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 six 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 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 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 elongate 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 you’re 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.

Join the Conversation

40 thoughts on “Style Tips for Short-Waisted Women

  1. I wish i could whittle me a new waist. I look TERRIBLE in any bathing suit. I almost think a bikini looks better on me. But I’m 60!😄 The back view…. Awful, so square and just, i hate my short waist. I do like empire waist dresses. Another thing; when you are short waisted, back fat really is a problem. I’m just going to wear shorts and tee to the beach! 🤣

  2. I’m so glad you have advice for short-waisted women. It’s such a struggle, especially when high-waisted pants are in style. Love the 2000’s when low-riders were everywhere. My husband and I watched a fashion video for 50+ women yesterday, to look more “modern,” and all of it went against my body style. High waist, front tuck, large cuffs. (I’m 5’1″). He was saying,”Yeah, you would look more modern…” No, I would look like a box. Lol. This article gave me the exact advice I’ve had to discover on my own. Thanks so much. Julie

  3. I always have a difficult time finding tops that fit my figure and that look good on me. I am 5’1” and have a really short torso (plus a lower belly pouch. The distance between my last rib and the top of my hip bone is probably less than 1.5 inches essentially giving me a wide waist. Ive tried empire waist tops and dresses
    But they make me look pregnant and blouson type tops
    And dresses only accentuate my wide waist and my odd proportions. I’ve also never tucked my tops nor worn belts because they don’t look good on me. Petite sizes are the only ones that work best for me because regular tops have longer hemlines and tend to drape weirdly over my belly. All of these issues make clothes shopping a challenge. I envy those who can just pull clothes off the rack or buy anything online and the clothes would always fit perfectly.

  4. I will apply for a job right after this quarantine, that’s why I’m currently looking for a boutique where I can shop for formal and casual attire. I’m glad you shared this; since I have a short waist, I’d make sure to buy short skirts, because according to you, long skirts tend to make the body look poorly proportioned. I’ll also keep in mind to accessorize the clothes with a belt.

  5. I was unfortunately cursed with both a short waist and athletic (rectangular) body type. Advice for one tends to directly contradict the other. I wear high-waisted pants because they are the only kind that fit comfortably (don’t cut into me when I sit) and show off what little waist I do have. I have almost no curves as it is. Empire waistlines, long shirts, and belts emphasize the weird proportions.

  6. What’s the best underwear for short waisted women. I constantly have roll down in almost everything.

    1. Hi Renee, It sounds like your torso is on the shorter side, and you probably have long legs? High waisted bottoms can eat up your midsection and roll down as you mention. Have you tried going for a mid-low low-rise bottom? Soma has a great selection. I like Soma’s vanishing tummy high leg brief or if that is too high they have a hipster brief: they have excellent quality and beautiful prints and colors. Hope that helps.

  7. I love the new jumpsuit styles. I’m willing to have tailoring done but still can’t find one to work with. Is it just a wrong idea for me?

  8. My wife would love this as she is really big into making sure her outfits are on point and match everywhere. I find it funny that whenever I see people wearing high-waisted pants. As you said, people really do look like they are all pants! Anyways, I’ll see about showing her this for her benefit.

  9. These rules all apply to me because I am both tall and short-waisted. All except the part about the long skirts making the upper body appear shorter, that is. I wear maxi skirts when I can find them, and they look great if I layer a long shirt or tunic over them. I suppose shorter people might not get the same benefit from these styles and fashion recs, but the article is spot-on for the rest. There’s a tall-size maxi dress by Eddie Bauer I wear at least twice weekly because it has an empire waist and elastic shirring in the right places, and the cotton is comfortable and forgiving.

  10. Hi Deborah,

    Great article. What do you think about blouson type dresses, where it has elastic in the waist and sort of puffy on top for short waisted individuals?

    G. Younh

    1. Hi G.
      I have to see a photo of what you mean but it sounds like this could make your waist looks shorter because of all that flowy fabric under the bust and around the tummy. If you are short waisted you want to visually lengthen the distance between the bust and the waist otherwise it is going to look like your bust and waist are one big blob, so to speak.

  11. I disagree with no. 6. Most of my shirts reach my butt and it looks weird because the part that looks like my waist (but isn’t because my waist is higher) looks big, making me look fat. I’d rather tuck it in and and show where my torso really ends, thus showing off my long legs.

      1. I can never tuck in anything although I am slim and 5’4″. My husband thinks anyone who doesn’t tuck in a shirt/blouse and belt looks sloppy. I tried it one time when I was way underweight after an illness but it still didn’t look right. He can do it because he has a long waist. But what is your opinion concerning the casual look of tucking a shirt in just a small portion in the front or side like I see in so many model photos? I have done it a few times and somehow it seems somewhat better than tucking a blouse or shirt in all the way around .

        1. Hi Penny, Thanks for your question. I think the half tuck you are referring to is most chic. The problem with tucking in is it doesn’t look or feel good unless you have a very flat tummy and you are right that many tops look sloppy out or can make your legs look short so half tuck away! Cheers, Deborah

  12. The empire waist thing actually bugs me lol, I think it only really works in short dresses. When I tried an empire maxi it made my bust appear smaller and combined with my long legs I looked like a pillar of fabric instead of a shapely woman. I recommend women wanting to wear a maxi to have a dress that flares out, naturally elongating the torso through construction, sans waist or bustline, look for knit dresses that have minimal construction seams involved.

  13. No 2 and 5 are the only ones I agree with. I’ will be 49 in a few weeks and I look frumpy if I untuck things, empire lines actually hide my tiny waist and high waist lines emphasises my smallest area – so I’ll keep wearing them :-) I think those rules only apply to certain builds perhaps?

    1. Sounds like you’re lucky enough to be an hourglass! If you’re an inverted triangle like me, all of the rules are good!

  14. I need help ! I have no waist at all and therefore always wear a long top not tucked in. I have recently taken up horse riding again and obviously need to wear jeans , but when competing I can’t wear my shirt out , I must be tucked in and with a belt – neither suit me at all . I have skinny legs but a tummy and hips – any suggestions?

  15. Thank you so much for this article with great tips. In your last point you have said that we shouldn’t tuck in tops. What about formal wear where we have to tuck in sometimes? I am 23, tall (5’9″), short waist-ed, have a broad shoulder than my hips. What other choices of clothes you would suggest me, other than skirts?

    1. Hi Arriane, If you have to tuck in, tuck in. These are just general guidelines if you want to lengthen you midsection. It sounds like you may be an inverted triangle, which means means you want to widen out your bottom half to make it match your shoulders and create an hourglasss shape. If that is you, then here is an article I wrote about that shape to help guide you:
      If you really want to get specific to your body type then I suggest you try a program I am a reseller for called My Private stylist. All the info is here. You basically work with them to determine your body type and then show you real clothes in stores that would work. Check it out here:

  16. Thank you for the tips. I might try skirts, I’ve never really worn them a lot.

    I am short waisted. I have long thin legs, well not really that long as I am only 5’5, but it is longer in proportion to my torso.

    Can I wear boots or not? Would it cut my legs? What length of boots can I wear?
    Also, what kind of winter coats should I look for?
    Also, is wearing big scarves that cover your whole chest advisable?

    Being short waisted means I also pack on the pounds in my torso, making me look round in my body with very slim arms and legs. Maybe I look like a lollipop or a chicken. I’m at a loss on how to dress my body, I have bought so many stuff when I was young that were just wasted and not really right for me. Now I just don’t go shopping anymore. T shirts and jeans are the only things I wear. To add to the problem, my sense of style is casual/tomboyish, but like I said, I think I will try on a few skirts and see. Also I’m 39 now, will be 40 next year, I think It’s time for me to graduate from the T-shirt and jeans routine. Thanks.

    1. Hi Barb, At 5’5″ with long legs you can wear anything from ankles booties to tall to the knee problem. It hard to tell without seeing you but it sounds like you may have an apple body shape (busty up top with long thin legs).Here is a post I did on that: ( ) If this is the case stay away with coats that have too much bulk up top or that make you look wide and chesty. For example, no double-breasted coats or coats with high necks or bulky collars. A huge, heavy scarf will also make you look more top heavy. A single breasted coat or a wrap coat with a V- neckline will open your chest and slim you down. Here’s a post I did on wrap coats:( )
      Good for you for trying something new this year. All the best and let me know how it goes. Cheers, Deborah

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

    1. 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!

      1. I have a short waist and find that wearing low rise jeans gives me a muffin top so I go for high wise jeans which eliminates the muffin top look and I love wrap dresses because they accentuate my hour glass figure. high waisted jeans and pants work for me.

  20. 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!

  21. 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.

      1. 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!

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