Does the question in the title seem rhetorical? It sort of is. After all, isn’t it obvious that we should care? Proportion helps draw attention from our breasts to our other attributes. If our bodies conform to conventional proportions, people are more likely to notice our charm, wit and intelligence (for an amazing post about blending in for other reasons, see today’s post on The Beheld).
On the other hand, if you’re like me, rules make you feel rebellious. That’s why I was delighted last March to find a post entitled “Dressing Like a Feminist?” on the now defunct Fashionable Academics blog. The author, Shakespeare’s Feminine Ending, wrote her piece in response to another article, “How Do You Express Feminism in the Way You Dress?” She posted this photo of her outfit. My favorite excerpt from her piece is below it (emphasis added).
I really do think it is necessary to be acquainted with the wearer to know how exactly she expresses feminism through fashion, because there’s no way you can tell I’m a feminist by looking at me. One of the major emphases of this blog is that fashion is a verb and not a noun dictated by someone else; fashion is to self-fashion and part of that is rejecting bizarre expectations about what the female body, especially, should look like. I chose to photograph this outfit because I know that a women’s fashion magazine stylist would never do this: this skirt, leggings, and shoes on my body type make my legs look stubby and do not lengthen me. And while I know that rejecting all the ways I could “lengthen” my 5’0″ curvy frame is a fucking cardinal sin in their book, it is part of a pathology that I find ridiculous.
“Hear hear!” I thought when I first read this. Our bodies are beautiful. Why must we conform to what the media considers acceptable? If we want stumpy legs, let us have stumpy legs! If we want to display big boobs, let us display big boobs!
After publishing my last two posts about vertical proportion, however (here and here), I’m revisiting my initial response. No one is forcing anyone to conform to anything. If Shakespeare’s Feminine Ending wants to divide her body into three equal parts instead of following the Golden Mean, who is to stop her? And she looks cute doing it.
There is nothing inherently right or wrong about the proportions we choose when dressing. Proportions are just numbers: 2:3, 3:5, 1:2, etc.
However, if you’re like me and have always admired the way certain people dress, chances are they’re following the Golden Mean or strategically departing from it. For some, fashion is intuitive. For others, like me, it helps to understand the logic behind why certain looks are more appealing to me than others.
The danger comes when we think that we must follow certain principles at all costs and that our bodies are somehow defective for failing to do so naturally. Hence Carla Mathis’s emphasis on “easy to dress” rather than “ideal” body type in my last post on this subject.
So take my upcoming posts on this subject with a grain of salt. My intent is only to understand principles of proportion better and to experiment with them in dressing the full-busted body. If I begin to denigrate our body shape, please challenge me on this.
I would love for you to share your own experiments with these principles with us. Imogen Lamport has recently shared more of her knowledge on the subject of the Golden Mean here.