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The Rule of Thirds Creates Fashion Magic

By understanding the Rule of Thirds, you’ll find that making slight modifications like tucking in your top or switching shoes makes a significant impact on your overall look.

a woman wearing a white shirt and camisole tucked into a pair of cream high waisted pants and belt

You may have heard of the Rule of Thirds in photography, but did you know it also applies to fashion? In fact, mastering the Rule of Thirds is a styling trick that can take your look from fair to fabulous!

The Rule of Thirds could be considered magical as it is used to create optical illusions. You can apply this principle when creating outfits to change how tall, short, thin, or heavy you appear.

This rule essentially addresses the proportion of your outfit. No matter how chic the individual components of your outfit may be, if the proportions are off, they may leave the impression that something is off.

What is the Rule of Thirds in Fashion?

If you thought the Rule of Thirds was a photography term, you are right. It is a concept that splits an image into thirds on both the horizontal and vertical axes, yielding nine separate sections and four gridlines.

According to this rule, important elements should be positioned along the gridlines to enhance the photo.

The same is true in fashion. Positioning your clothing in certain ways can enhance your look.

The Rule of Thirds in fashion is a trick that starts by dividing your body into thirds, much like you would a canvas when painting or a letter being folded and put in an envelope.

The common assumption is that we divide clothes into two halves - top and bottom, but the Rule of Thirds asks us to consider styling in a new, creative way.

Understanding and Implementing the Rule of Thirds

Start by imagining that your body is separated into three distinct parts: from the head to the waist, from the waist to the knee, and from the knee to the feet.

Decide which third you most want to emphasize or which one is most flattering, such as a long graceful neck, a slim waist, or long legs. The objective is to emphasize the third you want to showcase while downplaying the other two thirds by creating a visual break.

When it comes to putting together outfits, a ⅓ to ⅔ ratio is the most aesthetically pleasing division. In fashion, odd numbers typically appear to be more natural.

This approach of experimenting with your clothes’ proportions is quite simple, and most of us have been using it without even realizing it. The trick here is to accomplish a visual break in your attire that makes sense, and you add a break at the bottom of the first third or second third of your outfit. Avoid creating a visual break in the middle of your outfits as this can make you look untidy.

Fashion is an art, not a science, so rest assured that your ratios don’t have to be exact. The Rule of Thirds is only a strategy that will help your wardrobe styling and create a difference that is visually appealing. Don't be afraid to try out new style techniques and keep experimenting to get the ideal balance for your body.

the bottom half of a woman wearing shorts and a blazer and heeled pumps

Creating a Visual Break

The fundamental idea behind the Rule of Thirds involves placing a visual break in our outfits. This can be accomplished through the use of layers, belts, or solid color blocks. You ideally want to divide the perception of your outfit into thirds by incorporating a visual break.

There are several fashion pieces and tips that will help you create visual breaks when assembling outfits.


Many women fail to use the Rule of Thirds when wearing pants. Always pair long pants with a shorter top or blouse that lands at the waist. Often women wear long tops to disguise their stomachs, but a top that extends past the hips has the opposite effect. This will result in an unattractive and uninspiring 50:50 ratio.

To wear a long top and still adhere to the Rule of Thirds, tuck the top into your pants. And, when wearing a jacket over a top and pants, make sure that the jacket either ends at the waist or extends past the hips. Anything in the middle will appear bulky and unattractive.


Long dresses can be attractive and comfortable, and adding a belt to a long dress will create a much more sophisticated outfit and incorporate the Rule of Thirds principle. Instead of having one long column, the belt creates the 1/3 to 2/3 ratio.

Cinch a long dress with the best belt for your body type to create a chic look. Or add a jacket that ends at the waist to achieve the 1/3 to 2/3 ratio.

Similar to dresses, jumpsuits can also follow the Rule of Thirds when the top of the jumpsuit is 1/3 and the bottom is ⅔. If the jumpsuit doesn’t have these proportions, a jacket or a belt can be added to obtain the right look.

a woman in a checked blue dress with a white belt


It can be challenging to find a skirt that is your style, flatters your body type and is a length that works easily with the Rule of Thirds. But, there are tricks you can employ to achieve a 1/3 to 2/3 ratio regardless of the length of your skirt.

If your skirt stops just above your knees, pair it with a jacket that extends below your hips so that the jacket is two-thirds of the ensemble and the skirt is the remaining third.

If the skirt falls below the knee, pair it with a top that is either tucked in or ends at the waist. If you do choose to add a jacket or cardigan to your look, make sure it is also waist length.


Knowing how to properly layer clothes is an essential fashion skill. When layering with a cardigan, there are a number of things to take into account. One factor is weather and one reason to wear a cardigan is to have an added layer of warmth on early mornings and late nights when the temperature can be chilly.

When styling an outfit using a cardigan, consider adding a long sweater that hits the ⅔ mark of your body.

Keep in mind that by adding a cardigan you create a second Rule of Thirds. The first Rule of Thirds, and the one that will catch the eye, is your underlayer, such as a blouse that is tucked in at the waist (⅓ of the outfit) and long pants (⅔ of the outfit). Both the top and pants ensemble and the cardigan on top can follow the Rule of Thirds.


What is the Rule of Thirds in fashion?

The Rule of Thirds has been employed for centuries and applied to things from fashion to home decor to writing.

It is believed that groups of three are more aesthetically pleasing than groups of two or four because of the manner in which our brains perceive, store, and interpret information. The smallest number needed to create a recurring pattern is three. When items are arranged in groups of three, it is simpler to recall them and it also looks better, which is why this rule is one of the most important in fashion.

woman wearing a pastel pink blazer with a black top and white pants

What is the 3 color rule in fashion?

The 3 color rule, though similarly named, is different from the Rule of Thirds. The 3 color rule asserts that you should never wear an outfit with more than three colors. The only exception to this rule is black and white since they aren’t technically colors.

What is the Golden Ratio for fashion?

Many styling experts use the Golden Ratio, which is more often referred to as the Rule of Thirds, to help balance proportions between various clothing items. The Golden Ratio states that a ratio of ⅓ to ⅔ is the most visually pleasing division in everything from architecture to photography to fashion. For example, instead of wearing a blouse that is hip length paired with long slacks, the Golden Ratio recommends tucking the top in or choosing a shorter top so that your outfit is broken up into ⅓ on top and ⅔ on the bottom.

Understanding the idea of the Rule of Thirds and being able to use it correctly requires time, patience, and perhaps a bit of courage if you are used to styling your outfits differently. Always keep in mind that fashion is an art, not a science, so any fashion rule is merely a suggestion and not a requirement.

Even if you prefer to style yourself according to your own rules, it can be useful to know a few simple fashion tricks for those days when your outfit doesn’t feel quite right.

By understanding the Rule of Thirds, you’ll find that making slight modifications like tucking in your top or switching shoes makes a significant impact on your overall look.

And when you are storing the items in your curated wardrobe, consider placing your most valuable and treasured items in high-quality bags when not in use or out of season. Hayden Hill hanging garment bags offer a sheer, organza side panel so you can see your pieces while in storage. In addition to being machine washable with detachable zipper pulls, our bags feature a wide, 4-inch gusset that allows you to store a variety of cherished garments.

a woman carrying a Hayden Hill Long Hanging Bag up stairs in a hotel
a Hayden Hill Organic Cotton Long Hanging Bag
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