Artists and mathematicians have been fascinated by the “golden ratio” for thousands of years. The golden ratio occurs in nature, and is a mathematical formula used by artists, designers, architects, and fashion designers in creating beauty. The golden ratio even has a role in vintage clothing.
What is this magic number? Technically it’s 1.1688. But for artistic uses it’s often simplified to this: 1:1.5, or a 2:3 ratio.
The Swiss architect Le Corbusier applied the golden ratio (as well as the related Fibonacci sequence) in his work. He believe the golden ratio naturally appeals to the human eye, and that people, regardless of culture, are drawn to it whether they know it as mathematical formula or not.
Corbusier’s idea is an intriguing one, and there’s a lot of evidence to support it. Art and science both recognize that faces and figures considered “beautiful” throughout history have features that relate to each other in the golden ratio. Leonardo da Vinci studied the golden ratio and depicted it in his famous Vitruvius Man (above).
Architecture, art, and design of all media also use a 2:3 ratio in many applications for good aesthetics. Floral designers are even taught to place stems in a 2:3 ratio to the height of a vase.
Vintage clothing fans will be interested to know that well-proportioned clothing has historically been based on the golden ratio.
Here’s a picture from a 1926 high school home economics textbook, in a chapter about proportion in clothing construction. The figure on the right captures it; the one on the left is off. The two sections of the dress at right are generally in golden-ratio proportion, and the sleeve divides the girl’s arm into golden ratio sections.