Abstract and Figures

The aim of this paper is to identify the essential and vital information about body proportions, body assets and body liabilities so as to realize the good features to emphasize and the flaws to improve through effective optical illusions in clothing. This study was based on the premise that many people disregard their proportions and figure types and just go for any style of dress that may not befit them. In order to achieve the above aim, pertinent literature was reviewed, and interviews conducted to investigate whether or not people consciously select their clothes on the basis of their body proportions. Thirty (30) ladies were interviewed and observed. The result was that the population studied was not individualistic in their dresses. The people had diverse criteria for selecting their clothes which largely excluded consideration of their body proportions. In discussing the results, personality analysis chart was designed for use of fashion conscious persons. This is in relation to the proportions of identified fashion models, average figures and some philosophy on ideal beauty. Besides , design elements which serve as effective tools for optical illusions and recommended design ideas for shaping selected figures have been provided to guide people to go for the most appropriate dress styles that are distinct and individualistic.
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ACHIEVING A GOAL OF DISTINCTION IN YOUR DRESS
P. Osei-Poku and J. Adu-Agyem
Department of General Art Studies,
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana
ABSTRACT
The aim of this paper is to identify the essential and vital information about body proportions, body
assets and body liabilities so as to realize the good features to emphasize and the flaws to improve
through effective optical illusions in clothing. This study was based on the premise that many peo-
ple disregard their proportions and figure types and just go for any style of dress that may not befit
them. In order to achieve the above aim, pertinent literature was reviewed, and interviews conducted
to investigate whether or not people consciously select their clothes on the basis of their body pro-
portions. Thirty (30) ladies were interviewed and observed. The result was that the population stud-
ied was not individualistic in their dresses. The people had diverse criteria for selecting their clothes
which largely excluded consideration of their body proportions. In discussing the results, personal-
ity analysis chart was designed for use of fashion conscious persons. This is in relation to the pro-
portions of identified fashion models, average figures and some philosophy on ideal beauty. Be-
sides, design elements which serve as effective tools for optical illusions and recommended design
ideas for shaping selected figures have been provided to guide people to go for the most appropriate
dress styles that are distinct and individualistic.
Keywords:
Proportion, personality analysis, optical illusion, distinct dressing.
INTRODUCTION
It is important to achieve a goal of distinction in
dressing. Distinction, in the context of this study,
means individuality: dressing in the manner
which will flatter a figure and express the
wearer’s temperament and personality. Knowing
how to make the most of your looks means
knowing yourself, studying your physical and
personality characteristics so that you can make
your clothes work for you. Studies have shown
that generally people want to look good in their
appearances, but they do not know the right out-
fits that are suitable for their body proportions
and figure types. Some of the common com-
plaints are “my legs are too skinny”; “I am thin
and flat chested”; “my shoulders are too broad”;
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“my waist is very large” etc. These proportion
problems justify that clothes should be carefully
selected to harmonize with the wearer’s silhou-
ette or shape. Ideal silhouette is a unique system
of analyzing figure proportionality and identify-
ing styles that are flattering, pleasing and satisfy-
ing.
Most fashion mistakes happen when garments
are chosen because of the way they appear
“beautifully” on fashion models, dummies and/
or friends. Such mistakes can convey uncertainty
and confusion in the look of the wearer. Making
sure that your clothing fits you properly is the
first step in dressing for success. Proper fit
means appropriate size, shape, style and colour.
In choosing the right clothing, the following six
key points are very significant for consideration
(Corley, 2007):
Know your body shape
Evaluate yourself; know which physical
characteristics you should emphasize and
which you should not.
Determine your personal assets and liabili-
ties; do you have a long neck? Short waist?
Examine how your clothes fit; how each
item fits you.
Try on clothes from your wardrobe.
What looks best on you?
Good appearance also builds morale, helps us to
maintain our self respect and is important in
achieving success in our competitive system
whether we are competing in the social, politi-
cal, economic or marriage market (Hazen,
1998). Without a doubt, clothing is the most
prominent façade of our well being in the soci-
ety. It can camouflage, it can cover up and it can
build as much as it can destroy our image
(Noubikko, 2007). Whether it is fair or not, a
person’s first judgment of the other is based on
clothing. The rest including intellectual appre-
ciation comes only second. Jackson (1980) indi-
cates that few people have the perfect propor-
tions that would allow them to wear almost any-
thing, but they can create the illusion of average
proportion by applying fashion illusion to allow
the eye to see good appearances and minimize
body faults.
The scope of this paper is concerned primarily
with ladies clothes although some of the guiding
principles are applicable to men’s wear and other
categories of outfits. For instance, optical illusion
is generally employed in designs for both males
and females, including casual wear, traditional
wear, formal wear, bridal wear, children’s wear,
sports wear, evening wear, etc. Females have
been used for the research because they are more
fashion conscious than their male counterparts
and they are also very much engrossed in clothing
and attraction. Ladies outfits have a lot of intri-
cate designs which can camouflage or build an
image appropriately. Besides, figure proportions
of females normally transform as a result of re-
production or procreation. This transformation,
coupled with lack of regular physical exercises,
often creates imbalance in their physique, some of
which need critical examination for enhanced
designs.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Data Collection
Data needed for the study were collected from
both primary and secondary sources. A review of
pertinent literature was done. An interview guide
was designed and administered for the collection
of the primary data. Thirty (30) ladies were ran-
domly selected for interview. They were made up
of students, teachers, administrators, business
women, nurses and bankers. The interview was
conducted to find out whether or not the 30 re-
spondents have any knowledge of themselves in
terms of their body measurements, proportions,
assets and liabilities. Besides, do they have any
criteria for selecting their clothes? Furthermore,
an observational survey was conducted vigor-
ously to find out the various shapes the selected
population had in their individual figures.
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Achieving a goal of distinction in your dress Ose-Poku and Adu-Agyem
RESULTS
Starting with knowledge of body measurements,
5 (16.67%) respondents claimed to have some
knowledge of them whilst 25 (83.33%) respon-
dents did not have any idea. On figure propor-
tions, only 4 (13.33%) respondents said they
understood their proportions whilst as many as
26 (86.67%) did not have the slightest idea. Gen-
erally, it is certainly necessary for one to know
his/her body measurements so as to reduce the
mistakes of buying ill-fitted outfits. It is even
more helpful for individuals, especially, females
to understand their proportions as these are the
key to dressing themselves to their best advan-
tage.
Also, 6 (20%) respondents could identify their
body problems or liabilities as opposed to a high
24 (80%) who responded negatively. It was also
realized that 14 (46.67%) respondents could
identify their body assets but 16 (53.33%) could
not. Interestingly, all the 30 (100%) respondents
were of the view that selecting appropriate dress
style should be considered very important. This
is a positive signal which attests to the fact that
wearers want to look good in appearance but
there is inadequate knowledge in achieving this
goal.
Finally, on the question of criteria they use in
selecting their clothes, 10 (33.32%) of the respon-
dents declared that they consider designs that
look nice on models or dress stands. This was
followed by 8 (26.73%) opting for designs that
come with their (respondents’) favourite colours
and another 8 (26.73%) going for designs that are
in vogue. The least selected criteria, namely, de-
signers’ choice and expensive designs each had 2
(6.67%) respondents opting for it. On the whole,
the responses give the impression that the popula-
tion studied has different reasons for selecting
particular apparel and leaving the other (Table 1).
Readers may also have their own criteria which
may be similar to or different from the ones
above but whatever the reasons are the bottom
line is that they should go with their figure pro-
portions
.
Parameter Assessed
Responses
No. (%)
Body measurements
Figure proportions
Body liabilities
Body assets
Choice of appropriate dress style
Selection of clothes
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Very important
Not important
Designers’ choice
Taste for colours
Models’ beauty
Expensive designs
Designs in vogue
5 (16.67)
25 (83.33)
4 (13.33)
26 (86.67)
6 (20.00)
24 (80.00)
14 (46.67)
16 (53.33)
30 (100)
0 (0)
2 (6.67)
8 (26.67)
10 (33.32)
2 (6.67)
8 (26.67)
Table 1: Knowledge about costume selection
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Observational Survey
In observing the figure types of the population
studied, the following descriptions give an indi-
cation of the differences among them:
1. Three (3) figures had a well-balanced shape
with bust and hip circumference being simi-
lar and waist being smaller.
2. In nine (9) of the figures, shoulders were
smaller than the hips. Weight was visualized
to be concentrated at the hips and thigh ar-
eas.
3. Eight (8) figures had their bust looking lar-
ger than their hips.
4. Five (5) figures had their busts, waists and
hips circumference almost equal. Out of
these, one (1) was slender, two (2) heavy
and another two (2) average.
5. Two (2) figures had full busts and hips but
their waists were smaller in comparison.
6. Three (3) figures had large busts with thick
waists and hips but their legs appeared to be
slimmer.
DISCUSSION
It is established in this study that all fashion con-
scious people should do personal analysis to
have ideas of their individual body measure-
ments, proportions, assets and liabilities in order
to determine the distinct dress to wear. However,
to evaluate personal figure assets and problems
it is helpful to compare one’s measurements
with identified fashion models and average fig-
ures so as to ascertain whether the person is well
proportioned or not.
Natural History Magazine (1980) gives an estima-
tion of an average girl between the ages of 20-24
years and a high fashion girl with the age 23.5
years. Women’s Measurements for Garment and
Pattern Construction (1985) also documents esti-
mated measurements of an average woman. The
two estimations are done in terms of weight,
height, bust, waist, hip, thigh, calf and ankle as
shown in Table 2. Comparing the three figures, a
high fashion girl is the tallest, slimmest and light-
est. The average woman is heaviest in weight. It
should be noted that a good figure is not so much
a matter of actual height and weight as of good
proportion. In such pleasing proportioned figures,
there should also be rhythmic gradation of re-
strained curves.
Although the three categories of figure measure-
ments may seem remote, these forms and similar
ones have been carried through several genera-
tions and used world wide as models of beauty.
We entertain ourselves with various local, na-
tional and international beauty contests and shows
such as Miss. Ghana, Ghana’s Most Beautiful,
Miss Universe, Miss World etc. Besides, when
asked to name a beautiful celebrity or personality,
we tend to respond with the same answers (i.e.
slenderized, well shaped figures). This is certain
because we imagine the same standard that is
preset in our minds.
Jackson (1980) also holds the view that ideally,
shoulders should be just an inch wider than the
hips to allow the lines in the clothes to fall loosely
over the hips from the shoulders. Therefore, if the
Figure
Average girl
High fashion girl
Average woman
Weight
Height
Bust
Waist
Hip
Thigh
Calf
Ankle
123 Ibs.
5'3.6''
33.9''
26.4''
37.4''
21.6''
13.3''
9.2''
133.48 Ibs.
5'3.16''
35.62''
29.15''
38.82''
22.24''
13.45''
9.31''
120.1 Ibs.
5'7.75''
33.6''
24.1''
34.7''
19.3''
12.6''
8.1''
Table 2: Figure measurements for average girl, high fashion girl and average woman
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hips are more than an inch wider than the shoul-
ders, or vice versa, the need to take steps to give
the illusion of a better proportion is imperative.
The average leg length is half of the entire
height. If measurements reveal a discrepancy of
more than an inch either way, there will be the
need to use some camouflage, though slightly
longer legs are often pleasing. The well-
positioned waist falls in the middle between the
armpit and the point where the thigh joint
“breaks” from the hip and a variation of more
than an inch defines a person as either high-
waisted or low-waisted.
It is worthy of note that ideals of beauty are very
dynamic because the general taste of people also
changes and can be examined in the light of their
beliefs, culture and philosophy (Antubam,
1963). The ideal African woman is portrayed
very plump which signifies that she is well fed.
To be beautiful, she has to be plump and not
slim. She should have broad hips and noticeable
breasts (Ampaw, unpublished). The torso of the
female beauty must appear oval with the large
part of it tapering towards the neck. The thigh
from the waist line to the bottom of the knee-cap
should fall within an egg-shape with the wider
part towards the waist. The leg from the centre of
the knee-cap to the ground must also fall within
the egg-shape with the wider part tapering to-
wards the toes (Antubam, 1963). These different
schools of thought (considering slim or plump
figures as ideal beauty) lie in the eyes of the be-
holder. Irrespective of which school one belongs
to, the rationale for comparing body measure-
ments and/or proportions with the appropriate
above-mentioned scenarios helps in the creation
of an ideal silhouette.
In view of the need to create an ideal silhouette, a
chart (Table 3) has been designed to facilitate
how readers should analyze their figures in terms
of actual measurements, general description of
the figure, body assets and problems. The chart
Figure Actual
Measurement General Description Assets Problems
Height
Weight
Bust
Waistline
Derriere
Hips
Legs
Thigh
Calf
Ankle
Shoulders
Neck
Arms and
hands
Tall, average, short
Slender, average, overweight.
Prominent, average, small.
Large, average, small, long, short.
Flat, raised, dropped,
Wide, small, average.
Long, short, saddle legs, very thin legs, heavy
legs, bowed legs.
Heavy, average.
Thick, slender, well shaped.
Thick, slender, average.
Broader than hip and square,
Broader than hips and sloping,
Narrower than hips,
Short, long, thin, thick, average.
Unusually long, large, average, very thin, heavy
muscular
Table 3: Personal Analysis Chart
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should be filled by providing accurate measure-
ments and underlining the descriptions that ap-
ply to the figure in question. There will be the
need to engage someone briefly to help with the
body measurements, but the following should be
taken note of:
1. Metal tape measure is not appropriate. Al-
though it may be flexible, it will not con-
form to the body easily and will not give the
best results
2. The measuring tape must be laid flat against
the skin. It should not be pulled too tight or
left too loose.
3. Pen or pencil and paper must be close by so
that the measurement results could be writ-
ten down as they are measured.
You should also summarize by listing your as-
sets, the beautiful characteristics you would like
to emphasize, and problems or liabilities you
would like to improve or subordinate through
clothing. For example, write height under assets
if height is an asset to you and bust under prob-
lems if bust is a problem to you.
Now, you have qualities you like and features
you dislike according to your philosophy of an
ideal beauty. Illusion can effectively stress your
strong points and armour your weak points. To
benefit from the effects of illusions, two rules
should be followed (Rasband, 1994).
1. You should direct observer’s eye to the inter-
esting features on the body
2.
Use the eyes’ focal points to draw attention
away from figure flaws.
These can be achieved through effective use of
line, colour and texture in the following guiding
principles:
Effects of line
By conventional definition, a line is the path left
by a moving point. You put down your pencil on
a sheet of paper and move its point across the
paper to make a line. Line is so basic to art that it
is difficult to conceive of any work of art not hav-
ing lines.
The wise selection of line in clothing can create
optical illusions to flatter your appearance using
line in the garment silhouette and garment detail.
Silhouette is the outline of the garment. Details
include seam lines and garment features such as
(a) (b) (a) (b)
Fig. 1:
(a) Vertical line allows the eye to move along its
axis without interruption.
(b) The eye can move from left to right when a
vertical line is topped with a horizontal line
thus, widening the figure.
Fig. 2
(a) The magic “Y” creates a feeling of height
(b) The sooner the eye encounters a horizontal line,
the shorter the figure will appear.
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pockets, collars, belts, pleats, gathers, fabric
prints, decorations and openings. Generally,
vertical lines in attractive and eye-catching col-
ours, which carry the eye up the figure without
interruption, will give a taller and more slender
illusion. Lines which stop the eye from traveling
upward by moving the eye from side to side (e.g.
horizontal lines) or back down will create a
shorter and heavier illusion (Wright, 2001).
Both the detail lines and the silhouette influence
the optical illusion created when a garment is
worn as shown in Figures 1-4.
Effects of colour
Colour is one of the first things people notice
about clothing. The use of colour can create illu-
sions of the figure size in the same way line
does. White is more expansive than black. An
apparel will look larger in a light colour whiles a
dark colour appears to diminish an apparel.
Monochromatic dressing is more slimming and
elongating than dressing in contrasting colour
blocks or pattern blocks. Solid colours tend to
make you look thinner and taller, especially
when the same colour is worn from head to toe.
Dividing the body into numerous colours can
shorten and widen the body. To look taller and
slimmer, avoid big prints and stick to solid col-
ours. Black and white is the most dramatic colour
combination because it has maximum value con-
trast (Noubikko, 2007).
Effects of Texture
The effects of texture in clothing influence how
colours appear and how design lines function.
Texture describes the body and surface of fabric.
Textures may be rough or smooth, coarse or fine,
crisp or clingy, soft or stiff, thin or bulky, opaque
or sheer, shiny or dull, heavy or light or any com-
bination of these characteristics (Wright, 2001).
Soft and clingy textures reveal the figure and em-
phasize figure irregularities. Stiff and crisp tex-
ture stand away from the body and hide figure
irregularities. Bulky textures seem to add volume
to the figure. Small figures are overpowered by
these textures. Dull finishes absorb light and gen-
erally make the figure look smaller. Shinny fab-
rics make the figure appear larger and reveal fig-
ure irregularities. Coarse or rough fabrics are
good choices for average to slim figures. They
add volume to large figures and overpower small
figures. Smooth (not shiny) fabrics hide figure
(a) (b) (a) (b)
Fig. 3
(a) The closer the vertical lines, the slimmer
the figure will appear.
(b) The wider the vertical lines, the broader
the figure.
Fig. 4: Vertical line suddenly appears shorter
when the eye is forced downward
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irregularities and are attractive on most figure
types.
RECOMMENDATIONS
Using the effects of line, colour and texture in
camouflaging figure flaws, and stressing strong
points, the following alternative design ideas
have been recommended for the respective
physical characteristics.
Petite woman
Petite woman is small and thin. She needs to
keep clothes in line, slim narrow belts. She
should have vertical patterns or vertical seaming
to make her appear taller. One colour or a slight
contrast in colours will flatter her endlessly.
Also, fabrics that are soft and flowing should fit
well. Solid prints rather than large, splashy
prints are good.
Tall woman
Tall woman can indulge in wide belts; avoid
tight clothes and skirts that are too short or too
long. If your height is more than what you want
avoid heels and minimize use of padding on
your shoulders. If you are very thin, fullness and
shortness are your tricks of illusion. Also, wear
horizontally striped designs and patterns to
counteract the effect of tallness which may seem
superfluous.
Large bust
The goal is to divert the eye downward to bal-
ance the bust with the rest of your body. Wear
slender trousers and skirts for a slim silhouette,
and pick tops that are a little loose in dark col-
ours. You can also lead the eye away with pretty
collars, subtly gathered shoulders, or with col-
ours that flatter and draw attention to your face
and eyes. Try to avoid belts for they will cut
you in half and keep the focus on your chest.
Tiny bust
Soft shirring from the shoulder lines or from
yokes is advisable. Details such as tucking, gath-
ers, simple layered embroidery, pockets and
light colour on top create a bigger bust silhouette.
Padded, capped, wide collars and ruffle fronts can
balance your figure.
Broad shoulders
V-neck tops will break the visual line of the
shoulders and make them look narrow. Wear a
darker colour top and a lighter colour bottom.
Look for bottoms that balance your shoulder line.
Fuller skirts, wide-legged trousers, etc. will help
create a balance line and help your waist look
narrow. Avoid broad-shouldered tops (like one
without shoulder pads) and double-breasted jack-
ets, both of which emphasize the shoulder line
and draw a lot of attention to the top of your
body.
Narrow shoulders
Narrow collars and lapels, raglan sleeves, kimono
sleeves, flared peplums are good. Padded shoul-
ders can balance with horizontal lines in skirt.
Large hips
A woman with large hips can use clothes with
vertical lines to make an up and down illusion.
Clothes with small padded shoulders should be
chosen. Wear long tops that go pass your hips.
Lighter colours on top can be worn. This brings
eyes up. Choose accessories close to the same
colour clothes you are wearing including shoes.
This gives your body an unbroken slimmer look.
Stay with straight skirts.
Narrow hips
Soft front fullness such as gathers, pleats and
frills are pleasing designs to widen the hip line.
Skirts should have details including large patterns
and horizontal lines.
CONCLUSION
Fitted and distinct clothes should be the concern
of all because it is a means of self-expression.
Although the study was conducted with limited
population the outcome is significant for majority
of people who are assumed to possess similar
ideas, characteristics and philosophies and for
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which matter they can also benefit immensely. It
is always better to wear one interesting outfit
than several other different outfits. One thing
makes one best statement about your personal-
ity, and too many things make too many state-
ments. You should never get worried about
wearing the same line all the time, if that is the
most flattering line for you. You can get variety
through fabric, colour and detail. No one notices
the line of your outfit if it looks good, but people
invariably notice clothes that are unflattering.
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Antubam, K. (1963). Ghana’s Heritage of Cul-
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Corley, C. F. (2007). Dress for Success, Career
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Zealand, pp. 1-10.
Hazen, G. G. (1998). Fantastic Fit for Every-
body, Rodale Press, USA, p. 10.
Jackson, C. (1980). Colour Me Beautiful, First
Ballantine Books Edition, USA, p. 96.
Natural History Magazine (1980). Measurements
from Bureau of Home Economics, United
States Department of Agriculture, p. 18.
Noubikko, (2007). Body Camouflage, Noubikko
Corporation, USA, p. 2.
Rasband, J. (1994). Fabulous Fit, Fairchild Press,
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Women’s Measurements for Garment and Pattern
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(1985). United States Department of Agricul-
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Wright, S. (2001). Extension Clothing and Tex-
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Journal of Science and Technology, Vol. 28, No. 2, August, 2008
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Achieving a goal of distinction in your dress Ose-Poku and Adu-Agyem
Article
Full-text available
Clothing is an important factor in the interpretation of body image which affects the response behaviour of the beholder. A person's appearance profoundly affects the way he or she is treated by others at home, social gathering, market, job area, office or school. Selecting clothing requires careful considerations. The purpose of the study was to find out external influences on students' choice of clothing in Takoradi Polytechnic. The research design was descriptive. Questionnaires and focus group discussion guide were used. Departments of Fashion and Accounting participated with respondents chosen through stratified random sampling. Sample consisted of 207 with a total population of 699 students, 77 males and 130 females. Study revealed students dress casually for lectures instead of formally because casual wear could take any form. Male students' were normally driven internally indicating individuality while female students were mostly externally directed. Both sexes would least choose clothing for warm relationship. The more individuals they were aware of their inner feelings, the more differentiation they exhibited in their choice of clothing. This is contrary to the general perception that students or the youth choice of clothing is socially driven. However, some external factors were also quite significant in students' choices and should be given close attention if youth clothing are undesirable. This calls for continues education to streamline vital issues that are of significance to academic institutions and the African society as a whole.
Ghana's Heritage of Culture
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Antubam, K. (1963). Ghana's Heritage of Culture, Kochler and Amelang, Leipzig, pp. 89-93
Dress for Success, Career Services
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Corley, C. F. (2007). Dress for Success, Career Services, Sacramento City College, New Zealand, pp. 1-10.
Fantastic Fit for Everybody
  • G G Hazen
Hazen, G. G. (1998). Fantastic Fit for Everybody, Rodale Press, USA, p. 10.
Colour Me Beautiful, First Ballantine Books Edition
  • C Jackson
Jackson, C. (1980). Colour Me Beautiful, First Ballantine Books Edition, USA, p. 96.
Measurements from Bureau of Home Economics, United States Department of Agriculture
Natural History Magazine (1980). Measurements from Bureau of Home Economics, United States Department of Agriculture, p. 18.
Extension Clothing and Textiles Management
  • S Wright
Wright, S. (2001). Extension Clothing and Textiles Management, New Mexico State University, USA, pp. 1-4.
Body Camouflage, Noubikko Corporation, USA
  • Noubikko
Noubikko, (2007). Body Camouflage, Noubikko Corporation, USA, p. 2.