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?

Are you short waisted? Check out this post, Six Style Tips for Short Waisted Women. It’s a good one!

Long waisted? This 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!

If you’re petite and short waisted, check out your style tips right here.

You’ll want to read this post if you’re petite and long waisted. 

Before You Go…

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61 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. I’d simply look for styles that are long enough and can be altered in the torso if you need it. A tall dress will be too long in the bodice.

  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!

    2. Wait how are you 38″ +32″ as thats 70″ which is well over 5’1… thats 5’10 which is hugeeee difference lol. Just womderkng if im measureing something off or id a typo or if youre misunderstanding your measurements/measuring off wjich could change your numbers!

      1. Good point! I kind of wish I’d left off the tips about measuring. I really think the other methods and one’s intuition is the best way to figure this out. I could also add to take a look at the graphics to see which one you most resemble in terms of proportions.

  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!

  10. I have the weirdest body ! When I was lighter , about 140 pounds , everything fit me! I never had to alter nothing , friends used to say I had a homeless body type (meaning everting will fit perfect) but the weird thing is , my legas from knee to heel are short, I have thigh length for days, and probably hip bone vertical length , but from the lower part of the knee to the heal seems so short! So weird , I came to realize that on heals I look perfect , I sometimes compare my body type with jlo (I know sounds ambitious) but is so weird , is like the shortness of my lower legs , was made to be evened out by the heal I would wear , by hi means I am bragging here but I have literally before had to fix a clothe c and yet , I still have battled all of my life with weight loss dieting etc !

    1. Gaby,
      We all have different body types–I don’t believe in “weird”! Even though you don’t think your upper and lower leg are proportional, I’m sure you simply appear as having very long, lovely legs!

  11. I have long, skinny legs and short waist. Crop jeans come halfway up my calf. I am going to order from LongTallSally for pants. It would be nice to have some boyfriend jeans that I could roll and some ankle jeans that fit correctly. This company says the knee is proportionate. But I won’t be able to get dresses from this store.

    1. Ginger, thanks for your response! I am finding more and more pants available in longs. Lots of times they’re on line, but you can visit the store first to figure out what size to order.

      I have noticed cropped jeans are a little more cropped this last season than in recent years…kind of odd!

  12. With an overall height of 4’11” I’m definitely petite, but my legs have a 30inches inseam and the distance between my should snd waist is only 13.5”.
    With a short torso and long legs while bring petite is pretty difficult to dress!

    1. Anna,
      Thanks for you comment!

      I definitely recommend wearing petite tops and missy bottoms. Many stores, like White House Black Market, carry a Short length which is in between petite and missy. You may have great luck going that route!

    2. This is so weird. I have 30 inch inseam and also 13.4 from shoulder to waist but i am 5.4 tall. I wonder where are my extra 6 inches distributed 😅

  13. I’ m middle age 4ft. 11in. And very short waisted and short legs. I have problems in finding the right pants, shirts and dresses any suggestions would help on what styles to wear, l still enjoy wearing stylish clothing.

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      It sounds like you absolutely must wear petite clothing. Nordstrom, White House Black Market and Talbot’s all have a good selection of petite clothing. Macy’s carries a few basic pants in extra petite lengths. Are you located in Colorado?

  14. Thanks for these tricks, but I think I’m more confused now. 🙁 I definitely have shirt legs, inseam is 29/30 inches. But when I use all the measurements I keep coming out shirt waisted, when I’ve always thought I have a long torso. So I tried the head to leg break measurements and my top was 36ish and bottom as so said was like 30. Low rise and mid rise pants aren’t flattering, but high waisted ankle are. The length from my leg break up to my waist is LONG. BUT the distance from my shoulder to my waist is short. Your thoughts??

    1. Hi Tia!

      There are so many variables in body type…it’s definitely the most confusing part of style. You’ve hit the nail on the head–even though your shoulder to waist measurement is short, as a whole, you have a long torso and should follow rules for long torsos/short legs.

      I’ve had a couple of other women with this body type lately…I’ll write a blog post. If you sign up for my e-book, (big green box above) you’ll get my notifications of new posts. Also take a look around on the site for other body type posts.

        1. Hi Lorena,
          Be sure to sign up for my e-mail updates so you don’t miss it! I’m also thinking about writing a guide for dressing for your body type…all in one place. Is that something you’d be interested in?

  15. I am 5’4 with long legs and a short torso. Shoulder to waist is 13.5 inches. I also have a barrel rib cage which makes me look bigger on top, especially at the weight I am at now however I still have an hourglass type shape. I Alhambra always felt my arms are too long for my height. I’m also working on losing weight and have not been shopping in a while but I do remember that when I was thinner and tried the petite department for tops that the sleeves were always an issue. Sometimes even the regular sizes long sleeves would be too short. At that time I wore an extra small or small. Now that I’m in larger sizes some sleeves are too long. So my question is, what size do I shop in? And what size should I shop in if I get back down to the smaller size I used to wear?

    1. Ah, Sarah…you more than likely are going to need to shop in more than one department. You can try petite tops as long as they don’t have long sleeves. You’ll just have to experiment with long sleeved tops in the missy department, perhaps choosing styles that could be hemmed if necessary. You probably need missy pants, although you may need to hem them. a little.

  16. Sorry for the auto correct…“Alhambra” (I don’t even know what that word is. Lol) should say “have” . And I meant to say what department should I shop in, not what size. 😁

  17. Hello, I always thought I have short legs, and when I sit at a table it seems like I am the tallest there because of my torso.

    However, from leg break to floor i am 33.4 inches and from leg break to top of head I am 31.4 inches, so this indicates that my legs are longer. Also from top of head to waistline I am longer than from waistline to crotch.

    Since childhood it seemed that I had the longest torso among my friends 😅 maybe it was a coincidence and all of my friends had longer legs than me.

    And the thing that I think is my issue is that although leg break to floor is longer than leg break to top of head, my crotch is really low i think so that is why If i sit down I am taller than the rest? My hips are high but my crotch is low. How is this posibile? Crotch to floor is 30.3 inches and leg break to floor is 33.4 so 3 inches long crotch, so my inseam is very short? Uuufff

    1. Omg this is literally MY EXACT SAME SITUATION!! firstly have ALWAYS believed and seemed to havs short legs, vit my measurements are the EXACT SAME of the 31/33 +.4ishh ea Tats so strange my EXACT sitaution& measurements. I wonder why!!. I havent done the second measurement youre talking of felm crotch or whatver so ill have to check that, but i wonder if theres some reason that it would appear that legs are shorter when their not at our height and verical proportions

  18. I would so much want to know what other women measure from leg break to crotch, to find out if I have some body distortion or what? 😭

    1. Dani,
      You DO NOT have a body distortion! We are all unique. There are many, many body variations, so I wouldn’t stress about it.

      It sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of measuring! I recommend using some of the intuitive methods I outlined. And then try clothes on and see how you feel. If things are fitting well and you feel great, that’s really what counts!

  19. I have an average sized torso but really long legs and im not sure how to style myself because of it. Im also on the skinnier side so its hard to find pants that are long enough but also small enough to fit me.

    1. Hi Kelsey,
      By average sized torso, do you mean in terms of length? If you have super long legs, you may be short waisted unless you’re really tall…in which case you may be balanced and styling is much easier.

      You probably want to shop for Tall pants in your size to get the right length. I’m in the process of creating a guide with all of the stores/online sites where you can find clothes for your body type, including Tall.

      Stay tuned, the guide is coming soon and will be available on this site!

  20. I have ridiculously long legs with a very short torso, what styles should I choose to balance me out!

  21. So interesting to know! I am a petite with short torso. Since August I am eager to create a year round capsule closet. Looking for recommendations how to dress and what brands to choose?

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