You are short waisted when the distance between your shoulders and waistline is shorter than average. There are two ways to determine whether this is the case. 

  •  Stand up straight and see if you can fit two hand widths into the space from under your bust to your natural waist. Your fingers should not be spread. If you can fit less than two hand widths, you’re short waisted. Some of my clients can only fit one hand width into this space. 
  • Measure the length from shoulder to hip bone. Measure the length from hip bone to just below the knee cap. If the former is shorter by about two inches, you’re short waisted. 

Generally, short-waisted people have relatively short torsos and longer legs. More rarely, you can be short in the waist but long in the body when you have a very long rise measurement. And you can also be short in the torso and relatively short in the leg, but this is even more rare. 

The guidelines for dressing short-waisted bodies can be less than useful when they do not take other body modifiers into account. They’re often very general and assume that the rest of your body has typical proportions. They are also focused on creating conventionally flattering proportions, which might not be your style goal. But the guidelines do provide a solid starting point if your goal is to lengthen the torso to create a more balanced visual between the top and bottom parts of your body. Interestingly, the first three tips work equally well to shorten a long torso. 

1. Wear a Well-Fitting Bra

The right bra lifts the bust, creating a waistline while smoothing out the silhouette. Make sure you’re wearing the right bra size and are adequately supported. The wrong bra can make a short-waisted person seem even more short waisted, especially with a larger bust. 

2. Wear a Column of Colour 

This means wearing the same colour on the top and bottom, or wearing a top that creates a very low contrast against the bottom. The column masks where your torso ends and legs begin. A solid dress is an easy way to wear a column of colour. 

3. Wear Empire Cuts 

This sounds counter-intuitive because you might imagine the empire cut will raise the waist, shortening the torso even further. But what it actually does it hide the waist and create a different cutline across the body.

4. Wear Mid or Low-Rise Jeans and Trousers

Dropping the position of the waistband to below the natural waist visually lengthens the torso and shortens the leg line. For this to work you must showcase the waistband of the jeans or trousers by tucking or semi tucking the top. 

5. Wear Garments with a Dropped or Natural Waist 

Wearing dresses and tops with a dropped waist lengthens the torso because it draws the eye downwards. Dresses with a defined natural waist can balance out the length of both a short and a long torso. 

6. Wear Tops with Diagonal Hems

Regular length tops with diagonal hems visually lengthen the torso on the longer side, while the shorter side creates structure. Semi tucking a top into a pair of mid or low-rise bottoms is a more subtle version of the same strategy. 

7. Wear V-Necklines

V-necklines visually lengthen a short neck and short torso. This is especially effective when you are petite with a larger bustline. 

8. Keep Tops UN-Tucked 

Untucked regular and tunic length tops effectively lengthen the torso and shorten the leg line, especially when you create a high contrast between the top and bottom. Short waists look best in skirts with shorter untucked tops. Tucking a top into a high-waisted skirt or pair of pants shortens a short waist even further. 

9. Create Vertical Integrity with Accessories

Wearing long statement necklaces, or necklaces with chunky pendants, visually lengthens the torso in a more suble way. Tying a scarf vertically so that the ends hang down, or wearing an infinity scarf, draws the eye up and down, which achieves the same effect. 

10. Wear Low-Slung Belts 

Low-slung belts reposition the waist by lowering it, which lengthens the torso. Soft skinny belts worn loosely around the waist so that they “dip” lower in front are an excellent way to balance out a short torso. The soft V-shape in front effectively draws the eye up and down. 

11. Wear Self-Colour Belts on the Waist

If you’re going to wear a belt on the natural waist with a high-contrast top, match the belt to the colour of the pants or skirt. That way you’ll soften the cutting horizontal line across the body, thereby lengthening the torso in a subtle way. 

12. Wear Long Layers Over a Belted Waist

Wearing a high-contrast belt on the natural waist shortens an already short waist. By layering a long layer like a tunic cardigan over the belted top, you’ll visually lengthen the torso, offsetting the cutting line of the waisted belt. Belting at the natural waist over a longer jacket also helps to lengthen a shorter waist.

You can use a few of these tips in one outfit: combine an asymmetrical V-necked ink tunic with a pair of black skinny jeans and chunky pendant necklace. Or wear a low-slung, soft, low-contrast belt over a column of colour. Feel free to ask further questions on how to dress a shorter waist in the comments section.