Every so often a Fabber asks about the difference between a rise and a waist measurement. The waist measurement we’re talking about is the length of your torso, not the circumference of the narrowest part of your midsection. It’s what we’re referring to when we say “short-waisted” or “long-waisted.” 

Here’s a simple definition of rise, waist and torso measurements:

  • Rise is the distance from your crotch point to your natural waist
  • Waist is the distance from your shoulder neck intersection to your natural waist
  • Torso = Rise + Waist

Either measurement can be relatively short, long or regular. You can usually figure out where you fall on the rise continuum by trying on lots of bottoms. People who are short in the rise tend to prefer wearing low and mid-rise bottoms, and are cautious with high rises because the waist of the garment comes up higher on the body than it does on average. People who are long in the rise wear high rises extremely well because they have the real estate to fill out the length. They tend to find low and mid rises too low because they’re positioned lower on their bodies than was intended.

The distance between the shoulder neck point and the natural waist will vary, even among people who are the same size in other respects. If you’re outside the norm and either “short-waisted” or “long-waisted“, it can be a little trickier to find clothes that create flattering proportions because most clothes are designed for people with average proportions.

It’s easy to figure out if you’re short or long in the waist. Stand up straight (don’t sit!) and see if you can fit two hand widths between the under bust and the natural waist. If you can fit more than two hand widths, you have a long waist. Less than two is a short waist.

When you are relatively short both in the rise and waist, you have a short torso relative to the average person. When both measurements are relatively long, you are long in the torso relative to the average person. Often, people who have short torsos have relatively long legs. People who have long torsos have relatively short legs.

I’m 5ft 6, and relatively short in the rise. I like low rises, and mid rises tend to come up higher on me than the average person. I cautiously wear higher rises if they aren’t too high. A nine inch front rise on a pair of jeans or pants is in line with my belly button. A ten inch rise is as high as I can go on a pair of tailored jeans, thereby covering my belly button and reaching my natural waistline. I can go longer in the rise on a pair of pants when they’re baggy because the crotch point isn’t fitted and hangs lower on my body.

I can fit exactly two hand widths between my under bust and waistline, so I’m regular length in the waist. This helps me to create flattering proportions with high-rise bottoms, despite my short rise measurement. I enjoy semi and fully tucking tops, and belting at the waist because I have sufficient length in my upper torso to comfortably accommodate the action. Since I wear flats up to an inch in height 99% of the time, semi and fully tucking tops, or belting at the waist is a useful styling strategy because it lengthens the leg line from the hips upward without wearing high heels.

Understanding how your measurements relate to each other can help you create your figure flattering priorities, so over to you. Are you relatively long or short in the rise? How many hand widths can you fit between your under bust and waistline? Are you short or long-waisted? Feel free to ask questions in the comments section.