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The Beginner’s Guide to 4:1 Styling

This ratio will revolutionize the way you get dressed.

By Emma Steinbergs

At some point in junior high, you probably learned about the Fibonacci sequence and how the “golden ratio” can take credit for much of the beauty that surrounds us—from fledgling ferns to the pattern of a pinecone’s scales. Taking notes from nature, we can also use math to style some exquisite ensembles. Let us introduce you to our golden ratio: the 4:1 proportion.

The brainchild of our co-founder & Chief Creative Officer Miyako Nakamura, the 4:1 proportion is one of our seven foundational styling concepts and an easy way to look chic. Don’t let the definitive numbers trip you up; this ratio is not meant to be literal. Rather, “4” and “1” are stand-ins for two elements of clothing that vary significantly in visual weight. The basic idea: Pair pieces that contrast in length, width, or volume. For instance, try a tunic-length top with a short skirt, wear wide-leg jeans with a fitted top, or balance out a boxy blazer with skinny pants. Whichever route you choose, the result will be an aesthetically pleasing silhouette that sets you apart from the crowd.

Need some examples? Scroll to see eight outfit formulas that illustrate the magic of 4:1 styling.

1. Tunic Top + Short Skirt

Tunic-style tops sometimes get a bad rap for being shapeless and, therefore, styleless. We’re here to dispel that stereotype and show you that boxy tops can be incredibly chic. For example, when you pair the Tully top with the matching Whitney skirt, you create a charming, ‘60s-inspired set that lets you show a little leg while offering plenty of coverage. Want to layer in some extra sophistication? Add coordinating camel-colored accessories like the Rowan flats and Yuna earrings. Groovy but grown-up.

2. Boxy Blazer + Skinny Pant

Tossing a boyfriend blazer over sleek essentials is one of the easiest ways to look chic. To build a streamlined base, opt for high-quality staples like the Better Than Denim Hockley jeans, polished Leslie T-shirt, and Koio Capri sneakers. To achieve the 4:1 ratio, go with the slightly oversized, menswear-inspired O’Hara blazer, which establishes a noticeable contrast with your skinny pant. Optional: Give your cool-toned ensemble a finishing touch with the lapis lazuli Shinique earrings.

3. Fitted Knit + Wide-Leg Jean

Myth: Wide-leg pants make you look wider. Fact: They’re actually especially elongating—and exceedingly stylish to boot. In this case, we encourage you to try complementing wide-leg pants like the Milo jeans with a fitted shirt like the Malley top. This combination embodies the 4:1 ratio not only in terms of volume but also in terms of length, because the Milos’ high rise elongates your legs. Complete the look with elevated sneakers and statement earrings that match your top.

4. Short Sweater + Slip Skirt

Sometimes, customers tell us they prefer to steer clear of shorter sweater silhouettes. Before we write this off as a style preference, we want to clear the air: Styles like the Arbus sweater are specifically designed to be worn with high-rise bottoms. In the same way that tucking the Malley top into the Milo jeans has a lengthening effect, the slightly cropped Arbus sweater paired with the high-rise Orchard skirt gives you a long, elegant silhouette. Let your black and tan palette guide the rest of your outfit with coordinating black boots and everyday gold studs.

5. Lengthening Layers + Leggy Trouser

Here’s another way to put high-waisted pants to work in the 4:1 ratio. Tuck the lightweight Axam turtleneck into the Hortons and wear the cropped Nicky jacket on top for a layer that doesn’t truncate the top of your trousers. Thanks to these varied layers, you end up with a lengthening look that’s also visually interesting. For some additional texture, accessorize with animal-print flats and bold hoop earrings.

6. Cropped Jacket + Twirly Dress

Getting the most use out of your swingy, sleeveless dresses throughout the winter is as easy as adding a dark jacket. A shorter layer won’t distract from your dress and will form a beautiful 4:1 proportion. Try the Nyla dress in gingham paired with a cropped jacket like the Neale. For the rest, solid-colored flats and earrings will do the trick.

7. Oversized Sweater + Skinny Pant

This one’s a personal favorite of mine while working from home. A billowy, oversized sweater like the Lea feels like cloud nine and looks incredibly luxe on Zoom, especially with a pair of shiny hoop earrings. For my bottom half, I rely on slim, stretchy pants like the Skinny Fosters and a pair of slippers. It just so happens that this easy ensemble follows the principles of 4:1 styling and is easily elevated by swapping in some leather sneakers. Cozy meets put-together.

8. Sleek Tank + Cropped Culotte

If you love the idea of culottes but are never sure how to style them, here’s one foolproof way: Pair them with a sleek, tucked-in tank. A structured, sleeveless silhouette like the Malki top will stand in contrast to culottes like the Zhous, emphasizing their fluidity and movement. Tie together your tonal look with the textured Rowan flats and silver Lyssa earrings. If you want a layer, select the Woolf jardigan in ash, which matches back to your top and blends right into your carefully crafted look.

Written By

Emma Steinbergs

Emma is M.M.LaFleur's Brand Manager. She previously worked as an M.M. stylist and still loves thinking through styling challenges and solutions for customers.

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