I recently came across an interesting, and perhaps obvious factoid. The human eye is drawn to bare skin. This certainly should be true from a biological perspective, since the ultimate function of any species is reproduction, and nothing says ‘I’m getting lucky’ like a little nudity. And, I don’t think any social scientist would argue with me on this point either.
So, if we can draw ourselves away from salacious thoughts of Calvin Klein print ad models, let’s think about how this information can be used to the advantage of those of us not likely to be plastering our underwear clad backsides across a billboard any time this century.
If the eye is drawn to skin, it is especially going to be drawn to the transitions between flesh and fabric, since they also offer not only the former, but also a contrast of texture and color. So, we need to give thought to necklines and hems.
Let’s talk hems first. They should always be placed to draw attention to a narrower part of your body. So, if you have fat arms, as I do, your short sleeve should never end at the widest part of your arm. Bring it down closer to the elbow, and your arm will look much slimmer. Also, consider the bosoms. If you want to draw attention to them, end your sleeve even with the fullest bust point. Then you have that focus line pointing right to the girls. But, I don’t need the extra attention, so I’ll be sliding my sleeve cuff down.
The sweater pictured to the left is a lovely design, and the model is certainly trim and shapely, but the cap sleeve is doing her no favors. Not only is it cutting across a meaty section of the upper arm, it is moving at a diagonal, giving an even longer line than if it cut straight across. This is perhaps the hardest sleeve style to wear well. Also notice that if the diagonal line of the sleeve hem were to continue on, it would cross right over the bust. Again, not the sleeve style of choice for a woman trying to de-emphasize her bust line.
The hem of a knit skirt should also be even with a slim point of the leg. For most women, a length around the knee is most flattering. If you are younger and have good legs, you can go just above the knee. If not, you can go just below the knee. A skirt hem at the fullest part of the calf is very unflattering since it implies that your entire non-visible leg is that wide. And, full length is not attractive either if your ankles are not nicely shaped. (We are discussing fabric-to-skin transitions here, so we will defer discussion of sweater hems for another day, since I hope you are wearing something besides your Calvins below.)
Necklines are usually designed to draw attention to one of two areas – the face and the bust. Sometimes they enhance a shoulder, a back or a neck, but these are definitely the secondary players. Today let’s assume that we are ladylike, and want to focus attention on our lovely faces, rather than those other assets further south. (And for many of us, they slide even further south every day.) As we learned, bareness on the chest is going to draw the eye there. So, if there is no distracting cleavage, the eyes will move up to the face. With a wide neckline exposing lots of skin, such as a scoop or deep v-neck, the eye might linger for a moment or two. But, if you have a narrow linear opening, such as a slit or an unbuttoned cardigan, that vertical line is going to move the eye right up to the face. And, while I don’t mind the occasional admiring glance at my figure, whilst in conversation I would prefer the focus on my deep brown eyes.