The Outfit Formula: The Rule of Thirds

Utilizing The Rule Of Thirds In Fashion

I’m back with another post in The Outfit Formula series. I really enjoyed thinking hard about what my next topic was going to be. Originally, I had set out to do actual outfit combinations, but then I started really thinking about what goes into putting an outfit together. So while there will definitely be more of the “this item + this item = outfit” post, I wanted to go a bit beyond that.  So today we’re going to talk about THE RULE OF THIRDS.


The rule of thirds actually comes up in architecture, photography, art and film. Your subject is divided into thirds as a composition tool. When you place your subject where the lines intersect, you create a visually appealing image.

Outfits are very much a form of visual expression, so we can easily apply that to what we’re wearing too. But how do we apply it to our looks?

How To Utilize The Rule In Your Outfits

When you look at yourself in the mirror, the middle mark of your body is key. With most of our bodies, that’s going to be right under our hips – yes, typically the widest part of our bodies. Here’s what we want to avoid: Creating a line in that area with our clothes. Instead we want to create a longer section that takes up about 2/3 of our body visually, and then the shorter section is the 1/3 section.

I’m going to take a guess and say that you’ve already been doing this without realizing there was a name for it.

The real key to the rule of thirds is to create a literal visual break in your outfit at either the end of the first third OR at the end of the second third. Most of the time if you’re not creating this visual break, your outfit might look a little…well, frumpy.

So what is a visual break, you might ask? If you look at your outfit from top to bottom, and there’s a change…that’s the visual break. The most obvious visual break would be color, BUT these are some visual breaks I use:

  • Where you place your belt
  • Where your top meets your bottom
  • Where your additional layer hits
  • Where you roll your sleeves to
  • Where a dress or skirt hits

High waisted pants and skirts are the easiest way to create a longer 2/3. Add a cropped top or top that can be tucked in, and there’s your 1/3.


Utilizing The Rule Of Thirds In Fashion

This outfit utilizes the rule of thirds because of the high waist pants belted at the smaller part of my waist and tucking in a tank. You can clearly see the visual break in this outfit, and also the illusion that I have longer legs…when I most definitely do not.


Okay I LOVED this dress so much, but it is NOT utilizing the rule of thirds. The ruffle layer hits at the widest part of my body (when it was already an oversized, flowy dress to begin with). While it’s a very pretty dress, it didn’t flatter any of my curves and gave me a wider appearance.

I hope these two examples helped! At first, it seems like this rule is a little dated, but I really do think you’re already utilizing concepts like the rule of thirds. It’s always good to keep this rule in the back of your mind for the days where you really just do not know what to wear or the days when nothing feels exactly right. The key is to really think about what you’re wearing – divide THE OUTFIT, NOT YOUR BODY. The rule of thirds really makes such a difference in your outfits!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.