8 Top Tips to Dressing a Short Waist


A lovely reader asks:Please can you do something for dressing a short-waisted H too? I’m like super short – there’s about an inch between by ribcage and my hip, so I tend to stick with dresses, but that’s not always practical for chasing two young kids.

top tips to dressing a short waist


To start with, think about dressing using a column of colour.  But if you don’t want to do that try these 7 top tips:

Having a proportionally short waist (small distance between rib cage and top of pelvis/hip bone can make you look boxy and squat, so how to make it appear longer, and give the illusion of having a waist?

1. Low to mid rise jeans and trousers

2. Empire waist tops and dresses

3. Avoid belting at the waist, instead you can belt at the hip if you want to belt and don’t contrast belts

4. Avoid gathered (dirndl) waist skirts and dresses

6. Don’t tuck tops

7. End tops around your hip bone or a little longer

8. Look for tops, cardigans and jackets that don’t have any detail or pockets around the waist area to avoid drawing attention to your lack of waist


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  • Hi Imogen,

    I don’t know if it’s just my broswer (Safari) but there’s an ad right over top of the written content of this post.

    For we big-busted, short-waisted gals, empire tops that accommodate our bust are often difficult to find. Can one get the same effect with a slightly flared tunic top?

    • Pseu, yes you can do the same with a fitted/flared tunic top. Pepperberry.com is a source of clothes for the big busted and I know they do empire tops. The empire line is just the only horizontal line that a short waisted woman can really get away with on her torso

      • Great post Imogen. My ribcage practically sits on my hip bone, I’m a H shape with a post baby jelly belly 🙂 I have been looking for some empire line tops that aren’t gathered under the bust. I just saw a heap of empire line tops on a site called bravissimo.com they have 3 types of fit from curvy to super curvy. I have not ordered anything yet but it looks quite good. Does anyone have any online recommendations for petite 16-18 casual style blazers?

  • Hi Imogen, this post is great, thank you! Although I am short with a short waist and large bust, I am an 8 shape rather than an H shape. Would your short waist suggestions also work for me? I have also thought about ordering a couple of tops from Pepperberry but have been turned off by some of the reviews of particular tops on their website…

    • Holly, I’ve bought a few things over the years and they’ve been fine. It may just be some items aren’t as good. As an 8 shape you may be able to do more waist definition than an H and look for jackets with a peplum on them.

    • Oh, I had no idea how nice it is to have a long waist. I mean anything is fine if you know how to use it, but it just makes me feel better about deal with shortish legs, and encouraging me to enjoy my long back and waist.

      – tall & slim anon

      • Olga – you are so lucky – a long waist makes you appear more feminine, so all us short waisted women have to do a whole load of illusion/disguising things to make ours look longer.

        • Oh, now I will always look at my long waist in the mirror and think with pride and joy: “Imogen said it makes me appear more feminine”! 🙂 Thank you!

  • Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have been searching your archives for exactly this type of post!

    What do you suggest for short waisted women in terms of coats? (I’m an X shape.)

    (FYI This post doesn’t display properly on my browser (Firefox) either. I am also on a Mac, however, so it might just be a problem with Apples. Unfortunately, it means I can’t read the whole post, so I will study the pictures. 🙂 )

  • Thank you so much for this wonderful post! That pretty much describes me, and looks like it will be my daughter as well. I am short waisted 8 shape; I have to take in pretty much every woven top at the waist, otherwise I look dumpy-all boobs and legs, and no torso to speak of. I am so glad I found your site. I have a notebook where I keep wardrobe ideas, and I always get great ideas from you! Thank you so much!

  • i am 5’12 with a short and thick torso and shorter and fat legs as well.i guess i am a mix of short V and I. people always make fun of me so can u help imogen i think u got lots of ideas…..plzzzz

  • I have a short waist, small breasts and am not so much petite as Dwarf-like since my bones are enormous and tend to build a lot of muscle quickly. Seriously, if the dwarves of Middle Earth had a football team, I would be on it. It’s very hard to find flattering clothing and I long ago gave up on “stylish” and my entire wardrobe consists of jeans and T-shirts. Thank you for specifically bringing up short waists!! This is the first time I’ve seen it targeted.

    • Short waists can be hard to dress, particularly if you are petite as well. Think about keeping your body as plain as possible in clothing, wearing a column of colour and less detail, but using necklaces, brooches or earrings to draw attention away and up to your face.

  • Hmmm. I guess I am odd because I am an “I” with a technically short waist. Belts work really well for me in my opinion (are often necessary for my bony figure), but I do have to be careful to make sure I look like I have a longer torso (like belting a longer shirt or sweater so the entire outfit doesn’t “stop” at my waist but continues past the belt). Sometimes I belt jeans at the hip (almost always wear pants resting on my hip but have gotten major compliments on jeans at the waist too??? Is it perhaps just an illusion from being an “I”?). So far, so good. I do wish my torso were longer though. 🙂

    • Sarah – I’ve seen both long and short waists on I shapes. This is why body shapes and body proportions are treated separately. You are a conglomeration of all your unique parts and these factors all need to be taken into consideration.

      Belting at different points just creates different proportions and I shapes can usually wear a few options really well.

      • Imogen, like Sarah, I am an “I” shape with a short waist. I have been wondering about how to reconcile the suggestions you have given for “I” shapes with the suggestions you’ve given for dressing a short waist, as these sometimes conflict. For example, belts around the waist are helpful for “I” shapes because they create a waist, but not so good for short waists because it draws attention there. Trench coats are another example. How can I balance my body shape with my proportions? Thanks!

  • Thanks, Imogen, I love your website and IMO you explain the body shapes the best. This info is really useful. Why are bolero backers or longer than hip jackets not good for my short waisted H shape? What is the most versatile jacket for me to wear with skirts and trousers? I find yoked tulip skirts and yoked pleated skirts are flattering, but not pencil or gathered skirts.

  • Hello Imogen,

    Excellent Website! I have just come across it. I have a question. Is a short waist the same as a high waist? I ask because I thought empire lines were not flattering on a short torso?

    Can you please clarify this for me, I feel I may be missing something? Jo.

    • Jo, Empire lines are flattering on short waists as they don’t show where the true waistline is – so if you have a short waist it will appear high (and out of proportion) and empire waist (which is just under the bust) is expected to be high, and then the fabric bypasses the true waist.

  • I’m shortwaisted (I think) and found that high waisted skirts work well for my figure as do empire tops and dresses. Also long waisted straight lined shirts that end at my hip look good too. If I wear something at my natural waist I look boxy and frumpy. Plus, I have stomach issues so I naturally stay away from anything that binds me at the waist. Come to think of it, I’ve never worn a tucked-in shirt…it makes me look all of 4′ 11″ tall. 🙂

  • Im a short-waisted hourglass… Is that possible? And I DO have a waist!!! It’s just short! Why do they say ‘lack of waist’ in this article?!?

    • Absolutely – short waists can still be hourglass – in fact many 8 shapes have short waists. Though more people who have short waists don’t have a defined waist – so you are one of the lucky ones!

  • Sometimes it is necessary to wear a collared button down the front top or blouse for work or in a more formal setting where it would be considered unkempt to wear the shirt untucked. Is there any way a short waisted person with long legs could do this without looking out of proportion and thick around the middle.

  • I’ve always known I was short waisted but recently discovered that buying petite tops makes all the difference in the fit. Even though I’m 5’8″ tall (you should see the looks I get in the petite dept!) the cut and fit of petite tops really makes an outfit more wearable.

  • For me personally, wearing a belt around the high hip is a disaster. It just accentuates the shelf in a really unflattering way and makes it look as if I have no waist at all. A skinny belt, or a wider elastic belt, worn around my waist (which is naturally very high) accentuates it. This looks best with empire waisted dresses and blouses (if you wore a belt this way with a form fitting top, it would accentuate not only the waist but also the “lumps” below it. But if the “lumps” are covered by loose fabric, it creates the illusion that the area under the cinched waist is slim).

  • I am an 8 shape and my waist, while well defined, is also slightly short – now I know why tucking in my shirts always looked kind of odd! my question is, though, it’s not extremely short, and I do love to highlight my small waist in my clothing. how would you suggest doing this? (I am petite, so I also want to keep my legs looking as long as possible)

  • Is there a difference between being short waisted and having a high waist? My rib cage ends almost right below my bustline but there is about 7 inches between my waist and my hip bone.

      • Thank you! It wasn’t as much of a problem when I was younger and thinner but it makes such a difference now and eliminates many styles. Thanks to EYS I’m getting there

  • Am I short waisted? Ribs and hips bones practically sit on top of each other and bust peak to waist is longer than the distance btw ribs and hip bones plus I’m petite almost 160cm. I could be an H shape or an 8 but probably not because there is no room for a waist but do have a hip shelf possibly.


  • Just because someone has a short waist, doesn’t mean they lack a waist! I have a very small short waist with big hips and big bust. What I’m hoping for is tips to elongate the waist without losing its narrowness. I find wearing very thin belts at the smallest part helps. Low rise jeans just mean my massive hips stick out like a muffin top. What I worry about is that my waist is very easily lost in baggy clothes.

    • You’re right – the 8 Shape body often has a short waist but it’s still defined, so looking for clothing that comes in at the waist is really important – look at 8 Shape body information as this will help you.

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