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· Fashion Notes: Visual Depth

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Fashion Notes: Visual Depth
by The Kindly One


When I saw this image in the December 2009 issue of Lucky, it created more excitement in me than I've felt about fashion in a long time. I have long loved tie-dye (I went to a hippie middle school), and I love the visual depth the t-shirt creates against the jacket. Being small both in stature and frame, visual depth isn't something that's always been easy for me to achieve. I've generally assumed depth to mean mixing textures in an outfit, leading to experiments with cable knits and tweeds that have inevitably ended in either adding bulk to my frame or drowning it. Either way, I was overheated and depth was not had. My confusion was compounded by endless viewings of What Not To Wear, in which Stacy and Clinton create visual interest through a mix of textures (satin, chiffon, various wools) and really girly accessories. It wasn't until I saw this look that something in my head clicked; I finally got that creating the look of depth in an outfit doesn't have to come from adding texture itself. Instead, it's more about literally creating visual interest by wearing something that draws the eye inward. In this look, specifically the middle picture, depth was created both by the tie-dye pattern and the mix of patterns in complimentary tones. The tie-dye itself shows variation in depth between brightness of color and tone which naturally draws the eye inward. In addition, the jacket brings its own depth with its mottled pattern while staying in the same color family. This is one of the quickest ways to introduce depth to an outfit: remain within a single color theme while incorporating variations in pattern, texture, or tonality.


This Calvin Klein shift gives an idea of how depth can be created through pattern alone. The ombre pattern literally draws the eye into the shift, creating dimension. Likewise, the texture of the dress (puckered cotton voile) creates further dimension. This is the difference between visual depth and adding a "pop" to an outfit, as would What Not To Wear. A pop is a statement that screams from an outfit, be it a bold color, accessory, or item of clothing. Visual depth actually draws the eye into the outfit, causing the viewer to look closer and become engaged in the outfit.


Visual depth can also be created through wearing black and leather together. Though this is typically done with black leather, the contrast of the almost burgandy tone of the brown, as well as the cage design, work together to create depth against the dark tones and tweeds of this Rodarte dress. The reason why leathers work so well to create depth is because they cause the eye to stop wandering and focus on them, creating contrast against the other elements of the outfit. This is particularly true in all-black outfits. Whether matte or patent, leather attracts both light and shadow, and anything that attracts light will naturally contrast with matte black, which absorbs it. This contrast creates the illusion of depth, the effect being heightened in all-black outfits, in which the total look is the interplay of light and shadow - in effect, the definition of depth.


One of my favorite ways to achieve depth is to take one main color - here it's black - and work with tones that compliment it. Despite the difference in colors themselves, the reds, blues, and yellows of this Dries van Noten blouse are similar in tone (they are all colors that have had black added to darken them). When paired with black itself, the contrast is quite striking, and the eye is drawn into the top. This is probably the easiest way to achieve visual depth, as we all have basic, neutral tones in our wardrobes to work with. I also find this look the easiest on the eye (coat excepted); it requires the least thought, and all the tones work so well together that the outfit flows nicely, especially when contrasted with the more aggressive look of the jackets and t-shirts at the top.

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12/30/2009 [1]

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