Flattering dress styles for short waisted women

Updated April 17, 2017

To be short waisted simply means that the distance between your hips and bust is proportionately small. Dressing for this body shape means finding styles that add an illusion of length to this area. You should also choose styles and accessories that call attention to your legs or face and away from the waist.

A good foundation

If you are short waisted your waist falls above the height of your bent elbow. A large, low or heavy bust may also reach your elbow. By covering so much upper torso, a large bust can conceal the waist. Women with this body type also tend to carry any extra weight on the torso, adding to the bulky look. A well-fitting, supportive bra is essential. A good bra will both give shape and definition and lift the bust, revealing more waist.

Belt at hip, not waist

The other contributing factor may be high hips. Weight gain over the hip area, especially after child birth can contribute to this. Selecting dresses without belts or cinched waists helps deceive the eye, giving an illusion of body length. A related strategy is to wear belts slung low on the hips, rather than at waist height. One advantage that many short waisted women have is proportionally long legs – emphasise these assets with shorter skirts.

Styles to avoid

Do not wear dresses with horizontal stripes at the top or with wide, contrasting belts – these foreshorten the torso. Avoid dresses with waistbands – the tailored waist will probably not be where your natural waist is, causing a poor fit. Too much waist detailing draws attention to the waist. Try to avoid dresses with any seaming or detailing that runs across the torso. Avoid cropped jackets – these only emphasise a short waist.

Flattering styles

Choose dresses with features that draw the eye vertically, giving an illusion of length. Examples include deep V-necklines, vertical stripes, vertical panels or a simple sheath shape. When choosing dresses that have belts at waist level, ensure the skirt length is at or above the knee – too long a skirt can also make the torso look shorter. Solid colours with narrow belts in the matching colour are good choices. Coat dresses, Sixties style tunic dresses or floaty layered styles can all disguise a high waist. Another option is a loose-fitting dropped-waist dress – 1920s style.

The Empire Line

Empire line dresses – where the dress fits snugly under the bust and then falls loosely over the waist are often recommended for this figure type. Others will warn you away from the Empire line. This style does disguise a waist's position and its bulk. However, tight cinching beneath the bust may only make your torso look shorter. Furthermore, especially if you are large chested, this style can make you look heavy – even pregnant. Simple, form-fitting dresses with clean lines can be a better choice. According to the "Budget Chic" blog, written by a short-waisted woman, the best tip for the Empire style is to try it on and see if it works for you.

bibliography-icon icon for annotation tool Cite this Article

About the Author

Based in the Isle of Man, Tamasin Wedgwood has been writing on historical topics since 2007. Her articles have appeared in "The International Journal of Heritage Studies," "Museum and Society" and "Bobbin and Shuttle" magazine. She has a Master of Arts (Distinction) in museum studies from Leicester University.