It’s a long-held belief that stripes going across the body will make you look short and fat. But a researcher in the U.K. seemed to have proven that’s empirically untrue. He showed that quite the opposite is actually the case.
In 2008, Peter Thomson, a “perception expert” at the University of York took up the issue. He showed study volunteers 200 sets of pictures featuring women, all the same size, wearing horizontal and vertical stripes (in two separate outfits, of course). The vast majority of volunteers perceived the horizontally-striped women as thinner. He dug even deeper and found that even women wearing horizontal stripes who were 6 percent larger than those wearing vertical stripes could appear to be the same size. Audrey Lustig, who studies cognitive neuroscience, breaks the matter down even further at Ionpsych, if you’re interested.
The idea (which is counter-intuitive today) that vertical stripes make you look wider and horizontal stripes make you look thinner goes all the way back to Hermann von Helmholtz, who theorized as much in the 19th century. But we’ve been ignoring the “Helmholtz effect” for more than 100 years. Isn’t that that is just rude? But we may have good reason.
Last year, a woman named Val Waltham won the BBC Amateur Scientist Award for showing exactly the opposite. She put women in vertically and horizontally-striped outfits, took them out on the street and asked 500 passersby what they thought. In this case, the majority thought the horizontal stripes made women look bigger.
The difference between the two studies is that the 2008 version used images, while in 2012, Waltham used real women. It would seem the latter is a more accurate way to judge. But, as scientists always say, a single study doesn’t prove anything, and more research is needed!
Personally, I love Breton stripes and I feel strongly that if you find a stripe you like, you should wear it. Mama is Haute says even the French don’t find them too cliche to wear oftene—so you know they’re très chic.