How to Solve the Belting Dilemmas for Short Waisted Women


Hey Imogen! I’ve read a lot about body shapes on your site and I’m already much wiser! But something still confuses me: I am petite (5’4”), very (!!!) short waisted and also a distinct A shape. And what I’ve learned about dressing these three characteristics seem to conflict. For example, a short waisted women should wear their belts on their hips, but A-shapes should wear them in the waist. There are also other contradictory advice on these three traits. What is true for me?
Thank you very much, I appreciate your response!
Love, Sarah from Switzerland


belting for short waisted


The thing is, there are no hard and fast rules, and you have to take:

  1. Your body shape
  2. Your body proportions
  3. Your body variations

into consideration when putting together outfits for your unique body.  All the ‘rules’ you read are guidelines and they just give you a starting point, not a set of never fail instructions.

In many ways, you need to decide what you like and what works for you.

  • Would you prefer to highlight your small waist?  If so, belt on the waist.
  • Would you prefer to look longer waisted?  If so, wear a curved hip belt, that comes from the sides of the waist but curves downwards at the front.
  • Would you prefer to look taller?  If so, don’t belt at all and wear a column of colour.

Top 5 Belting Tips for Short Waists

  1. A narrow belt won’t take up as much space as a wide belt – so if you’re belting at the waist, wear only a narrow belt.
  2. Hip belts may sit lower, but ideally look for one with a curve so it sits closer to your waist at your sides and curves down at the front, this will make your torso look longer, but not highlight your hips.
  3. Think about the colour of the belt.  A contrasting colour will make it more obvious, toning the colour in won’t highlight a short waist, but will still define your waist.
  4. Belting over a coloumn of colour won’t make you look as petite or short waisted, as belting over a top and bottom of different colours.
  5. Wear your top out, then belt over the top either with a narrow waist belt or a curved hip belt to create a waist focus, but the colour keeping on moving past your waist will help to balance your short waist as the belt provides an accessory detail but not a cutting off point.


The most important factor I find when belting is trial and error.  Just try different belts on with different outfits and discover what you like, what works for your body.  Many of the women doing my Evolve Your Style program have discovered that by taking photos (and posting them in the Evolve group where they get feedback) that they are now much more aware of what works best for them.  But different outfits will belt differently.  There isn’t an ‘only one way to belt’ rule to follow for any body shape or proportion!



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  • Oh, how I wish their were never fail instructions! Great tips as always and I appreciate that we have to take our unique proportions and body type into account for any guideline we read. I also have found conflicting advice for my body shape and proportions but my goal is to ALWAYS look thinner so I’ll follow column of color rule if in doubt. Evolve your style program has been invaluable.

    • Thanks Katherine – glad you’ve found Evolve so useful. I think it’s great we are all unique – it would be pretty boring looking at clones all day!

  • Hi, I am a petite 8 and have always found that the old short waist rule of wearing a thin belt in the colour of the top garment, ie not the colour of the bottom garment, works well. I also find hip belts good as they show off my slim hips. If you are short and wearing a dress the belt should not contrast too much or it will cut you in half. These days I seldom belt as my waist has expanded! Thanks for a very useful post Imogen.

  • I am also very short waisted. When I sew, I have to reduce the length of the pattern by about 4″ through the waist. (That’s about half the standard length.) I also have a nice small waist and an hourglass/X shape (depending on weight), but I can say that the looks on the first two dresses would never work for me. Every body is different, and on me those dresses would cut me in half and make me look blobby above and beneath. (Imagine erasing half of the distance between the bustline and waist, and you’ll see what I mean.) Even a matching belt highlights things I don’t want to highlight. That’s just the way I’m made, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that, while I love belting as a trend, I can’t wear every trend the way I want.

    Curved hip belts that come to a V in front, on the other hand, make me look like a goddess! They accentuate the curves of my body and add length down the center line. I have had an incredibly difficult time finding ones that I like, but when I do, they’re fabulous. That surprised me, because after four children I figured that they’d just accentuate my belly. In reality, they mask my belly because they distract the eye with diagonal lines.

    It’s definitely true that your body is unique and that the only way to truly know if a style will work on you is to try it out. Imogen’s advice has been wonderful because, for me, it makes it possible to eliminate 90% of what won’t suit me without guilt or a waste of time from trying it on. (She’s also saved me from that self-loathing that comes with trying on clothes that aren’t the right shape, but blaming the bad fit on my weight!). For everything else, I try it on and see for myself. Sometimes it doesn’t suit me, and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised!

  • I’m a petite (5’1″) very short-waisted (like, seriously, 1″ between ribcage and hipbone) A shape (narrow sloped shoulders, wide hips). So I don’t belt at all. But a column of colour makes me look bigger than I am, too. I find the best strategy for me is to wear tops or jackets untucked to the high hip, in a colour that contrasts and draws the eye upward, and a neutral like jeans on the bottom to minimize the hip area. When I was thinner, I could get away with a high belt at the natural waist or just under the bust on some items, but these days I carry around some extra weight all over so that’s not a good idea either. I just skip the belt and accessorize with necklaces instead.

    • There is an outside column and an inside column. If hips are your issue wear an outside column, bottom and topper in one colour, top in a different colour. Noone ever has to belt, it’s just if you want to.

  • Hi, Imogen. When your honeymoon is over and you’re feeling back into the groove of providing tremendously helpful advice to all and sundry, I have a post request. Or maybe it’s a plea to help me figure out what body shape advice I should be paying attention to. Dear style detective, consider this case:

    Shoulders and pelvis are about the same width,
    Long legs,
    Flat bum,
    Very high AND very fatty hips (at same level as largest part of middle-aged belly),
    No waist (bottom rib is at same level as top of hip bone),
    Very small diameter ribs,
    D cup bosom.

    Visually, both from the front and the side, the 30 inch ribs and 42 inch hips give me the illusion of a small short waist (if I’m wearing a supportive bra). But if I try to dress my ribs as a waist it looks odd.

    If I had lean hips I would dress as an 8. Perhaps the lack of real waist makes me an H, but the prominent hips don’t seem harmonious with H styles. I’ve almost concluded that I must dress as an O because it’s all that’s left.

    Do you have any ideas for how to dress the upper pelvis as an O and the rest of the body as an 8?

    Some things I’ve figured out from the Imogen study guides and my experiments:
    belting of any sort is impossible,
    knit shirts with ribbing at the bottom are bad,
    knit shirts are better if the fabric below the bust is oriented on the diagonal,
    woven tops require extensive vertical seaming,
    trousers and skirts must be very sleek fitting in the waist and hip (which practically requires custom-made).

    Some things I am completely baffled by are what styles to look for in jeans, dresses, jackets, jeans, underwear, skirts, and jeans.

    (PS I hope you see it as reasonable, after you’ve posted so much excellent basic and intermediate info, that reader questions get ever more challenging. But if you think this is too specific to be educational, I do understand.)

    • Sounds like you are 8/H/O combination. Use empire rather than waisted garments, dress your bottom half with straighter lines. you are looking for straighter lines on your bottom half – so straight skirts, straight leg jeans etc. Your tops need to be shaped without obvious waist definition – the H shape rules, if your under bust is your narrowest point this is common for H shape, but maybe if your stomach is protruding you may want to look at some of the rules for an O shape to dress your mid-section. Underwear – whatever is comfortable – not sure why you have problems there – try different styles til you find one you like.

      • Thanks for encouraging me to consider H more carefully. I had assumed that the high hips pegged me as 8, but it’s more complicated than that!

        My best-looking top IS an empire-waist knit with the hem just above my crotch. (At least, I’m free to think it looks good until I see a photo of me in it!) But I have a fine weave, knee-length empire-waist dress that, I was sad to see, looks a bit like a tent in photos. I should perhaps give up hope for a good dress style and focus on skirts & tunic-length tops.

        It seems that the absolute longest hem a top can have without my hips seriously disrupting the drape of the garment is to the bottom of my bum. A bit higher looks better. You have a post somewhere that mentions ending shirt seams just below the roundest part of the belly. If I add “and hips” to that guideline, then it works pretty well.

        The protruding belly isn’t too much of a problem, since off-the-rack clothing is generally designed to accommodate some of that. The sideways-protruding high hips are a serious fit challenge; absolutely nothing is designed to accommodate that. Trousers make me swear, as do undies, which have the same fit problems. Shirts are difficult to fit, too – even loose ones get horizontal wrinkles in the back across the hip area. This is why I want to learn to sew!

        Anyway, thanks for the pointers, I’ll search for relevant posts.

  • Hi Imogen, thank you for this post. I have been trying to work out my body shape for ages – I’m either an X or an H. I think my very short waist has been confusing me. My hips are the same as the outside of my shoulders. Naked I have a reasonable waist but clothed I look like I have none. I tend to look long and lean even though I’m not particularly tall (5’6″).

    I can’t go near belts at all but I will try the curved one that sits lower. I would love to belt over a cardigan but it just looks silly.

    Maybe I need to choose clothes with a curvier silhouette but I’m skightly over weight right now and want to hide the excess.

    So after reading your post I think I am a less curvy X with a short (can only fit one hand) waist. Thank you.

  • What I don’t get is where long/short ‘waisted’ actually means. Is is bust to waist where I’m really short. or waist to legbreak where I’m really long?

    • Short waist – short distance from bust peak to waist. Long waist, long distance from bust to waist.

      Rise – long rise – long from leg break to waist. Short rise – short distance from leg break to waist.

  • Hi Imogen,

    If there isn’t much room between last rib and top of hip – is that a short waist? My bones sit practically on top of each other and I’m an H shape; the shape of my rib cage doesn’t curve in.


  • You forgot the most important goal of wearing a belt: Preventing your jeans from exposing your butt. Oh that someone would invent a jeans pattern that fits a curvy woman and doesn’t gape at the back! If only they existed, I’d stop ever having to wear belts at all. Having literally less than 2cm between the bottom of my rib cage and the top of my hips when standing straight, any belt is hideously uncomfortable as soon as I bend at all. Forget visual effects, if the belt isn’t essential, I don’t want it!

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