How to Define a Short Waist


How can I define my short waist, which also happens to be the slimmest point of my body, along with arms/wrists, without totally screwing up my proportions?

I’ve recently been watching some old Tim Gunn (Guide to Style) which I downloaded onto my iPad and have noticed that his three main ingredients to style are:

  1. Silhouette
  2. Proportion
  3. Fit

Which I definitely agree with as being integral to having great style, but would also add to his list as essentials:

4. Colour

5. Personality


And then I’d add other elements such as:

6. Scale

7. Fabric – sheen, texture, drape

But enough about that, what your question is asking definitely relates to:

  1. Proportion
  2. Silhouette
  3. Personality


How to define a short waist

So let’s look at each element:

Proportion – ideally we look best when we dress the body in thirds rather than halves.   And we dress it in longer rectangles, rather than squares or wide rectangles.

When you have a short waist, emphasizing it can make you look boxy if you’re not careful, but there are ways of making your waist a feature without losing the most aesthetically pleasing proportions.

1. Belt at the waist, but don’t end your tops at that point.

2. Dresses are fabulous as you can get a longer line of colour or pattern, whilst still defining the waist.

3. A collar can appear to elongate the length of your upper body.


Silhouette – as you have a slim waist, you want to make sure you take advantage of it.

1. Make sure all your clothes have waist definition

2. Avoid anything boxy

3. Look for fabrics that drape without clinging and skim your curves

4. Dress for your body shape.

5. Feature your arms and wrists – add jewellery to your wrists and fingers, but ideally, only one wrist at a time so you don’t end up drawing horizontals across your hip area.


highlight wrists and hands

Personality – in the end, dressing for your personality is the MOST important factor of all.  It’s about expressing who you are, your authentic self.  Some personality types like to stick to the rules.  Some love to break them all.    Some of us do a bit of a combination, but when we break the rules we understand what we’re doing as we know the rules (a bit like Picasso, who could paint a portrait in a traditional sense, but chose his own unique style).   If you want to break the rules go ahead and do so.


More on proportions can be found here


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  • Fantastic info Imogen! I’m saving this post to refer back to again as I put these ideas into practice. I hadn’t thought about a collar making my torso appear longer, another reason to add more collars to my wardrobe.

  • Thank you for tackling a topic that so many expert stylists or fashion bloggers seem to ignore. I have long suffered the frustration of the short waist/short torso and your suggestions have proved priceless! This insight coupled with your finally putting a name to my shape (The Figure 8) have given me guidelines to better stock my closet and how to determine what works best for my frame. Thank you for educating me on how to dress, and how to love, the body that I have been given.

  • Thank you for these helpful styling tips. I am short waisted and i find it an absolute nightmare when shopping for clothes. In fact most of the time i leave feeling really depressed. I would like your advice on trench coats. I would like to invest in a Burberry trench and would appreciate your advice on the ideal style or cut of trench for a busty, short waisted girl like myself.

    Many Thanks

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