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The Golden Rule of Proportions

Photo: Phil Caramone

Many of us think that it takes innate talent to design a beautiful object. Talent does help, but great design really comes from a combination of design elements that anyone can master. One of the most important is proportion, and in clothing design, proportion is essential to a successful garment. Luckily, getting proportions "just right" isn't difficult; all it takes is an understanding of a formula that designers have used for ages: the "golden ratio".

Artists and scientists have observed this proportional ratio reflected in plant and animal morphology, including our own bodies. It appears in the spiral of a nautilus shell, the arrangement of seeds in a sunflower, and in the size of our teeth. Surrounded by this common structural pattern, we take comfort and pleasure in its familiar rhythm and balance. Indeed, what is technically no more than a mathematical description of relative sizes has become a guiding aesthetic principle -- a simple yet powerful one.

The golden ratio not only helps you recognize why an object looks beautiful but also provides a method for creating harmonious designs. For clothing design, you can use the ratio in two important ways: First, you can analyze your own body proportions and learn where your figure differs from the ideal. Then, you can work with the golden ratio to correct those proportions through the design of your clothes. It isn't complicated, and the knowledge you gain from trying the techniques shown on the following pages is priceless. Sandra Ericson shares how working with the golden ratio, you'll be able to make garments that look great on the hanger and, best of all, flatter your particular figure.

From Threads #141

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