The last thing any of us need right now is any more uncertainty in life, any more shifting sands under our feet, any more treasured truths thrown by the wayside. Unfortunately, there’s a new reality we all must now face.
Brace yourselves: Horizontal stripes do not make you look fat. And vertical stripes do not slim you down. Apparently, it’s the reverse that’s true – horizontal stripes actually make you look thinner. Really – it’s been scientifically proven. A psychologist at York University in England recently presented the results of a (small but I’ll buy it) study showing this. However, he does still back the idea that black makes you look thinner, so at least the whole world hasn’t gone topsy-turvy.
If you’re like me, you figured the time you wasted absorbing stupid fashion “rules” (in magazines in the old days; now whenever I’m tempted to an errant click) at least would be compensated for by a better appearance, and – or so conventional wisdom has it – that is supposed to offer some kind of concrete payback in the real world. Every so often I’d be tempted by some cute sailor stripes, or a multi-colored sweater, but steer myself away or eventually purge it from my wardrobe (when it comes to worries about looking fat it’s a lot easier to get rid of the stripes than the brownies).
And now it turns out I should have trusted my instincts. And just worn what I liked. What’s next? I suppose now I’ll find out I’m not really a winter – or that those colors are all wrong anyway. Or that a good bra doesn’t really matter? That no matter how hard you shop there isn’t a flattering pair of jeans for everyone? The right piece of jewelry can’t perk up an outfit? The only way to look ten pounds thinner is to – lose ten pounds? Believe me, I am no slave to fashion, but I always figure a few tips can’t hurt (like, if you wear a t-shirt with a stain that didn’t come out, can you pass it off as the pattern? can you wear white sweat socks with clogs if the socks are super cozy and keep your feet warm?); still, it looks like my secret vice – checking out Oprah-type makeovers – is even more of a waste than I thought.
Here’s another annoying part – researcher Peter Thompson was inspired to do his study because of an idea about optical illusions from the 19th century. The good old Helmholtz illusion shows that for two same-sized squares, the one with horizontal strips looks taller and thinner than the one with vertical stripes. Thus, notes Thompson, 19th-century German physicist and physician Hermann von Helmholtz was backing totally different – and more accurate – fashion tips than nowadays. So what happened? We all got confused? I wonder just how much popular wisdom (in all areas) is simply wrong, or what other (arguably) useful knowledge was once common but is now buried. Just when I was hoping Google and Wikipedia were the way to find all the answers, now it seems we’ll have to look further. Of course, there’s always the all-black wardrobe.