! Following are some examples of optical illusions that can occur with various types of sewing patterns and fabrics.

A "narrowing" effect occurs with princess or A-lines making one appear to be slimmer. Sleeveless, short or cap sleeves or tight sleeves call attention to, and display, the arms. If you have heavy upper arms or are self conscious about extra thin arms, find patterns that won't draw immediate attention to the arms.


Solid colors, vertical lines and narrow V-lines will heighten a body. Contrasting colors in tops and skirts as well as big bold prints, will shorten it.

Raglan and dolman sleeves will narrow the shoulders, while wide collars and padded shoulders give the illusion of wider shoulders.

A fabric that clings to the body can give a skeletal impression on too-thin body parts. However, around bulges, the clinging fabric can create cruel, framing shadows. A more loosely woven fabric will be kinder to the thin or thick areas.

Mandarin, turtleneck or scarf-tied collars, chokers and fussy necklines can shorten an already short neck, but be beneficial to a long one.

A jabot, splashy or bold prints, round and low necklines, or long ties on a scarf make busts look larger. Hips will seem to increase in girth with tight or full skirts and with trimmed skirts. The A-lines or princess style skirts will create a more slimming appearance.


Figures appear rounder and fuller in double breasted jackets and blouses, in large prints and plaids and full skirts.

Waists seem to expand with wide or conspicuous belts or buckles or with bulky or stiff fabrics. Dresses with several rows of elastic sewn at the waistline will appear to thicken the waist and shorten your height, while semi-fitted dresses with v-line designs and A-line skirt will give a thinner and taller appearance.

It takes a cool head to pass up a gorgeous fabric or attractive pattern, by allowing past experiences to come to mind and to realize that similar choices had proven disappointing. At the same time, remember which garments have been a joy to wear and have gotten countless compliments. Not all fabrics and patterns are suited to every body type, therefore it is up to each one of us to determine what will work for our particular body type. With the wide variety of fabrics and patterns available, there will be a very large selection to choose from, even though we are making a conscious decision to eliminate those few that really won't work for us.

About The Author: Sarah J. Doyle is author of over 25 sewing, craft and how-to books, as well as author of online pattern making, sewing and craft classes. Visit for information on books, classes, newsletters and the latest hints and tips and for additional free articles.

(c) Copyright 2004, Sarah J. Doyle. All Rights Reserved.


Add your voice! Click below to comment. ThriftyFun is powered by your wisdom!

Crafts SewingJuly 1, 2004
Zenni Optical Reviews
painting a room
Using Paint to Make a Room Appear Larger
Cleaning Glasses
Saving Money on Optical Lens Cleaner
Running to Make Your Legs Look Better
Making Your Legs Look Better
Halloween Ideas!
Ask a Question
Share a Post
You are viewing the desktop version of this page: View Mobile Site
© 1997-2016 by Cumuli, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Published by . Page generated on October 19, 2016 at 10:28:48 PM on in 2 seconds. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of ThriftyFun's Disclaimer and Privacy Policy. If you have any problems or suggestions feel free to Contact Us.
Loading Something Awesome!