Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Are you short waisted?

Trying to dress alternative with a short waist.

Do you struggle with your body image? Have you ever lamented the fact that you're pear shaped, or square shaped, or apple? Well, imagine suddenly finding out that your waist length isn't "normal" either! What a fucking nightmare... Most of us have issues with our boobs, bottoms or tummies being out of proportion. Usually it's a problem with how wide we are but there's never much talk about lengthwise proportions, like how long our legs or torsos are. I never read about any of this stuff in my fashion courses, then again we studied history not tailoring. 

What does it mean to be short waisted? It means that your waist is shorter than the average measurement (or rather the industry standard, because I don't believe in "normal" or "average" measurements). If you are short waisted your rib cage sits closer to your hip bones, you usually have a thicker waistline and your legs are probably very long compared to most people. If you're the exact opposite of all of that then you might be long waisted.  

How do I know that I'm short waisted? I guess I don't really. I've tried three different ways of measuring my waist length and comparing it to average ratios, two of those three tests reveal I'm "balanced" or "normal". The other, which was nearly impossible to complete, made it seem that I was short waisted. Perhaps my waist is balanced and proportionate (?) but I've always felt that I must be short waisted. When I sew clothing every pattern I use has about an inch of extra fabric sitting below my waistline. I usually have to subtract an inch or so when making a muslin, if I don't the garment will be very uncomfortable. Strangely, it's not as bad when I buy ready to wear clothing. When I buy RTW clothing the waistline seems to hit me in the right place, yet the skirts I buy are always horrendously short! Maybe my waist is proportionate but not as long as other proportionate sizes? Or maybe my legs are just so freaking long they make me look short waisted even if my measurements indicate otherwise. 

Because of my unusual proportions, I tend to not look as awesome with garments that hit at my natural waistline. If you're short waisted you'll suffer from the same problem. Anything that hits at your natural waistline will make your torso appear even shorter. This is why most stylists will recommend you wear A-line dresses, empire waist dresses, shirts that feature decorative necklines or design elements at the bust, medium length shirts (untucked) and hip hugging low rise pants. Apparently most self proclaimed stylists believe the solution to dressing a short waisted figure is to drown them in clothing. If you peruse the various short waisted Pinterest boards you'll become aware of this fashion trend. I personally don't see why a short waisted woman should hide herself under a cape and loose fitting dress (unless you're into Mori Kei). There must be figure flattering clothing for short waisted women, too! Right?

What to wear for the short waisted gal

If you're into alternative, Goth or Lolita fashion AND you're short waisted, then you're probably painfully aware of how limited your clothing options are. This is actually true for most any style. If you wander over to Forever 21 you'll find 75% of their dresses cut at the natural waistline - a big no-no for short waisted ladies. I feel it's even worse for alternative fashion because of the pervading styles. For example, retro clothing has been crazy popular for years now. We've seen tons of 1950's vintage reproductions from brands like Sourpuss and Hell Bunny. What's the one defining element that comes to mind when you think of retro 50's dresses? That itty bitty waist that sits atop a full skirt. The pinched waistline of a rockabilly dress will likely not flatter a short waisted figure. Lolita suffers from the same problem. Almost all of the Lolita dresses out there cut at the waistline. What's a girl to do? Well, I've compiled the very few options we have, so at least you can get inspired. 

If you aren't afraid to flaunt your curves then you should look for dresses that hug your body. I've selected two bodycon dresses to show you, both feature bold prints. A bold print can help elongate the appearance of the torso, this is because the visual elements are dispersed throughout the dress rather than concentrated in one area (like the waistline). The idea here is that we're guiding the eye away from the waistline, sort of like if you were to wear a dress with vertical stripes. The next three dresses all feature decorative seams beneath the bustline. The only exception is the gray Sourpuss dress, which has a seam at the waistline too; I included it because it's made of a slinky jersey material and the skirt flares out from the hips, not from the waist. The two Sourpuss dresses have an A-line shape. A-line dresses and skirts are recommended because they flare outward from the hips, creating the impression of an elongated torso. The final dress by Steady is not an A-line, however, it still creates an elongated appearance because it's only design element is situated at the bustline. If you wore a waist belt with this dress you would ruin the illusion of length. Is this starting to make sense?

Disturbia Bunnies Bodycon Dress
Killstar Ouija Dress
Sourpuss One-Eyed Kitty Rosie Dress
Sourpuss Gray Polka Dot Vivienne Dress
Steady Polka Dot Diva Dress in Red

Not everybody is down with skin tight dresses, which is why I've included a few more alternative and Goth styles. The dress pictured on the left is a good dress for short waisted girls because it has a large belt that sits at the hips, this draws the eye downward and away from the natural waistline. The photo on the right depicts a similar instance, where the bodice ends at the hip line and flares out with an embellished circle skirt. Both silhouettes are simple and help to elongate the torso.

Hearts and Roses Red Tartan Zipper Dress - I own the same dress by Mercy
Hell Bunny Harper Mini Dress in Black

Now, from what I've read most stylists don't mention long skirts or dresses. I guess because they assume you have super long legs it will only make you look worse (like a girl swimming in a sea of skirt). In my opinion, as long as a full length skirt starts at the hips and is a darker colour, you should be fine. I recommend trying dresses that feature a basque (v-shaped) waist. I believe the point of the v-shaped waist helps draw the eye downward, giving the impression of length. Of course the basque waist should end around the hips and not at the natural waistline (as shown in the photos above). The reason that I recommend wearing a darker coloured skirt is because darker shades tend to shrink the appearance of mass whereas lighter, brighter colours enhance mass. This is why so many women are fond of little black dresses.

Sinister Elgatine Lace and Velvet Dress
Sinister Chandra Satin and Velvet Dress

If you are a short waisted Lolita then your shopping experiences must be pretty distressing. Just Googling "Lolita Dress" will yield thousands of puffy Lolita frocks that cut at the waist. Although it will take some digging, there are some options available to you. Look for A-line shaped dresses like these four dresses photographed above. Look for dresses that feature vertical seams (like the burgundy and blue dresses) as this helps guide the eye downward. Also look for dresses that feature a drop waist (like the black dress in the bottom right corner). If you aren't able to find dresses that match these descriptions you could pair a Lolita skirt with a medium length blouse (as shown in the top left photograph) or hip length jacket (middle photograph).

Image sources vary.


Remember to look for A-line dresses or skirts, bold prints, vertical seams or design elements, and drop waists. What I failed to mention is that most stylists suggest dresses and skirts that sit above or at the knee, but as I discussed with the basque waist dresses I think it's achievable with the right colour and cut. Avoid anything that breaks up the silhouette and exacerbates your short waistline! Of course these are only guidelines. You can wear whatever you want but if you're like me and you're becoming increasingly bored or unhappy with your silhouette, then you might want to give these suggestions a try!

Kind regards,


Images are stock product stock photo. Illustration is mine and is not for personal use or redistribution.


  1. I am DEFINITELY not short waisted but I am probably short bodied in general :P I am very petite and curvy so I have my own clothing struggles for sure. Love this post and the alternative clothing options for girls with different body types. Gorgeous!

    1. I'm glad that you enjoyed this article. :) There are very few people who are lucky enough to not have struggles with their body type. After reading multiple body shaming articles, I just knew I wanted to write a figure friendly post. I'd like to continue this in the future with other body shapes/sizes as well!

  2. I am close to short waisted! Great post ;o) Really enjoyed it ;o)


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