This post on the importance of focal point is part III of the Personal Style 101 series.
The eyes are the window to the soul – or so the saying goes. But I think it is true. The eyes are one of the most expressive ways we communicate with one another – narrowed eyes in annoyance, eyes crinkled with laugh lines. Since our face and specifically our eyes are the truest way to communicate who we are, we want that to be the focus of any and every outfit we put together.
The face usually tends to be the focal point, but we can also have competing focal points – parts of the body or clothing that gets in the way and draws another’s eyes away from your beautiful face and to another somehow more compelling part.
We’ve all been there. I remember once getting this amazing pair of earrings that were big and bold. I wore them with my hair pulled back in a bun so that the earrings were on full display. They I tried to have a conversation with a co-worker and the whole time we just stared at my earrings, never once catching my eye during the conversation. While those are just earrings – many women have experienced similar situations with their body in which we wish we could slap the guy in the face and say, ‘hello, my eyes are up here.’
Well, that’s focal point.
We create focal points in a variety of manners. We can create it with an exposure of skin. Low cut tops can make our cleavage a focal point. A pair of earrings like mine, might be a competing focal point. A bold pattern or a unique necklace can also try and compete for a person’s attention.
Make Your Face the Main Focus
We want people to notice the color of our eyes before they notice the shape of our body or the great necklace we are wearing. So, the first step to personal style and focal point is picking items that will help move another person’s eye up to our face. This can be done in a variety of ways. A few examples:
- Wear colors close to the face that are flattering to your eye color and skin tone. This might be a scarf or a top that is ‘your’ color. For me, for instance, those colors are anything in the blue family. I look washed out and often pale in those things that below to the yellow family. Conversely anything in blue will enhance my natural coloring.
- Take time with your hair and makeup. I’m not saying every day you need to have salon-worthy hair and runway-ready makeup. But taking a little time to swipe on the mascara and run a brush through your hair with a little dry shampoo will do wonders for your face.
- Wear clothing that creates lines that run toward the face. This can be done with the strategic draping of a scarf or the lines of a sweater. Vertical lines, while also slimming, have the added benefit of drawing eyes up the length of you toward your face, further making your face the focal point of your look.
Avoid Competing Focal Points
To really make the face stand out, we want to avoid competing focal points, basically avoiding anything that will draw and capture another’s eyes to a place other than your face. A few things that can create competing focal points:
- Bold contrasting colors. Often if there is a break in pattern or colors that are vastly different the eye will be drawn to that area.
- Red and Yellow. For whatever reason, the eye is always drawn to red and yellow. We focus on those colors. So, for instance, having a belt that is yellow will draw attention away from the face and to our waistline. Most women don’t exactly want their waistline to be the primary area of focus.
- Large pieces of jewelry that take center stage. This is not to say don’t wear statement pieces. I love a good statement necklace and big earrings. But it does mean we should work to downplay them a little bit. If I had worn those earrings from the earlier example with my hair down they would have created less of a distraction while still giving me the chance to wear that item.
- Bare skin or sheer materials. A lot of skin or see-through clothing draws the eye – thanks human nature. Again, this is not to say that you have to be covered from head to toe, but it is good to consider how your exposed skin could be trying to compete with your face for someone’s attention.
- Eye catching patterns. Not everything that comes in a patterned design is a focal point, but there are certain patterns that can be more eye-catching than others. These don’t need to be completely avoided but rather toned down or blended into the look so that they don’t scream for attention. Perhaps that means layering a bold pattern under a jacket or vest. Also, it’s good to consider the design of the pattern to see if they create a visual or accentuate a place you’re not comfortable with. (You know patterns that seem to circle a woman’s chest, basically putting a neon sign there.)
- Words. T-shirts and pants that have words emblazoned across them, certainly create a focal point, that draws the eyes of those around us to that spot. Shirts with funny phrases on the front are also an invitation for everyone to look in that direction. Or pants with ‘Juicy ‘ in bold shimmering lettering across the rear, make a clear focal point and send a clear message.
How To Identify a Focal Point:
I admit, this can be a difficult thing to notice on your own. Once I was giving a talk about this and watched one of the attendees very discreetly move a really large brooch from it’s initial spot in the middle of her cleavage, to her side lapel. I’m sure she came to the fashion presentation in an outfit that she thought was fun and fashion forward. And it was, but the brooch planted there was certainly a focal point. Putting it on her lapel helped mitigate the focal point and brought the attention back to her eye. So, how can you identify a focal point? Two ideas:
- Take a picture of your look from head to toe. Give in a little time and then look at the image. Where are your eyes immediately drawn? Where do you subconsciously find your eyes drifting back to? Chances are those areas are a focal point. (You can practice this with magazine advertisements. It’s a great training ground.)
- Ask a trusted friend. Sometimes the best advice on what looks good comes from a great friend. Ask someone you trust, what spots are focal points to the outfit you are rocking.
What are your thoughts about focal point?