Quite honestly, before I took my initial image consulting training, I was simply clueless about the term “short waisted.” What was even crazier was that my mom, who had taught me tons about style, used it all the time! But once I was able to understand it…a whole new world of dressing opened up! I’ll also admit that learning how to dress for this body type and lengthen my own short torso helped me feel better about my sometimes-chubby middle.
This post explains how to determine if you’re short waisted, or you have a short torso and longer legs; or if you’re long waisted and your legs are most likely short. Even though having long legs is a great asset, having an accompanying short torso can make your upper body look a bit squashed and disproportional…and in my case it can be a bit frustrating sometimes.
In my 15 years as a personal stylist and image consultant, I’ve found that a good majority of my clients have shorter waists vs. longer waists. (And if it makes you feel any better, very few of my clients’ waists are vertically balanced.) But I’ve also learned it’s easiest to remember just a few tips rather than me giving you every strategy in my quiver for evening out your upper and lower body.
So here are my 6 most stylish tips for dressing your short waisted figure. (Oh, and I love breaking “rules” so I’ve added in a few ways to break the rules I’m sharing today!)
6 stylish tips for dressing your short waisted figure
Embrace the V-neck: A v-neck not only elongates your neck, but it also keeps the eye traveling up and down your torso making it appear longer. The #1 neckline to avoid, (for so many reasons) is a boat neck. This neckline creates a horizontal line across your shoulders shortening the distance between your neck and waist.
Wear vertical accessories or those that create a low V: Long, skinny scarves are perfect as are long pendant necklaces. These accessories do the same thing for you as a V-neck…especially if you’re breaking my rule by wearing a high neck! (Hey! V-necks are somewhat scarce and deep v’s can be a little cold in the winter!)
Look for tops that hit right around your hipbone or a little longer: (The petite department can be a solution for tops sometimes.) Hip length jackets and sweaters are also a better length than the cropped or waist length versions. Again, we simply want to visually lengthen your torso.
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Or click here to see and shop a wide variety of items I recommend for your fabulous, short waisted self!
Mid-rise or even low-rise pants are better than high waisted pants or jeans: You’ll have a lot more open space from your bust-line to the top of your pants. I know it may not seem like it would matter how high the rise of a pant is if you’re wearing your tops on the outside, but it truly makes a difference. A mid or low-rise (although a bit hard to find these days,) will also most likely be more comfortable!
If you prefer high waisted pants or are having trouble finding mid-rise pants, here is how to wear them even if you’re short waisted.
Avoid belts: (You knew this one was coming, right?) A belt at your natural waist draws a line that cuts you and completely emphasizes your mini-torso and long legs.
Should you have a love affair with belts, try to wear a belt that matches your top instead of one that matches your bottom. A thin belt worn loosely at your waist will dip down a bit and create a nice V, (finding just the right belt to make this work is a bit tricky.) You can also wear low slung, hip belts; however they mostly had their heyday in the ‘80’s.
Wear your tops out instead of tucking them in: (You’ve probably wondered why tucking never feels right anyway.) Not only does leaving your top out visually lengthen your torso, but it’s more comfortable and slims your tummy as well.
Bonus Tip: A solid color dress, especially one without a set in waist, will create an uninterrupted column of color, making you look long and lean. For that matter, creating a column of color or a matching top and bottom will also do the same trick and is a universally flattering styling technique.
Even though I have a lot more ways to help you create a more vertically balanced appearance, these 6 tips are easy to remember and easy to apply. Hopefully you’ll find them to be as liberating as I did, and if you want more tips or ways to break the rules, contact me to learn how.
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33 comments on “6 Style Tips for Short Waisted Women”
Thanks for responding to my request for tips to help my body type. Except for choosing deep v- necks( not advisable for busty women, in my opinion) I’ve kind of stumbled into these strategies over the years. Glad to know I’m on the right track.
Agreed, deep v-‘s don’t always work for busty women. I wouldn’t discount them altogether, though. Every body is different. Plus a camisole might in a matching fabric to the top can give you just the right amount of coverage.
Agree with all the tips except for high waisted jeans. I find they tuck in the tummy nicely and with tops worn over them (hip length or longer) it is a much more polished look. I am good with mid rise and/or high rise, but low rise a definite no no. They are not comfortable and don’t tuck mid section in nicely.
Thanks for your comment. Everyone’s body is built differently, even those who are in the short waisted category. (Ah, that’s what makes us all wonderful and unique!) For example, I am short waisted and find high rise uncomfortable because they often ride on my ribs, or the waistband sits high on my waist (which isn’t as small as most pants are proportioned,) to the waists are tight. You may have a small waist, so high rise must work well for you. Great that you’ve found some solutions!
Thanks for these tips. I agree with all of them. I find the same thing happens to me when I wear high-waisted pants. However, they seem to be the best of the worst. I can’t wear low waist pants at all — they don’t fit over my hips and mid-rise feels like it’s falling off when I walk or sit. I have yet to find great fitting jeans or pants for that reason. The high waist pants seem to be the best of the worst but they seem hard to find. The other issue is that I now have the dreaded muffin top making what used to be a small waist much wider now. I’m also petite with long legs so I wear regular more typically than petite pants. Do you have any suggestions that might help me find a comfortable pair that might fit me correctly?
Threads magazine had an article about how to draft your own pants pattern. For a first try, make a pair of pajama pants. Or, buy misses’ pants (not petite, because they are always too short) and hem them up. I am 5′ 3″ with a drop from the waist to the floor of 40 inches and 30 inch inseam. Best of luck!
I love these tips! Unlike most of your replies, I am small busted, so I already wear v-necks with a passion. I used to be very pear-shaped, but now that I’m older, I have a beer belly to contend with. So wearing low or mid rise pants usually give me the inevitable muffin top. Do you know of any waist trimmers/body shapers for short waisted women?
I’m glad to help! I don’t know of any shaper lines that are specifically for short waisted women. I think it’s more a matter of finding the right shaper for you. I’d probably stay away from a one piece (look like a swimsuit.) Spanx has a very broad selection.
I’m very short waisted, but boatnecks are actually one of the most flattering necklines on me! I think this may be because of the fact that I also have very narrow, petite shoulders however, so that neckline creates the illusion that I have wider shoulders. I also prefer high waisted pants, but I think this is because as someone with very wide hips and a small waist, low and mid rise pants leave my butt hanging out a lot if they fit my hips.
I guess at 5’1″, I feel like being short waisted makes me look taller, so I dont try as hard to conceal it. 😉
It sounds like you know your body type really well! I don’t go into it much in my posts, because it can get very confusing, BUT there are multitudes of figure variations in addition to being short waisted or long waisted. In your case, you’ve chosen to highlight your longer legs–definitely making you look taller. Yay!
Any tips on brands that tend to make slightly longer tops for us short-waisted gals? Or fashion blogs for short-waisters? I was intrigued by your comment about looking in the petite section… I’m tall so never had cause or thought to consider anything petite. What is different about the petite cut that might help? Thanks!!!!
Hi Julia! Usually the issue with top length if you are short waisted is that they tend to be too long. Normal length tops (not extremely long or cropped) are trending, so you should be able to find plenty right now. Petite clothing is cut shorter all over…it could be tricky for you. An option for you might be to buy tall lengths and have them tailored to the right length. My best advice is to keep experimenting.
I am tall but short waisted. i often buy my tops in the petite department. JJill offers clothes in all the ranges.
Hi Dana. I’m one of the short waisted tribe too. I’ve found v necks and torso lengthening tops are a big help and I cannot wear anything but low rise pants otherwise the top of the pants roll over. In fact, I have to roll the band over 2-3 times when I wear leggings (my live-in bottoms). My biggest problem is finding pants that fit. I have long legs and no defined hips or waist; I look like a teenage boy with big boobs. I’ll find lowrise skinny jeans, which look best on me, that are snug from ankle to hip but then are totally loose at the waist. I end up having to wear belts to hold my pants up! I’m constantly pulling up my pants, leggings, and jeans. Any ideas other than suspenders!? BTW I don’t care if hip belts are “1980”, they look good on me because it gives the illusion of having hips and trends in my opinion are only an opportunity to explore other styles, but never overrule wearing what looks good on my body.
Have you been able to find low rise pants lately? The high rise trend seems to be taking over! (Not great news for us.)
I do have a couple of ideas for you! Did you know that you can often lower the waistline of pants. I had a tailor do this years ago, and it worked pretty well. I just bought a pair of really cute high rise pants that I’m considering altering like this.
If your pants are falling down, have the waists taken in to fit you well.
You know, since styles are changing, (in terms of what’s available in stores,) I think I’ll do a new blog post on this subject. I’m not wearing leggings much anymore, but I have found the ones with a button and zipper (non-work out leggings) stay up much better!
I love your comment about the hip belts! Rock it, girl! I had a really cool hip belt in the 80’s that I wish I’d kept. Check out the tips and photo in this post, https://elementsofimage.com/fashion/petite-dressing-if-youre-short-waisted/
I’ll have to see if a tailor might fix my otherwise favorite jeans; thanks for the suggestion and the petite dressing link. You are fab!
I am 5’8 but very short waisted. I have a lovely plain V neck dress with set in flared skirt, all one colour, but it looks frumpy because my hips and waist are about 1cm apart. Will lifting it on the shoulders help do you think?
It’s hard to say without seeing the dress. I’m imagining the waist of the dress is hitting way below your waistline, and the proportions of the bodice are off. If so, raising the shoulders may help. Find a good tailor to help you with it. Is the dress available in petites? If so, you might want to try it first.
try empire style dresses or fit and flare dresses. you might look good in straight line dresses.
Is there a particular type of blazer you recommend (ie.. number of buttons/length) I also have a wide back
If you’ve read the other comments, you can see that even if you’re short waisted, there are lots of other body shape considerations.
In general, (pretty much unless you have a large bust,) you want a jacket with a deep v-neck. Check out the photo above. There’s no specific “rule” about the number of buttons, but 3 buttons will typically be too high of a stance.
The length of the jacket depends on how tall you are and just how high your waist is and how long your legs are. The idea is to stay away from short jackets and lengthen the look of your torso.
There are so many comments and questions on this thread and fashion silhouettes have changed recently…I’m going to write an updated post (or 2 or 3) on the subject. Stay tuned! And be sure to search “short waisted” on the blog to find another article or 2. I hope this helps!
I am short wasted along with having severe scoliosis. As a result my left side has a hump in the middle of my back also muffin top on sides of rib cage. Any suggestions for clothes especially tops. I am 5 feet and 125 lbs.
Sorry for my late reply. I’m sure you have lots of options. Off the top of my head, you might try a somewhat flowy top like the one shown with white jeans in this post, https://elementsofimage.com/fashion/3-spring-jewelry-trends-to-update-your-wardrobe-in-a-flash/. If you want to look a little trendier, try a small semi-tuck of the top.
This is a fascinating POV. It seems as if this article was written with the assumption that the majority of women are shaped like rectangles. I’m short waisted, tall, and pear shaped, and don’t tend to follow most of these rules because they make pear-shaped ladies look frumpy. 🙂 For example, boat necks are super flattering because they balance out larger hips and a curvy booty. Scoop necks and V-necks show too much of my chest skin, making my top half look even smaller. I have petite breasts, though. V necks do tend to look nice if you’re busty. If you look at photos of women wearing v necks the shortening effect is apparent (the block of color created by your clothing is smaller with a V neck than, say, a crew neck or boatneck or turtleneck). And hip-length tops and drop waists are a nightmare if you have larger hips. They disguise your small waist, akin to wearing a potato sack. Finally, cropped jackets and petite length tops are a pear shaped gal’s best friend. I always thought jackets and cardigans hit me at such an awkward place (my wide hips!) and didn’t wear them until finding cute cropped styles. Agreed about not wearing belts and keeping tops untucked, as long as the tops are fitted and shorter in length. Long, loose, and flowy is a no-go unless the top cinches at the waist. I’m on board with you re: high waisted pants. The waist band usually isn’t comfortable when you sit down since it cuts into your top half. Finally, I agree with your tip about long necklaces, especially if they hit at the waist! They are definitely slenderizing. Another trick to emphasize a slim waist is to get your sleeves shortened from 3/4 length to half sleeve length. Just started getting that alteration done in addition to pulling up the shoulders and shortening straps to make dresses fit better. Very happy to finally figure out how to dress after 30 years of being a short-waisted pear! Perhaps one’s body shape is more important than one’s short waisted-ness in terms of creating appealing proportions. It be great to hear your commentary about my observations to see if you’ve had clients who fit the same body type. Thanks for sharing your tips, Dana!
Thanks for your comment Ally. I actually wrote the article without a specific body type in mind. They’re general tips for dressing when you’re short waisted.
There are definitely exceptions to any “rule” for dressing. Each body is sooo different even within a body types. It sounds like you know how to dress for your body type quite well–kudos to you!
Yes, I’ve had triangle/pear shaped clients, but more of them tend to be long waisted. Also, even if one is short waisted but has wide hips, her legs can appear short, so the approach to dressing is different.
When you change one of the elements of design in an outfit/garment, it can change the entire effect. Knowing this I actually hesitated to ever write about body type tips, but there was a huge demand.
I have tons of posts on the site about body type. You might enjoy this one https://elementsofimage.com/uncategorized/spring-dressing-for-your-body-type/. And I urge you to use the search box and explore around as well. You’ll find I try to keep my tips fairly simple and easy to remember. Just know that there are exceptions to every rule, so if you find ideas that don’t work for you toss them out and, pat yourself on the back again, that you have the confidence to do so!
I know there are exceptions to every rule so I can sympathize with Ally B. when she says you are not describing all short waisted petites, But WOW you sure were describing me! Thank you! It was so nice to read suggestions that actually make sense for my body! I never realized I was short waisted, but now it all makes sense! I’ve sort of figured out a lot of these tips by trial & error over the years, but now I understand why things do or do not “work” for me. Thank you again!
I’m so glad this post was helpful for you! Isn’t it fun when the lightbulb moments like this happen? I’m hoping shopping will become much easier for you now. Undoubtedly, you are going to look fabulous using your new found style tips!
Warmest Wardrobe Wishes,
What if you have a short torso AND short legs??? HELP!!
You are probably vertically balanced! You’re petite and should do well shopping for your clothes in the petite department. Of course, it’s hard for me to be totally correct without seeing you, so…
I am 5’11 I’ve measured my legs they are over 4ft long, so naturally my torso is shorter. I am 130lbs which means I’m very slim no stomach, so you’re suggestions seem to imply that short waisted women shouldn’t wear high waist pants because it’s unflattering but they are the most flattering style jeans for my body type, low/mid rise jeans squeeze on my hip bone give me a premature muffin top so I have to go a size up which will be too big every where else. Shopping for me is a horrible experience because of my body. And to hear my whole life “ur shaped like a model” (size 4) yet can’t buy off the rack is an anomaly
Thanks for your comment, Justine.
You have to remember, these are general tips. Every body is just a little different. It sounds as though even though you have legs for days, at 5’11”, you still have enough of a torso to make a higher waist pant work. Most likely you’ll be happiest with a medium rise…not too high or too low. I would measure the rise of your favorite jeans/pants and look for more that have that same rise…there’s a real variety of rises these days. Be sure to download the Ultimate Shop Your Shape Guide. You’ll love all of the resources for tall women…I know you’ll be surprised!
So much helpful information & sharing going on! Great !!
Yes, it’s important to keep the overall 3d silhouette in mind, ( a vertical elongated approach – (monochromatic colorway ((lighter preferable to darker))- slimmer petites) or “in and out” which would be accenting the midpoint by building up the top and/or bottom with fabric or,color contrast lvl., working with curvier petites) use of color “mapping” works well as in wear darker colors on parts you want to shrink and light to enlarge, Lots of ways to use color and pattern. Also, pay attention to pattern size (pre-purchase pre-alteration) beware chunky accessories including buttons. Unless your choice statement look…and BTW what’s ur favorite fashion statement ?
Also does shorter hairstyle look taller? what is your opinion ? Should petites “bookend” (shoes color match hair color) thier OOTD?
Do you think petite should limit the amount of jewelry? and how large a hoop to go?
Alot of times SHOES are a fashion statement goto for petite people…Do u like shoe collecting and showing off ur feet? Designers love designing size 5 (I think) so the ideal size for the design is 5. So if u are shoe size 5 there are generally a better selection/availability…if your in a fashion rut u might try the shoe dept, then bags, then…lol
I like how some of us can wear cropped/ high waisted depending on our balance. So I like to think of Britney Spears in her ice glitter flame leotard and her shorts/sweatshirt combo. Because she has a very slightly defined waist other wise rectangle, the upper body gymnast strength, there’s ur shoulders girls, she is athletic and prone to build muscle when strength training…but you rarely think of her as masculine. In the shorts are short but not tight and the sweatshirt adds fabric to the top half creating a waist and a new in and out silhouette instead of the rectangle.
Of course bone structure, proportions and weight distribution I think is referred to as a “physical composite” (along with weight and measurements) mybodymodel dot com could be a helpful tool in working with your proportions,( be sure to check the box for short waisted if applicable under extra settings)after 3ntering in your measurements
I am 5′ 2″ and short waisted. I find empire style or 20’s dropped waist dresses are my best bet. Trousers are a challenge for me as I have a rounded tummy. Low rise and even mid rise are a definitate no go as they reveal my stomach. High rise without a waistband and a flat front, no pleats, seem the best option. It does mean I have to wear all my tops outside to disguise my short waist. Finding the right length top can be a challenge as many end right across the middle of my stomach. Not a good look!