By Gillian Armour, CMFS

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I like to explore a variety of principles and elements of fashion design to style a client and make her look her very best. As both a stylist and teacher, I've always been interested in showing the "how" of the key components of fashion. One of the trickiest elements of fashion design is the diagonal line.

Fashion designers often create visual interest in a piece of clothing by using lines. For example, vertical pinstripes add dimension and the visual appearance of structure to wool fabric, which is why many men's suits are made with pinstripe fabric. Another example is using horizontal stripes in a T-shirt to add width and personality to a design. Other lines used in fashion to create a specific look include curved, circular, straight, radial, and diagonal. In this article, my focus is on the diagonal line and its ability to move the eye from one end of the line to the other.


Diagonal lines in fashion styling can correct figure issues with the illusion and movement of the eye. The same way a vertical necklace can elongate the look of a neckline, a diagonal line can move the eye away from posture imbalances, figure flaws, and other asymmetrical issues for a soothing balance of body and fashion. The effective placement of diagonal lines in fashion can create a flattering outfit, drawing viewers' attention away from problematic body issues, such as a short or long torso, slender or wide hips, wide or narrow shoulders, etc. 

Here are some styling guidelines for using diagonal lines to provide a more balanced look for your client:

•  Add a diagonal line from the side neck to the opposite side waist (wrap dress) to visually narrow the look of a wide shoulder.

•  Use two diagonal lines from the shoulder to the outer arm (shoulderless jacket or cold-shoulder top) to create a broader appearance of narrow shoulders.

•  Add a diagonal design from one shoulder to the opposite hip (asymmetric jacket) to make a thick waist appear thinner.

•  Add two diagonal design lines from one shoulder to the opposite bust and then from the bust to the opposite hip (side-closing jacket) to visually increase a too-thin waist.

•  Use a diagonal design line from the side waist to the opposite knee (asymmetric skirt) to lengthen the appearance of a short torso.

•  Add a diagonal line from the outer shoulder to the opposite waistline (wrap jacket) to shorten a long torso.


•  Use herringbone diagonal line print fabric in pants to make thin legs look thicker.

•  Part the hair on the side and create a bang line diagonally across the forehead to de-emphasize an unflattering jawline.


•  Slant a beret across the temple to disguise uneven eyes or eyebrows.

Another thing you may notice is that diagonal lines can create visual drama in an outfit. An asymmetric color block in fabric with two contrasting colors adds a "power" vibe to a jacket (popular in the nineties). Diagonal skirt hemlines (handkerchief hem) have been popular for several years. The blouse with a diagonal hemline that offers an interesting and sometimes quirky look continues to be a favorite among fashionistas.

The list of options is infinite. Try using diagonal lines in a variety of ways to suit whatever style issues you need to address. As you practice on yourself or a mannequin, you'll discover quite a few exciting possibilities of this design element.


Images courtesy of Fashion Group International