Customer Watch: The Perfect Lengths for Necklaces

If you study great works of portraiture, you will notice that certain proportions are repeated time and again. From the standpoint of principles of art, these proportions are most pleasing to the eye.


The internationally renown image consultant Carla Mathis, AICI CIM, one of my personal mentors, has made a life work out of bringing the principles of art to the art of dressing. Her opus magnum, The Triumph of Individual Style, published in 1994, is used as a textbook at leading design schools. She introduced a number of concepts that defined the science and language that image consultants around the world use today.


Ms. Mathis coined the term “balance points” to describe options for the most flattering placement of necklines. The same placement principles apply to necklaces as they do to necklines. The effect of utilization of the balance points is to make a person’s head appear to be in balance with her body. 


Most universally applicable and easiest to understand is the concept of the “first balance point.” This balance point is derived from a measurement unique to each individual.


To obtain the first balance point, simply measure from the visible hairline to the bottom of the chin. If full bangs completely obscure the hairline, measure from the bottom of the bangs down. What you are measuring is the dimension of the visible length of the face.


Take that measurement and drop it down from the bottom of the chin to a point on the torso. The neckline or necklace that hits at that point is at the first balance point.


You can demonstrate this principle very easily using photographs of individuals or, as Ms. Mathis does, using examples derived from works of fine art.


One celebrity who gets it right is Joy Behar, of ABC-TV’s “The View.” Notice her style choices from day to day. Not only do they beautifully complement her coloring, but also the necklines consistently flatter her. 


     [Ms. Behar’s first balance point is measured from the top 
     of the visible portion of face, peeking through her bangs, 
     since the eye sees from that point to her chin as the length 
     of her face. (Photo by Jesse Grant,]


I have found that there are mitigating factors that make the first balance point unworkable for some women. For instance, if the customer is short waisted, the balance point may fall too low to be appropriate for business and may be uncomfortable if she prefers not to show cleavage.


For the majority of your customers, however, in determining the optimal length for a longer necklace or strand of pearls or beads, the first balance point is likely to provide a useful and objective point of reference.

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