Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tips & Tricks: For Short-Waisted and Long-Waisted Girls

Hey everyone!

I've gotten several requests over the past couple of weeks to share more of the tips and tricks I learned in my years as a clothes peddler.  I thought I'd start by recapping for y'all a real basic:  Short-Waisted versus Long-Waisted.

You all know by now that I'm a short-shinned, long-thighed girl.  I didn't figure that out til I was almost 30.  And at the same time I discovered that I am short-waisted. Yeah, I know, you're thinking "Is she kidding me? How could she not KNOW she was short-waisted??"  After all, we see it in the mirror our whole lives; we know this small detail about our physique, right?  I'm here to tell ya, not necessarily.  I'll tell you my little story, but if you'd prefer to skip ahead to tips and tricks, scroll down.  You won't hurt my feelings one bit! 
I am boyishly shaped.  I've got no waist, I have broad shoulders and I have long skinny legs -- think: a narrow rectangle on Popsicle sticks -- and I seem taller and longer than I really am.  I think I've mentioned that people always describe me as "around five foot six or so", when in fact I'm five foot four.  My mother looked at my shape, considered the fact that I needed pants "long in the stride" (a fact which, incidentally, is totally unrelated), and simply concluded -- and told me -- that I was long-waisted.  My relatives backed her up -- at every family event I heard "Look how long you're getting, for heaven's sake!"  And I believed my people. When I was fresh out of law school I read every article I could find on how to dress for being long-waisted, and I followed that advice with great care, trying my best to look mature and elegant in front of the infuriating older, male trial judges who regarded me with such condescending, toying amusement.  (There's a topic for another post, girls. Stay tuned.)

I'd been practicing for about a year when an older woman lawyer invited me to go shopping with her to a "home trunk show."  This was, in fact, my introduction to the line of clothes that I'd one day sell.  It was also my introduction to understanding the proportions of my body correctly.  The "consultant" who was hosting us pulled just a couple of fabulous items for me to try on, saying "This is just for size and style so I can make some notes about you for the future!!"  And as I tried on clothes, she educated me, tactfully but firmly, about what I should be wearing, and why.  She was spot-on in her advice, and I figured out real fast that I'd been wearing almost everything completely wrong, from colors to shapes to proportions.

The very first misconception that she exploded was my firm belief that I was long-waisted.  I am, in fact, ridiculously short-waisted, and I have a very narrow natural waist which just aggravates the "short-waisted effect".  As I found out, whether you're long-waisted or short-waisted has nothing to do with the shape of your torso; it has everything to do with the length of your torso relative to the lower half of you.  It's another one of those simple measure-and-compare facts, girls, like your leg proportions.

Wanna see for yourself what you truly are?  You will need your trusty measuring tape, a mirror, a piece of paper and a pen. 
  • Measure from the top of your head to your natural waist (**more in a moment on how to find that). 
  • Now measure from your natural waist to the floor. 
  • If you're longer on the top than on the bottom, you're long-waisted.  If you're shorter on top than on the bottom, you're short-waisted.  It's that simple.
**Finding your true natural waist is kinda fun, because you may discover that it's not where you thought it was or that it's not nearly as wide as you thought it was.   Here's how to do it:
  • Place your thumb into your armpit on the same side of the body and gently slide your thumb down in a straight line along your side until you can just barely tuck your thumbnail underneath the edge of your bottom rib.  To find the right spot to stop, it may help if you lean slightly in the other direction, as if you were s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g your torso.  Once you find your bottom rib and get your thumb into position, stand upright again, keeping your thumb firmly where it is.
  • Now gently trail your index finger from the same hand downwards away from your thumb. Stop moving your index finger as soon as you begin to feel even the tiniest trace of a curve outwards in your body's shape.
  • Look in the mirror at the visual distance between your thumb and your index finger. That gap that you see between thumb and index finger is your entire natural waist!
  • Now carefully pull your hand away from your side, keeping your index finger and thumb in exactly the same positions, and plant your hand down onto the piece of paper, marking where your thumb and index finger landed.  Measure the distance between those two points.  This is the width of your natural waist.  A distance of 1" to 1.25" is typical of someone short-waisted. 
So what do you DO with this interesting info? Well, you can change the way you look in your clothes in subtle but very flattering ways by deploying a few tricks of the trade. This is another one of those "fix the proportion visually" situations, as is choosing your skirt length.

If you're short-waisted:
Your torso is shorter than your lower half, so your natural waist will tend to look like it rides high.  To correct your body's upper half/lower half proportions, you're going to want to visually lengthen your torso and pull your observer's eye down so that your waist appears to be lower on your body.   A few short-waisted girl tricks:
  • Match your belt color to the color of your top. The visual effect is that you add the width of your belt to the length of your torso -- i.e., if your belt's an inch wide, your torso looks an inch longer.
  • Wear your belt as if it were a waist bracelet instead of wearing it as if it were holding up your pants or skirt. When you put on your belt, hook it one hole looser than snug. This little trick makes your belt buckle hang just a teeny bit forward and down, so that the visual silhouette of your belt is a gentle "V" instead of a horizontal line around you. Your waist appears lower on your body.  
  • Following that same reasoning, avoid wide belts unless they're contoured belts (C-shaped). Contoured belts tend to hang a little lower in front naturally. :-)
  • Avoid tucking in your tops when possible.  If you want or need to tuck in, make sure you're tucked in smoothly -- you don't want waist bunching -- and be sure to apply the "waist bracelet" belt trick.
  • Be careful with short cardis or short jackets.   I know they're cute and I break my own rules to wear them, too.  But they can visually cut you in half.  Best if they're matched or blended closely to the color of your pants or skirt.  It also helps to wear a longer shirt/cami/tank/sweater and let it hang out from underneath.
  • Longer cardis or jackets (v-necks especially) are a short-waisted girl's friends.  Leave them open or unbelted.  This is a perfect quick fix for the disproportion between your top and your bottom halves. 
If you're long-waisted:
Your torso is longer than your lower half, so your natural waist will tend to look like it rides low.   To correct your body's upper half/lower half proportions, you're going to want to visually shorten your torso and pull your observer's eye up so that your waist appears to be higher on your body.   A few long-waisted girl tricks:
  • Match your belt color to the color of your bottoms.  You don't want the extra inch of torso that would be created by matching the belt to your top.
  • Wear your belt snug.  Unlike your short-waisted friends, you don't want to let your belt droop at all -- you want your waist to appear as high as possible.
  • Following that same reasoning, wide belts are best worn cinched on you, and you can wear a straight, wide belt.
  • Tucked-in tops and empire-waisted tops are good options for you.  If you wear a long top, try belting it in the middle.
  • Be careful with long cardis or jackets.  You don't need to add length to your upper half, so if you're jonesing to wear a long 'n lean topper, belt it in the middle.  
  • Short cardis or jackets can be a long-waisted girl's very best options, as long as you make sure they hit you right at or just slightly below your natural waist.  A cardi or jacket that's too short will hit you above your natural waist and make you look like your clothes have shrunk! 
And if you're that rare woman whose upper and lower halves are pretty evenly proportioned:
Well, I hate ya, but that's beside the point. :-)  All you need to do is follow two simple rules:
  • Since you don't have to choose clothes that will help to correct a disproportion, you should choose your clothes to highlight whatever you feel is your best body feature.
  • Wear fitted (different from tight) clothes.  Don't wear baggy clothes -- they'll distort your lovely proportions.
I hope you'll find this helpful, Crewsers!  See you tomorrow -- I am off to have a glass of wine and study the FS section of the Crewniverse before dinner.  Just in case I've missed any short-waisted girl gems.



  1. hi, just shot by to say, congrats on gettinga pair of those gorgeous earrings.

    you dog is tooo cute

  2. You are right on target! I
    As much as I love clothes, a 5' 4" short waisted girl can't wear everything and should not try to!

  3. I'm off to get a tape measure. I love this post. Thank you so much I love when I learn new things!

  4. This is awesome information!!! Thank you so much....I'm off to figure out what category I fit into!!!!

  5. Thanks for the info! I have always told Seashell she is long waisted, now I am going to find out for sure!

  6. Love this post - and the previous one on short/long shin - which explained my penchant for above-knee skirts. Know I have a better answer for why I don't tuck in, love long tops, and rarely belt. My answer had always been that it balances out my shoulders, but now I know it's short vs long waisted.

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and expertise with us!

  7. I am going to my sewing basket to get out the tape measure as soon as I finish this comment. Thanks for your insight!

  8. Fun, fun! I already knew I was short-waisted but it was fun to do the measurements! Another great reason for avoiding 'mom' jeans! :)Thanks for sharing.

  9. P.S. the larger font and color of your blog!

  10. I'm not one for following rules, but I totally like this post! Very helpful and informative. Thank you!


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