As I mentioned recently, the ‘80s continue to be a significant influence on fashion. Paper-bag waist detailing is one of the ways, and a trend that has gone mainstream. A paper-bag waist has extra fabric that accumulates high or very high on the waistline, but is cinched in with darts, pleats, drawstring, and tie belt. The top of the waist extends beyond the tie belt and can “ruffle” when the excess fabric is extreme. The point is to fully or semi-tuck tops over a paper-bag waist to showcase the detail. In some instances you can remove the belt and sport a cropped top with the silhouette.

You’ll find paper-bags waists on pants, jeans, skirts and shorts of varying lengths. The collection below shows multiple examples of each.

Club Monaco
Anree Short
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3
Club Monaco
Dilys Skirt
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5
Club Monaco
Leia Pant
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4
Boden
Melina Paperbag Pants
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4
Boden
Tie Waist Crop Pants
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2
Boden
Tie Waist Crop Pants
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3
Boden
Melina Paperbag Pants
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12

The paper-bag waist has an interesting visual effect. The excess fabric at the waist and tummy creates volume and widens the midsection, yet the waist definition and tie belt slims the silhouette back down. There is lots of textural interest and plenty of room for movement. The tummy area poufs out when seated, which is the nature of the beast.

The ruffle at the waistline can be extreme or subtle, depending on the style. Most of the versions have front pleats although some have darts and drawstrings instead. Softer fabrics create less bulk at the waist and are a better way to maintain a slimmer effect. The versions with darts or very small pleats and tie belts create a “paper-bag-lite” effect and are another way to go if reducing the volume of fabric is a concern.

The long torso’d hourglass or pretty pear shaped body type was made for a paper-bag waist because the high rise shortens the length of the waist, and draws more attention to an already defined waist. It’s a harder design detail to feel fab in when you’re short in the waist and larger in the bust because the high rise further shortens the length of the waist and accentuates the size of the bust, making you feel less than streamlined. It’s usually not a popular style for very apple shaped body types because it draws attention and bulk to the midsection.

Please don’t think that you have to be tall or very narrow to wear this look. You really don’t. It’s more a question of being proportionally longer in the waist, and adhering to your figure flattering priorities. I’ve dressed apple shaped body types and plus sizes in paper-bag waists who have looked and felt fab because they had long torsos. The paper-bag waist can also camouflage midsection lumpage and bumpage.

I have an old pair of cold weather pleated tweed trousers with a streamlined paper-bag waist and built-in belt. I love these pants despite them billowing out when seated. They are VERY comfortable, beautifully made, and a grand nod to the fabulous ‘80s. I’ve ordered a Summer version from Boden in red because I love to wear pants that are not jeans. I’m a yay for the trend.

Over to you. How do you feel about paper-bag waists, and would you wear the look?

Paper Bag Waist