Achieving balance is one of the simplest ways to enhance an ensemble. Let one element dominate a look while the others play supporting roles or, conversely, let the elements play in harmony. I have compiled a list of my favorite elements to balance: Volume, Light and Dark, Brights, Shine, Pattern, Texture, the Statement Piece and Skin. And since the Fall 2012 Couture season is upon us, I thought, what better way to demonstrate the principle of balance than haute couture?
A symmetrical display of Shine, Armani Prive Fall 2012.
An asymmetric use of Volume and Bright color, Christian Dior Couture Fall 2012.
Before we begin, I will cover the two types of balance: symmetrical and asymmetrical. When piecing together an outfit, I think of it as this: using an equal amount of each kind of piece (symmetrical) or utilizing the majority of one piece and only a pop of the other (asymmetrical.) If you are lost already, do not worry, I will give plenty of examples for each and you will be a balancing master in no time.
This oversized coat is balanced by keeping the legs nearly bare, Chanel Couture Fall 2012.
This otherwise slim silhouette is given a hint of volume with an embellished skirt at the waist, Christian Dior Couture Fall 2012.
Volume: The easiest way to balance, as it is often the most visually obvious. Pair something slim or fitted with something flowy, poofy or bulky. Symmetrical: Think ‘70s references with wide leg trousers and slim tops. For a modern, casual take, try skinny jeans and a flowy, dolman sleeve tee. Asymmetrical: A peplum extending from a fitted jacket, paired with a fitted pencil skirt adds interest to your office attire.
The Light and Dark are distributed equally in this ensemble, Bouchra Jarrar Couture Fall 2012.
The black is clearly dominant here, although the white bow is successful in making its own statement and therefore balancing the outfit in Light and Dark, Chanel Couture Fall 2012.
Light and Dark: Another fairly simple one, you may be doing it already without even knowing it. Keep in mind, there is a greater chance of coordinating pieces if there is contrast; Light and Dark for instance. So stop worrying about matching colors and start thinking about balancing Lights and Darks. Symmetrical: When in doubt, go with dark jeans and a white tee, a classic. A moody maroon chiffon blouse and cropped khakis will be on trend for fall. Asymmetrical: Pairing your all-white, breezy summer ensemble with a black belt adds instant polish.
This look is well balanced between the black and Bright blue, Armani Prive Fall 2012.
Although the Bright orange does not dominate this coat’s surface area, its widespread, random placement makes it look as if it does, achieving visual balance, Maison Martin Margiela Couture Fall 2012.
Brights: Akin to Lights and Darks in coordinating, Brights can be balanced with a neutral, or simply a more muted color. Symmetrical: A color blocked shift dress, the bodice in lipstick red and the skirt in black, can work the office with a cardigan or go out at night with stilettos. Asymmetrical: Adding bright cobalt pumps to your little black dress takes it to another level.
This dress restricts the embellishments to the bodice, an easy way to balance the Shine, Elie Saab Couture Fall 2012.
The long, all-black dress carries visual weight, but adding a little Shine at the neckline detracts from it, balancing the look and drawing the eye up, Armani Prive Fall 2012.
Shine: It is always fun to add Shine to your outfit but it is pertinent to also balance that sparkle. Symmetrical: A sequin tank with tailored shorts is great for a night out. Asymmetrical: For allover Shine, go with an iridescent dress and pair it with nude shoes. For the less adventurous, opt for a metallic accessory; silver flats, a rose gold clutch, a rhinestone headband, and of course you can always add sparkle with jewelry.
A patterned pant, balanced by a solid blouse, Chanel Couture Fall 2012.
Although the plaid is the dominate pattern, the stripes are a nice compliment since they share a color scheme and are of a varying scale, Chanel Couture Fall 2012
Pattern: Patterns can be balanced with solid colors, metallics, or even other patterns; there are so many options. The key to balancing one pattern with another is to pair together patterns of differing scale—big patterns with little patterns. It also helps to put patterns together that share one color or a color scheme. And as a general rule, I try not to mix my animals. Symmetrical: An ikat patterned skirt with a solid tee and metallic sandals creates a fresh summer ensemble. A large-scale striped tee paired with a small-scale polka-dot print cropped skinny pant makes for spot-on pattern mixing. Asymmetrical: Pairing a plaid scarf with a navy pea coat. A leopard print wrap dress with some solid peep toes.
The Texture created by the center column of paillettes is offset by the flat surfaces on either side, Chanel Couture Fall 2012.
The plush corseted jumpsuit, chiffon blouse, and leather vest all meet to form a variety of textures in this outfit, and being one color, they harmonize beautifully, Jean Paul Gaultier Couture Fall 2012.
Texture: Texture does not always have to mean rough. Soft and silky pieces have great texture, as well. And when paired with rougher pieces, they are enhanced by the contrast. Symmetrical: A chiffon blouse with tweed trousers creates perfect textural balance. Asymmetrical: A straw tote adds dimension to your summer ensemble.
Any one of these pieces would make a beautiful Statement on their own: the Bright red jacket, the gold belt or gold pumps. But since the styling is kept to a minimum, this girl can rock all three at once. Christian Dior Couture Fall 2012.
So maybe we don’t all have a crystal headpiece to pull out on special occasions, but I am sure we all have a Statement necklace hidden away somewhere–but why wait for a special occasion? Throw it on over a tee and jeans, Maison Martin Margiela Couture Fall 2012.
Statement Piece: This one is so versatile, you will be able to take what you learned from balancing all the elements above and apply it to your Statement Piece—or pieces. Symmetrical: Here is where it gets a little tricky. Typically a Statement Piece is just that—one piece. However, there are ways around it. Keep your outfit neutral and space out your pieces, and you can probably get away with a couple pieces. Try sporting a LBD with embellished shoes and some ridiculous earrings. Asymmetrical: This is the easy part, pick one piece and rock it. A chunky ring, a hunk of bangles, or some killer patent thigh highs—what will your Statement Piece be?
This girl knows how to work the deep V with some class. thanks to a little balance, Elie Saab Couture Fall 2012.
She may look all covered-up, but those asymmetrical cut-outs reveal a little more, Valentino Couture Fall 2012.
Skin: This one can be treated much like the Statement Piece. It is perfectly acceptable to show/accentuate a little Skin, but please, one body part per outfit—shoulders, back, legs, breast, butt and midriff. The chic factor of your ensemble will instantly skyrocket if you keep your Skin balance in check. Basically, the balancing here is all in the visual tricks. Symmetrical: Showing off shoulders in a strapless, to-the-knee A-line dress is a timeless choice for any formal occasion. Baring legs in tailored shorts and pumps, while keeping covered up top in a crewneck tee and blazer is classic with an edge. Asymmetrical: A one-shouldered maxi gives you asymmetrical exposure. A long-sleeved, fitted gown with irregular cut-outs in the midriff adds interest and subtle sex appeal.
Instead of juggling your wardrobe, hopefully you are now balancing it with confidence.
Much love and good shoes,
*All images courtesy of Style.com