Style Tips for Short Waisted Women

When your natural waist is closer to your bust than your hips you are likely to be short waisted. Short waisted women have high waists, long legs and are generally on the tall side.

short waisted vs. long waisted

A short waisted woman like the one second from the left has a higher waist, hips and longer legs.

Dressing this body type can be a challenge after 40 especially as middle age spread starts to creep into an already short middle, but there are solutions.

Here are 6 simple tips for selecting the right clothing for short waisted women.


1.  Get the Right Skirt Length 

The good news is that a short waist means you likely have legs that go on for miles! Celebrate by showing them off. One of the best types of clothing for short waisted women is a skirt.

The style of skirt doesn’t really make a difference- anything from a body-skimming pencil skirt to an A-line shape will work. All that matters is that the length grazes your knees, but doesn’t go any longer.

Long skirts can make your figure look poorly proportioned  because a long swath of fabric on your lower half will make your upper body look even shorter by contrast.

2. Be Wary of Belts

short waisted fashion, clothes for short waisted women

Wide belts are the enemy of short waisted women. They take up too much space on your waist, making you look boxy.

To play up your short-waisted figure try a skinny belt.  It will show off your curves, but won’t take up as much room. Try belting around your hips or under your bust as opposed to at your natural waist. By wearing the belt under your bust, you make your torso look long and lean.

Slinging a belt around the hips draws the eyes away from the torso all together, highlighting your lower half instead.

3.  Banish High-Waisted Pants from Your Life

If you have a high waist and wear high waisted pants you are going to look like you are all pants. There will be too much fabric between the crotch and waistband and you will look like you are wearing fisherman’s wading pants or those horrible high waisted mom jeans everyone jokes about.  Also, if you have any bit of a tummy high waisted pants can really emphasize that too.

Try lower rise pants to fool the eye and make your torso appear longer: Low rise styles are the best pants/jeans for short waisted women.  Midrise styles are really good too because they camouflage your belly but don’t come up so high that they eat up your middle.

4.  Try Empire Waist Tops and Dresses

Much like wearing a belt below the bust, wearing a top or dress with an empire waist will lengthen your midsection. An “empire waist” is when a garment fits tightly directly under the bust and then flares out to the hem.

Empire dresses are some of the best dresses for short waisted women:  Since the goal is to make your figure look balanced, empire waists are a great style tool because they visually raise your waist making your torso look longer than it is.

5. Buy a Well-Fitting Bra.

As we age everything starts heading south including our breasts. If you are short between your bustline and waist and you are sagging a lot, you are going to look like you have no waist at all.

Wearing a supportive bra will help hike “the girls” up and away from your midsection and make you look longer, leaner and more proportioned.

6. Don’t Tuck in Tops

Wondering if there are certain tops for short waisted women that work better than others?  Longer tops do help elongante your torso and it’s best not to tuck in. Tucking your shirt into pants or a skirt creates a horizontal line across your midsection that highlights your short waist.

Instead, leave your top untucked to draw the eye down and away from your middle. If an untucked shirt makes you feel too dressed-down, just add a blazer and necklace to make your outfit look more put together.

Being short waisted doesn’t have to mean being frumpy at 40 or beyond.  Armed with these tips you’ll be able to balance your body, show off your legs and look Fabulous after 40 and beyond!

For a complete look at your body type and the types of clothes you need to wear whether you are short waisted, long waisted or just average check out our cool online style tool, My Private Stylist.

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  1. I have a question. If a short waisted woman is wearing lower waisted pants/jeans…wouldn’t it be okay to tuck in then? I realize these are only guidelines–but wouldn’t that be a time it would look okay? jodie

  2. A case of Adult onset scoliosis has left me short waisted after years of being proportioned. I was 5’7&3/4″ at my tallest. I am now 5’5″. My legs do look longer now that I lost height especially on my waist. Thanks for the tips.

  3. Enjoyed your article, it’s right on. I’m 59, 5’5″, 115 lbs. I learned a long time ago that tucking in, wearing wide belts, and wearing at waist or high-waisted pants made me look short and frompy. I happened upon your website looking for hints on current casual business styles. I’m still wearing pull-over t-shirt style blouses, with at waist fitted blazers and straight-leg dress slacks for the look. I am concerned I’m out-dated, but because I’m short-waisted, I feel I can’t vary my style too much other than add a new scarf to the look.

  4. I really have to disagree with some of these points. For example, point 4 try empire waist tops and dresses. Not only does this add pounds to my petite, x shaped, small waisted body, but it is more or less the same as point 2 in what to wear if you are long waisted. Also as I have a longer rise I find that I need at least a mid-rise, if not a high-waist trouser for comfort, to avoid unsightly wrinkling across the top of the thighs and to avoid gape at the back waist. However, I don’t tuck but prefer to wear tailored or shaped tops.

    • Hi Alison,
      If you are shortwaisted and long in the rise you are right, you will likely need mid-rise. I’m built that way and I enjoy a lower to mid-rise. You can tuck in or leave out depending on whether you have a belly. I, like you, prefer to not tuck and wear tailored or shaped tops. Wearing my tops out elongates my torso.

      Higher rise pants on a short waisted woman are o.k. if you simply using them for the purpose of holding you in, and you are not tucking in. (I’m talking about a stretchy flat front pair). But tucking into high rise pants when you are short waisted will make you look like you’ve tugged your pants up too high. It will also really accentuate any tummy weight. ie: the mom jeans look.

      As for empire waist tops/dresses, they do work on both short and long waisted provided you don’t have a large tummy. If you carry weight out front and are rather round, you will look pregnant no matter what, however I do find empire tops and dresses do camouflage a small jelly belly quite well.

      Also if you are petite, as you say you are, empires can drown you in fabric, so if you are going to wear one it must be very simple, streamlined and not too long.

      There are no cookie cutter rules for how to dress when our bodies are so unique, only guidelines. The mirror and common sense are your best friends when it comes to dressing. I hope that helps. Cheers!

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Great article, I think each of the tips is right on target. Unfortunately, the photo you chose to go with the article violates 2 of the 6 principles — don’t wear a wide belt and don’t tuck in your shirts!

  6. Michelle Persson says:

    I’m short waisted but only 5’2 and wear a 32E bra so you can see the problems I have with clothes. I’ve never been able to wear petite pants because they were to short and if they weren’t lower rise, pulled up in the crotch. I love skirts but never tuck my shirt in. I was so happy when the lower rise pants came back in style as they work perfect for me.

    • Hi Michelle,
      Yes the lower rise helps to give the illusion of a longer torso. So glad they work for you.

      • THANK YOU so much for this article and great tips. I very rarely come across dressing short waisted woman. I feel sometimes like I’m cursed with short waist, curvy, curvy hips, long legs. I wear between a small/medium or 10/12 and I swear because I’m more wide I feel like I’m all bunched up in that area. I always feel cramped and squished. I’m a fashionesta and I like to wear or try to wear most fashions. But some things (like sheath dresses) are impossible for me to wear. But anyway, I do tons of looking before I purchase and follow the rules for short waisted. It is a challenge but so worth it when you find an outfit for the day that you feel good in.

        Thanks again!