Determining your body’s vertical balance

short waisted or long waisted

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…

  • Don’t forget to enter your e-mail in the box below. You’ll receive my handy e-book, “How to Look Polished…,” monthly style tips, exclusive invitations to style events, and more subscriber-only perks

14 comments on “Determining your body’s vertical balance

      1. What about how to dress if you have a long torso and long legs or short legs?
        I always have problems as I have a body 2 inches longer than average person. So dresses always come up higher on the waist and look like I’m wearing a mini skirt!! 🙂 any help would be awesome!!

        1. Sorry for the late reply–never saw it. In terms of dresses, look for styles that are on the longer side and don’t have a defined waist. Or look for dresses that have a generous hem that can be let down.

  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.

      1. Charlee, it sounds like you’re petite for sure, but you are probably vertically balanced. I have several posts on the site about dressing if you’re petite. I hope you’ll check them out!

        I’m not sure where you live, but even here in Denver, the brick and mortar stores have really reduced their inventories of all clothes and accessories. That said, there are quite a few options for petite clothes on line.

  2. Sarah, do you mean break in a pant leg? I hope no one is breaking their leg! The break is when your pant rests on the front of your shoe and is long enough to “break” or bend the line of the pants. Does that help?

    CORRECTION! UPDATE! I responded to this question way too quickly without thinking! Apologies!!!! Your “leg break” is (um, and I’m not real scientific or schooled in anatomy,) right around where the top of your leg bone (femur?) fits into the socket. Essentially it’s where your leg starts! If you look closely at the infographic, you can see it’s a little higher than the crotch. It’s going to be a little different on everyone. My leg break is considerably higher than my crotch, because my legs are so long. I hope this helps!

  3. It took me a second to realize what “leg break” meant, too. It’s where your legs separate… i.e. your crotch. Why not just say crotch? We’re all adults here.

    1. Hmmm…Sorry about that! You know how you have certain words you just don’t like, I think that may be my case with “crotch”. Sorry for any confusion. Maybe I’m not an adult, lol! Check out my correction in my comment above. “Leg break” and crotch are not the same thing.

    2. The “leg break” as illustrated in the picture and as I understand it, is not equivalent to the crotch. It would appear that it is right at the folding point when you lift one leg sideways. This is important because those are very different measurements (floor to crotch and floor to hip “break”). For example, if I measure as illustrated in the picture and as just described, I am perfectly balanced, 1:1. If however the floor to crotch measurement is taken (and respectively crotch to top of head) , the result is 1:1.257 in favor of my torso (I am of rather shorter stature, the difference might be smaller in taller folks, but it will certainly be significant).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.