When creating visual art, artists are guided by a few basic principles of composition.
Whether it’s photography, painting or sculpture, it’s important to keep these guidelines in mind in order to create a work that has visual appeal in a variety of ways.
And those who love fashion have the same goal of creating visual appeal that makes an impression.
Like artists, each individual has their own distinct style and aesthetic they want to represent, but both artists and style mavens alike can use the tried and true principles of art as guideposts.
When you hear the word, “Rhythm” you probably think of music, but when applied to visual art, it refers to the repetition of certain visual elements. You can incorporate the principle of rhythm to your look by thoughtfully repeating a color, shape or texture.
You may want to do this by pulling a color from a pattern in your dress and wearing jewelry in the same shade. Another easy way to ensure that your look has rhythm is to put together an outfit that uses matching shoes, bag and belt – if all 3 pieces are all in shades of brown suede, for example, it has an instant pleasing effect to the eye.
This is one principle that is immediately relatable to the world of fashion. Proportion means the size of objects in relation to one another. When we’re talking about personal style, it also means the size of pieces in relation to the body.
When it comes to looking good, proportion is critical, but is different for every person. Ultimately you want to pick pieces that are flattering to your form. So, if you’re a petite woman, you may want to avoid voluminous dresses that overwhelm your body or Capri pants that make your legs appear shorter. No one has a “perfect” body, so the idea is to use clothing to achieve the appearance of perfect proportions.
Finding a happy equilibrium is just as important in art and fashion as it is in your life. For artists, balance generally refers to the type of symmetry used in a work. Balance can be reached through symmetry or asymmetry.
When you want to apply this principle to your look, you should think about how you to balance both vertically and horizontally. Each piece should be thought of in terms of its “weight.” If you’re wearing a top that has a prominent pattern or embellishment, you’d want to avoid wearing a huge necklace or long, chandelier earrings, as this would throw off the balance and make your top half very “heavy.”
Variety is about keeping it interesting. Though some modern artists like to buck this rule and present a monochromatic canvas with one small circle of another color, most classical artists depend on the use of a variety of shapes, colors and textures to express beauty.
This principle is most definitely applicable to fashion as well. While there’s always a place for a chic monochromatic look, we generally want to go for looks that achieve visual interest. You can do this by wearing contrasting but complimentary colors or combining fabrics that are very different from one another. The value of variety can be demonstrated by the cool look of leather boots with a flowy, feminine sundress for example.
This one is, perhaps, the principle that ensures that artists following these guidelines don’t produce work that is merely pleasing to the eye, but noteworthy and unique. Regardless of the medium, the aim is to make one part stand out and catch the viewer’s attention for a particular reason.
The same is true for the creative fashionista – no stunning look is complete without one focal point that draws attention a tad more than others. The key is to have faith that one piece is doing its job and resist piling on the spotlight items. Bold and unique accessories can be a fantastic opportunity for emphasis because they can easily be rotated to create different looks for the same clothes. Step out of the box by trying a vintage-style hat or a multi-colored statement necklace.
Sometimes referred to as harmony, unity simply means that all the different elements in a piece of art come together in a pleasing, harmonious way. The challenge is for the work to be interesting without being too busy and synthesized without being boring.
We often face the same challenge when trying to put together the perfect outfit, don’t we? There is a fine line between too much and too little. It can be tough because there’s a certain je ne sais quoito this principle – you know it when you see it, but you can’t exactly describe it. One way to keep your look unified is to think of the mood or theme you’re going for first. If you’re shooting for rocker chic, for example, consider whether each piece of your outfit contributes to that aesthetic and remove what doesn’t.
About the Author: Nicole Betti is a style writer and frequent guest author on a variety of fashion and lifestyle blogs. She loves sharing her passion for great style and helping people to get inspired about their looks. Nicole is also the proud owner of Gold Coast Couture, an online boutique that specializes in designer hats, fascinators and clutches. Click here to check out the collection.