Katy Guest: Empty your wardrobe of fashion myths

How scientists can help you dress to impress

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Not many people know this, but Peter Crouch did not leave QPR in 2001 because Portsmouth were the better team. He was worried about the stripes on the kit, you see: because they were horizontal, he was afraid that they made him look short.

If only Mr Crouch had waited for the latest research from York University, which shows this advice to be no more than a foolish myth. Last week, a psychologist showed that vertical stripes are not in fact slimming, and loops do not cause the wearer to look fat. The opposite is true. This explains why Crouch always seemed so stumpy when he played for Southampton.

Unfortunately for the style conscious and Peter Crouch, science proves fashion to be unnaturally tricksy when it comes to optical illusions and the art of concealment. For instance, Trinny and Susannah would have you believe that head-to-toe polyester knickers and an extravagant belt will give the appearance of being thin, slinky and therefore devilishly attractive to the opposite sex. The most cursory level of scientific research, such as wearing polyester knickers and trying to pull, will prove this not to be the case.

It is not just footballers and fashionistas who fall for these misleading rules, however. Among bankers, lawyers and the alumni of several minor public schools, a legend has built up that a pair of colourful socks can be an adequate replacement for a personality. This is not true. In addition, it was lately discovered that some members of the American political underclass hold far-fetched notions about the intellectualising effect of a pair of frameless spectacles. A style journal found to be circulating in Alaska made rash promises that such specs lend the kind of gravitas necessary to make an ordinary religiofascist hockey mom into a feasible deputy leader of the free world. Science shows this not to be so. However, science also shows that the world was not built in seven days, but that does not seem to have sunk in yet either.

In Britain, political leaders have also put too much credence in crude optical effects and colour therapy. No, Gordon Brown: standing next to a former leader of a different political hue does not make you appear bigger, cooler or more appealing to the general public, no matter how many times you do it or which prime ministerial residence you do it in. Likewise, Ed Balls: going on the telly in a pinny won't make people trust you.

Other photos taken of people in the public eye last week proved the following: being Queen does not make you suit hats, but it does mean no one will ever tell you; a bandeau top and no bra is never a good look for a waifish movie star who really wants to prove that she eats; the best thing for Heather Mills to wear would be a hair shirt; Kelly Brook can dress any way she chooses and still make the bloke next to her look like a jammy little git.

The fashion world, meanwhile, stands by for new announcements. Such as wearing stripes make you appear handsome; wearing black and white together makes you become rich; and that Peter Crouch has signed for Newcastle United.

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