How to Dress to Flatter Your Body, According to Science

One of the more rewarding aspects of working in fashion is that it encapsulates so much of life. It’s not just about what sweaters to pair with which skirts or the latest model muse to come down the runway; it’s so much more. That’s because even if you don’t work in the industry, you’re still involved in fashion as a consumer because you get dressed every day. Furthermore, the psychological implications of putting clothes on your body are significant. Even if you’re not trying to make an impression or look a certain way, you are still sending out a message.

Keeping that in mind, we perused the web for research and studies that had findings about how we perceive ourselves as well as how others see us. From a mood-lifting color that makes you seem more radiant to the silhouette that gives you a tinier waist, scroll down to see these scientific insights!

Don't Match Too Much


(Image credit: Style du Monde)

Psychologist Kurt Gray, alongside a team of researchers, found that individuals respond more positively to clothing combinations when they strike a good balance between "clashing and matchy-matchy,” or "simplicity and complexity.” AKA, don’t let different tones, textures, and prints scare you away—live a little!

Wear Yellow


(Image credit: Style du Monde)

Though wearing yellow won't necessarily make your legs look more shapely or your waist slimmer, the cheerful hue is scientifically proven to not only "raise blood pressure and pulse," but also has side effects that include positivity, energy, and happiness. Sounds good to us!

Embrace a Broad Shoulder


(Image credit: Style du Monde)

According to Karen Pine, a professor of developmental psychology, studies show that "a wide shoulder line creates a visual illusion that offsets wide hips.” This isn’t to say we think there’s anything wrong with hips (we’re big fans), however, this so-called illusion also makes your waistline look slimmer, which we’re not opposed to.

Go Monochrome


(Image credit: Style du Monde)

If your aim is to look slimmer, try wearing pieces all in the same color—it apparently "blurs the dividing lines."

Look for Diagonal Lines


(Image credit: Style du Monde)

Everyone pretty much agrees that vertical stripes are slimming and horizontal stripes are widening, but what about diagonal stripes? This academic text concludes that diagonal lines "attract attention to a specific feature." In other words, if you're wearing a coat with slanted lines emphasizing your waist—like Taylor Tomasi Hill above—you can easily be in control of what body parts to show off and conceal.

Nicole Kliest
Freelance Contributor

Nicole Kliest is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City who focuses on fashion, travel, food, wine, and pretty much anything else that's amusing to write about. After graduating from Pepperdine University with a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing, she started her career back in 2010 as Who What Wear's photo editor and throughout the last decade has contributed to publications including Fashionista, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, The Zoe Report, PopSugar, Fodor's Travel, and several others. She also copywrites and has worked with clients such as Frame, Sea, 3x1, Intelligentsia, and others to develop brand voices through storytelling and creative marketing. She's very passionate about the ways we can improve our sustainability efforts in the fashion industry as well as cultivating content that's diverse and inclusive of all people. When she's not checking out the latest restaurant opening in her West Village neighborhood or riding her bicycle along the West Side Highway, she can be found scheming her next trip somewhere around the world. (Up next is Vienna.)