The Super Easy Way to Tell if You Have a Short, Balanced or Long Waist


The length of your waist is one of your body proportion measurements (you can find out how to measure all your proportions here), and one of the ones many people want to know is if they have a short or long waist, or are one of the lucky balanced waisted ones!

Why do we care about body proportions anyway?  Well, proportions tell us where to end tops, skirts, jackets, sleeves, necklaces – the length of your clothes!

If you just want to check quickly I’ve devised this super easy and super quick method of measuring, no tape measure required.

How to Tell if You Have a Balanced, Short or Long Waist

This method really is super easy because all you need is your hands!

How to find if your short waisted, long waisted or have a balanced waist proportion

Placing your hand at the base of your bust (fitting snugly but not pushing upwards), how many hands distances are between the top of your hand and your waist?

  • Less than 2 hands width – Short Waist
  • 2 hands width – Balanced Waist
  • More than 2 hands width – Long Waist
These measurements are not perfect, but they are a good guide to let you know this body proportion.
One fact to remember is that the larger your bust, or the lower it sits the shorter your waist will be.  It’s good to adjust those bra straps so you keep the girls up high as it gives you the illusion of a longer and slimmer waist.
Another tip is to remember that the narrowest point of your torso may not be your waist!  Get my tips on finding your waist here.
So what are you waiting for?  Try this at home!
And if you’d like my professional opinion on your body proportions, body shape and colouring, you can get this as part of my 7 Steps to Style program which covers what to wear to flatter each proportion plus so much more!

More Tips on Finding and Dressing Your Body Proportions

Which are the Best Proportions to Flatter Your Proportions

How to Solve the Belting Dilemmas for Short Waisted Women

How to Layer Tops Under Jackets

How to Measure Your Body Proportions

Body Proportions Explained – Balanced with a Short Mid-Body

Body Proportions Explained – Short Body, Longer Legs

Body Proportions Explained – Long Body, Shorter Legs

How to tell if you have a short, long or balanced waist


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  • Wow. I have learnt more about my body from your blog than I've managed to work out by myself in the last 40+ years!! You are fabulous. I may have NO waist, but apparently it's a balanced lack of waist … Does this mean I don't have to worry too much about balancing top and bottom halves?

  • Oh thank you!. I have always been told that I am long waisted and I am not. According to this description, and your body proportion post a while back, my waist is quite fine, clothes are just to short in the waist because I am tall. Now I also have short short legs, which makes the torso look even longer but that is a completely different issue.

  • What great helpful info! I have a question for you…I am very busty (38 DDD) and short waisted, which causes me to look pregnant in a lot of tops. Do you have suggestions for what kind of tops are flattering for my body type, and which to avoid? Also, being so short (high) waisted, where should my waistband sit?

  • This is very helpful! I know I have a slightly short waist (not outrageously but still, not long) which is made a bit more challenging by an ample bust. Not that I'm complaining. I find ways of elongating with clothing. But now I can corroborate my suspicions! I've always imagined that long waisted people have the easiest time with clothes. Is this true or am I being all "grass is greener"

  • I wonder if this changes if you are tall. I am tall with smallish hands (according to my piano teacher), so I fit in the balanced category according to this test, but when I try on garments, the waist is often in the wrong place. I've always thought I was short waisted for my height.

  • Recently I've been wondering how to tell if I'm short- or long-waisted, and here you go with a simple way to do so! Thanks so much Imogen. Apparently I am balanced, or very slightly short-waisted.

  • I have one more question to add to the one about tops for short waisted women. I wasn't sure where to post this quesion. I was reading your body type descriptions and I can't figure out if I'm an "H" or an "8". My current measurements are
    45-40-45 (post baby)…they are normally 45-36-45. There is about 1" between my hip bone and my lowest rib. I do tend to carry weight below the waist, as described in the "8" description. Can women go from being an H to an 8 or is that anatomicaly impossible? Can you help?

  • Me again….I should probably add that I am 5'4, short legs, very busty, have a curvy, not quite "shelfy" booty. The celebrity examples were soooo not helpful. I don't know anyone who looks like them. I guess I am closest to Jennifer Hudson, only a bit smaller. Thanks so much for any help you can offer…I have so much trouble dressing this body of mine.

  • Tiffany – yes – just don't draw attention to your mid section, instead put detail above your bust and then lower down your body.

    Cybill – balance is easier to dress – nothing is good or bad!

    Mardel- If you're tall, where the garment manufacturers expect the waist to be will not be where yours is. You may have a very long rise (the proportion from where the leg bends at the hip to your waist).

    Anon – I'll do a post on this.

    K.Line – yes a longer waist can be easier to dress (though if it's really long, not so), but the long waisted people normally have short legs, so they may not agree!

    Sal – let us know!

    Anon – if you're tall, the proportions of clothes will be out for you as they are made for an 'average' height woman, not for a tall woman. Your piano teacher is probably also looking at he spread of your fingers too and if your fingers are a little shorter they won't reach as far.

    Cciele – glad to help!

    Anon – when we put on weight we can change our body shape – if you have a small distance between ribs and pelvis, you will lose your waist more quickly than if you have a longer waist. Being petite means that when you put on weight there is less for it to spread over so you will look more compact more quickly. By the sounds of your measurements I'd be looking at dressing you as an H – if you want, email me a photo via my bespoke Image website of you in a pair of well fitting jeans and t-shirt and I'll have a look – send front side and back views.

  • Yes please do a post on short waisted, big busted bodies.
    It is so frustrating to see everyone belted (need a new look – just add a belt!) when I know I can't carry off that look.

    The hand trick is super!

  • My natural waist is about the same "hand width" away from my bust as yours. No surprise there – I'm definitely short waisted.

    I don't mind this, but I dislike the fact that my waist is short, my hips/rise is very high, and the fullest part of my bum is pretty low. It's an imbalance that's hard to disguise and not very aesthetically pleasing to my eye, but it is what it is.

  • Just as I suspected; I'm a tall girl with a long waist. Waists on dresses and blouses usually fall a good 6 inches too high on me and I can never, ever find t-shirts that are long enough to cover my tum… especially since I put on a heap of weight and much of it went to my belly. *sigh* Can't wait to read more of your fabulous hints and tips!

  • Interesting – I have exactly two hand widths, so I am in proportion – I always thought I was short-waisted, but I guess I'm just short! Just the opposite of your other commenter who said she's not long-waisted, just tall!! Keep the great blog posts coming – I love the self-analysis!

  • Imogen, this becomes real interesting. I now realize that I´m tall, I have skinny long legs, long calves, I´m H-shaped and have a somewhat short waist. No wonder that very wide belts feel uncomfortable to wear, and that I like to wear tops that are quite open in the front ( no polos). I like to wear my jeans turned up to cut the length of these long, skinny calves and I prefer to wear t-shirts with 3/4 length sleeves. I´m a frog! Now am I on the right track?

  • Chris – check out my existing posts on Large Bust – they will give you lots of ideas.

    Kari – you need to keep your tops longer (or layered) a long rise can be hard to disguise. Skirts are a great option and way more flattering than pants for a long rise.

    S. – being tall means that clothes are not made to your proportions – it will always be more difficult for you to buy off the rack if you're looking for waisted garments.

    Robin – at least your balanced for your height!

    Metscan – you're on the money!

  • Imogen,
    You have the most amazing fashion, style bog there is ever! The stuff you put on here for us to figure out!! Love it!
    Thanks so much!

  • I already knew that I was short-waisted, but this really confirms it–my waist is about one-and-a-third hands below my bust! This would explain why I've never worn a belted or tucked-in look successfully…

  • Finally!Thank you! A way to tell for sure what waisted I am (which is on the short side, something I always suspected)


  • According to your test, I'm short-waisted. I also bought a used copy of "The Triumph of Individual Style" and determined my length proportions by following the instructions on page 42. According to that book, my head is long, I'm short-waisted, my rise is long, and my legs are short. I pretty much knew that anyway, but the test confirmed it. Now I know why I look better if I wear a hairstyle with bangs.

  • I have a question. I have a short waist apparently and am a pear shape (i think). My chest is 70D (32D in US terms i think). And I am only 5’1 ft tall. My waist is pretty defined, but its not 9 inches smaller than my chest and hips so I don’t think I am an hourglass. I do have thunderthighs and a huge butt though. They are bigger than my hips. How would I dress in a flattering manner?

    • Sally. Bust size doesn’t come into the equation. It’s the visual difference between shoulders waist and hips. Sounds like you are A shape if your shoulders are narrower than your hips/bottom/thighs

  • Thank you for this quick and easy measuring tool! I added it to my blog.

    I am sooooo short waisted, it’s really quite sad.

    I find being short waisted effects my clothing and bra fit tremendously. I love your tips and hints on short waists. Please keep them coming.

  • Based on this, my waist is short, as it takes a hand and until my index or middle finger of my other hand to reach the narrowest part of my waist. I still find that my legs are short though being 5 ft 4 with an inseam of 30-30.5 inches. My parents still believe I have long legs or at least a balanced body, though the way they compare is by the length of the legs (I’m guessing inseam) to the upper body excluding the neck and head. A friend also claims that I have “mad long legs”, and another who is two inches taller than me and has legs that seem pretty long says that she would rather have my proportions. I’m still not sure if I have a long torso and short legs, short torso and long legs, or a balanced body.

  • Does this method apply only to females? If yes, then what is the method used for determining whether a male has a short, balanced or long waist?

      • Thanks, I have a short waist. In the meantime I also found another website which has a different method to determine if you have a short, balanced or long waist: Measure the distance from your armpit to your waist and from your waist to the bottom of your bum. If the first measurement is greater than the second, you have a long waist, if the opposite is true, you have a short waist, if both measurements are equal, you have a balanced waist. On verifying with the latter method, I still have a short waist.

  • Hi imogen!

    I just wanted to make sure (though this question sounds silly) but when you say the bust peak, do you mean the fullest part of the bust?

  • OMG! I have always been told I have a long waist, but really I have a shorter waist (1-1.5 hand widths) with a crazy long rise. I need to see if my bust is low-set, because I think it may be.

    Ugh. I guess thats why I’ve gravitated towards skirts for so many years.

  • I can not tell if Im long or short waisted. When I buy petite pants I seem to keep pulling the waist up all the time yet length is good, maybe I should be buying size regular length and just have shortened

  • Dear Imogen,

    What do you mean with base of the bust – is it directly under your bust? Cause sometimes I read to measure where your bust nipple is.

    Thanks a lot,


    • For this it means under the bust on the rib cage (this is not a “face measuring which goes from bust peak” guide) it’s just an easy tip – it also takes into account bust size – which traditional proportional measuring doesn’t – so I’m officially balanced in this proportion – but when I had the super large bust – which is in these photos – I was short waisted because of my large bust. now that my bust is more regular sized, I look more balanced. So even if your measrements “measure” as balanced, using this method you can see that you’d need to dress as if you have a short waist because of the large bust.

  • I love your website so much! I learned so much about my body from this. I’m apparently fairly balanced with a shorter midsection at 5’2.5″. Everything is very detailed and straight forward but I feel like this particular body measurement is a little iffy. I have fairly large hands for my height (half an in longer than it should be and fairly wider). My waist came to be a little above my two hands but I’m thinking I’m balanced considering I do have large hands, which could have skewed the results. Is there anyway to actually measure this and compare proportions with something instead so I could get something more accurate?

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