Determining your body’s vertical balance

We spend a lot of time learning how to dress for our body types. As a whole, this information has to do with balancing your body horizontally; however, it’s just as important to balance your figure vertically…in other words, dressing a short torso or a long torso.

In my many years as a Denver image consultant, I’ve seen very few women who have the perfect vertical proportion. Most women either have a short torso with long legs or a long torso with shorter legs.

For the very most flattering, slimming look, it’s just as important to dress your body vertically as it is to dress for your “body type.” When your legs are short, you tend to look shorter than you are, even if you’re average (or taller) height. You’ll look taller and slimmer by balancing your vertical proportions.

If your legs are extra long and your torso is short, you can appear top heavy potentially with a thick looking middle—by elongating the appearance of your torso, you look less bulky and hence slimmer.

long torso-balanced-short torso

long torso-balanced-short torso


Ah, but how do you know if you have a short or long torso? Much of the time it’s intuitive, but if not here are a few simple ways to determine if you’re short waisted or long waisted.

  1. In your birthday suit or bra and panties, take a look at your body in a full-length mirror. Does your torso seem to go on and on while your legs seem a bit short or are your legs long while your body seems a bit “scrunched” from your shoulders to your waist? If it’s the former, you have a long torso. The latter indicates a short torso.
  2. Should the measurement from the top of your head to your leg break be equal to the length from your leg break to the floor be the same, you are vertically balanced. Most likely you’ve been scratching your head at this post so far wondering what the big deal is!
  3. If you’re still unsure, bend over to your side. Put a tape measure or tie a ribbon around the spot where you bend…that’s your waist. (Where your belly button is, isn’t usually your waist.) Now, does your marker seem high or low on your body? High ribbon = short waist/low ribbon = long waist.

vertical proportions color


If you’re still uncertain, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do your blouses always come untucked?
  • If you’re over 5’8”, do you still have to hem regular length pants? (Have you ever tried on petite sized pants to avoid the alteration?)
  • If you answered yes to these questions, chances are highly likely you have a long torso and shorter legs.


  • Are regular length pants sometimes too short?
  • Do your tops bunch up (usually visible from the back) around your middle? Or are you naturally averse to tucking tops into your pants/skirts?
  • If you answered yes to this set of questions, most likely you have a short torso and long legs.

Now what?

Here, you can learn a trick if you have a short torso to find a great fit. 

My very next post is all about dressing to make your legs appear longer and your torso shorter—evening you out and giving the optical illusion of the perfect proportions, no matter what your size and shape!

Before You Go…

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5 comments on “Determining your body’s vertical balance

  1. At 5’3″ everything about me is short, from my torso, to my legs. With measurements at 40×32.5×40, I classify as a rectangular shape, except I have curves for days. It’s such a hassle finding clothes. For tshirts I shop in the mens department and can wear a small with no problems, in womens tops it’s a large or extra large. Pants, I wear mostly skinny and high waisted because otherwise I look like I have no waist, and even then the high waisted pants never come to my waist. I have gotten to the point that I have nearly every piece of clothing altered. It’s gotten to the point that shopping for clothing quite literally brings me to tears I get so frustrated.

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