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…

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29 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).

  4. Thank you for letting us know how to properly measure ourselves!
    I am relatively tall (5’9 – 5’9 1/2) and I know I have a longer torso (as I can’t wear a one piece swimsuit/bodysuit and also have difficulty finding playsuits that don’t ride up, but I have never noticed myself having shorter legs, so I have been a bit puzzled until I found this article. I have never had to alter my pants, and generally they fit off the rack, sometimes they can look a little cropped but nothing that looks terribly abnormal.
    Is it quite common to have a longer torso and longer legs if you are tall?

    Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Jay,
      Thanks for your comment! It sounds like you are just tall…and pretty balanced. It surprises me to hear you’re finding pants long enough, although I have noticed lately they’re designing pants on the longer side. Yay!

      Yeah, one piece swimsuits are pretty tricky in general. You probably look fantastic in the high rise bikini bottoms that are trending. If you really want a playsuit, keep looking. Perhaps you can find one in a Tall size that will be just right.

  5. An excellent article and interesting comments. I am 5’3” and short waisted. The biggest area and longest is between my waist to the leg break. I tend to wear long tops or straight shift dresses.
    Thank you

    1. Reis, thanks for your comment! You might want to check out the article linked in the comment below. Since you like long tops, consider doing a partial tuck to create a longer leg line. I think you’ll like the results!

  6. From the floor to my ‘leg break’ is 32” and my ‘crotch to the top of my head 38”
    I’m only 5’1”.
    So I’m on the shorter side with a longer torso with kinda stubby thicker legs.
    However I still feel my larger issue may be a smaller head? Hahaha that sounds horrible but it is just SLIGHTLY disproportionate and throws everything off… what can I do to ‘balance ‘ this all out? Please help!

    1. Hi Rebecca,
      Thanks for your comment. Definitely check out my posts on how to dress a long torso, Skip tip #7. I think you’ll want to elongate your neck to create more proportion with your head. Think v-necks and scoops to create more area. Higher necks and boat necks cut you off and can draw too much attention. I’d also be cautious with prints. Choose prints on the smaller side, which is better for your 5’1″ frame anyway. I hope this helps!

  7. What about an apple body shape with long torso/short legs?
    I am 5’1/2 and have an apple shape. I have short legs (25 inch inseam)/long torso and protruded belly. I don’t know if the high rise pants/skirt will look good on me.

    1. Ah, I find most women with a tummy like a higher rise. Since you’re petite, you may not want to tuck in your top, but if you can wear your tops on the outside but on the shorter side, you’ll flatter your figure.

      1. There is one more thing I would like you to reply: My legs are only 44.5% (which is close to 45%) of my total height.
        Is my vertical balance long torso/short legs or balanced?

        1. Your leg break is different than your crotch. You might have better luck considering the length from your shoulder to waist. Or try a visual test. I typically approach things a bit more holistically than using a tape measure.

  8. Hi Dana, thank you for your info. Just checking, I’m 5”4, at 60 yo piled on 10 kgs to 69kgs,I always felt like I was kind of balanced as I was slim but now my legs look shorter particularly from the back view, I guess its due to weight gain on hip and bottom which makes that area elongated…yikes!
    The distance from crotch ( excuse me) to floor is shorter than from leg break ( just below bottom of hip bone) to floor, so legs look a bit longer at the front, weight gain at top of legs doesn’t help.
    Someone once commented that my legs are too short from knee down to my ankle making my feef look bigger lol, what a dilemma, my shoe size is 8.5 ,makes me wonder if I’ve been dressing badly my whole life 🤔

    1. Hi Lindy,

      You probably are balanced…but our bodies do shift some over time. You’re in luck! Higher rise pants are in style, so you can easily lengthen the look of your legs…if you want to. The person who made the comment about your legs making your feet look bad should really just worry about her/himself! Don’t wonder about the past…just start having more fun with your style moving forward. You are beautiful!

  9. Typically if your bent elbow is lower than your waist then you are long legged. I am 5’1 and my legs are long. My torso is only 15 inches from shoulder to waist, the rest is hip and leg. It’s one of those situations where I look taller than I am because my legs are thin and long. It’s a myth that only tall women can have long legs …most ballerinas are tiny.

    1. Michele,
      You are absolutely right! Many of my petite clients have long legs and shop in the missy (not petite) department for pants/skirts. I’ve never heard the bent elbow test for evaluating a short waist. It was accurate for me! It also sounds like you are blessed with beautiful, long legs!

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