Confessions of a Short-Waisted Woman

…A big-legged woman ain’t got no soul. ~Led Zepplin

What about a short-waisted woman? No morals? Questionable taste? A sick sense of humor?

I suffer from the above defect. As defects go, it isn’t the worst–not by far. But I’ve still had to learn how to dress myself to compensate for the fact that my waist, (if you can call the barely discernible indention that circles my core, a waist), hugs the bottom of my ribcage instead of hovering slightly north of my belly button.

The following looks would be horrible on me:


But the absolute worst article of clothing for someone with my affliction?


That would be mom jeans. (Also known as the short-waisted woman’s nightmare.)

According to the designers at the Gap, this look will be big in 2011. (Thanks to my friend Noël at BirdrockFabrications for sharing the horrible news.) Talk about setting women back. Which man decided it was a great idea to resurrect mom jeans?

It’s a new year, so I am going to take a deep cleansing breath and focus on the positive. And there is a positive in all of this. Below are some looks that work for those of us with misplaced waists.


I think this outfit works because the dark color of the dress combined with the low-slung belt makes the torso appear elongated. Hip-hugging belts are the waist-challenged girl’s best friend. It’s a fact.

Something else that works? Hide your waist. If you can’t see it, it doesn’t matter where it is–right?


I am a huge fan of the 1960’s mod look, and nothing says mod more than a classic shift dress. Well… maybe a pale girl riding a Vespa is more mod, but other than that–nothing. This dress is by Stella McCartney.

Layering is another great way to elongate the torso while hiding the waistline:


This sweater is by Vince. I love Vince.  They are king (or maybe queen?) when it comes to making comfortable, high-quality, short-waist friendly tops.

And finally, you know what looks really good on those of us who have middle of the body issues?


Low-rise jeans!

Fashion industry, I am begging. Please don’t take my low-rise jeans away.

What do you think? Are you a fan of high-waisted clothing? Do you have any tips for camouflaging a figure flaw?


36 responses

  1. I’m short-waisted, too! I know it’s hard to believe since I stand a hair shy of 6′, but my rib cage pretty much rests on my ischium (top of the hips). I have been so happy the last 8 or so years with the popularity of low-rise jeans. Regular cut jeans look like high-waisted ones on me! I’m pretty sure that there will continue to be low rise for some time. Too many post-pubescent girls enjoy showing off their thongs out of the top of their jeans. Can’t do that with a “mom jean”, after all. teeheehee!!

  2. oh, and don’t get me started on the “big leg women ain’t got no soul”. I’m pretty sure that if I’d been a guy, I’d have made a pretty decent running back, lol!

  3. I too am shortwaisted. It’s like my hips stop at my boobs.
    And at first, I thought high-waisted jeans would be good for me, because I’m just ignoring the waist, you know? And have extra boob support.

    But thanks to your horrifying graphical representations, I see that I too, must fear the new Gap denim on behalf of my kind.


  4. I would have agreed with you a scant few months ago.
    I’m not short waisted by “no waisted”, but recently I began belting my waist. Sweaters, dresses, skirts, and pants, and I’ve got to tell you…it makes you look like you have a waist, and people think I’ve lost weight—and I haven’t.
    So, I’d take a second look if I were you. Now many of my tunic A-line dresses look a bit maternity to me..
    Just saying think about it.

    • @Rebekah, I think it depends on where your natural waistline is located. I also don’t have a well-defined waist, and what I do have is near my ribs, so belting it really doesn’t help. There’s almost no space between my breasts and the belt when I do that. Trust me, I’ve tried.

      @Tommy, Not your heart!

      @SanDiegoMomma, Glad to help. Happy to have you in my club.

      @Aunt melmel, Mom jeans are awful.

      @Melanie, Me too!

    • yeah, i think youre right. i wish the author of this post had shown real-life examples, then i could see it better. but i dont think dropped-waist looks good on shorter torsos because the waist line normally drops down farther than the hips

  5. Sorry to be the bearer of bad fashion news! I’m with you and planning to avoid this trend all together. I think a very narrow segment of women have the body type to pull this look off.

  6. i have been trying to find pictures of short waisted women but i have only found one. I am trying to lose weight and finding a realistic picture for a goal is rediculous.They are all long waisted. I am short waisted and short legged which is a rare combination. I don’t look freaky or anything but i need to find a shot waisted model. And the only info I can find is how to dress a short waist, with no pictures of short waisted people. So my questions is Jennifer Lopez short waisted? She has an hour glass figure but does she have a short waist?

  7. How about short-waisted, long-legged and age 50 with a tummy? I am sooooo glad that low-rise jeans have been around (and hope they stay), but I have a longer inseam than most women. Plus I live in Texas and have a couple pairs of 1 1/2 ” heel cowgirl boots. Any suggestions on jeans that won’t be rubbing my ribs while still extra long?

    • Hi Ellen,

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

      Wish I knew more about different brands of jeans and how they fit. I tend to find something that works and then stick with it. I am just under 5’6″ and often wear wedges with a 3″ heel. I almost always have to hem the jeans I wear, which makes me think the inseams are usually very long. The brands I like the most are: William Rast, True Religion and Rock and Republic. Hope that helps.

  8. I was told by a women co-worker Friday that i have long legs and am very statuesqe… i was shocked as i am 5’5 maybe 5’6..she is much taller then me.. She said it is because she has a long torso and i have a short one..or was it short-waisted? which led me to this site…infact everyone thinks i am 5’8 or even 6 feet..even my own sister who is towers over me!!

    • I get the same comments, and I am your height. I think that is because my shape is pretty much straight up and down–no real pit stop at my waist. Might also be because I like to wear 3-inch wedges. Thanks for your comment–Shannon.

  9. Thanks for this thread! I learned in home ec years and years ago that I am mathematically sooooo short-waisted. The teacher said that the “normal” space between the bottom of the ribs and the top of the hip is 7 inches. I’ve got about 2 and 3/4″ if I stand up nice and tall. I stand a towering 5’3 and 3/4″ and have the typical very-long-for-my-size legs, with a 31″ inseam.

    I’ve been slender and fit most of my life, but have a pot belly. Very little “extra” fat on it, no lack of muscle tone, but from right under my navel, I definitely disproportionately protrude!

    What I’m wondering is — when you’re this short-waisted, do you have a tummy because there’s nowhere else for your intestines to be? There are roughly 20-25 feet of large and small intestine in the typical human, and I can’t help but think they have to go somewhere, and there’s sure no space for them any higher up! I don’t imagine being short-waisted entitles us to 5 or 10 fewer feet of intestines than normal, so surely there’s a correlation?

    Has anyone else arrived at a similar conclusion?

    The good news is that this body type is Perfect for riding horses! Woo hoo! Long legs, long arms, short torso = low center of gravity and good base for balance. I believe we also have advantages in other sports, such as biking, possibly golf, and a few others where a compact center of balance, and the advantage of a lot of leg make a killer power combination. Now, if I only had timing and skill, I could do pretty well at those sports! No hope of being a willowy ballerina, though. Belly dancing for days would be a natural, I’m thinkin’….

    My sister also notes that in comic books (aka “graphic novels”), the heroines almost always are short-waisted. I hadn’t noticed before she said that, but upon review I must agree. They don’t have the tummy, though! The benefits of ink.

    I have been looking at some pictures in fitness magazines, and observing the occasional person in airports and whatnot, and I believe I’m seeing a trend. I need to figure out if I should stop fighting myself and accept the proportions of this biology, or if I just need to work harder on my abs, posture, etc.

    Any feedback (medical or anecdotal) would be much appreciated!

    • Seven inches?! Really? Wow… I’ve got maybe three. I have no idea about the intestines–seems like the body always finds a way to adjust–but who knows? You might be onto something.

      You bring up some very interesting points, Chris. Thanks for taking the time to leave such thoughtful comments!

  10. On the low-rise jeans — Eddie Bauer has a couple of good fits. Lands End has some low-rise options, and they will hem to fit, so if you need low-rise/long inseam, it’s actually doable. I can’t wear petite pants (which have the proper rise) because they’re too short in the legs — usually 28″ to 30″ inseams.

    Lands End is the only catalog store I’ve found that will hem to specification. Also – Banana Republic has some different fits, and I got a wonderful pair of slacks there last year that fit just under my waist line. Probably hip-huggers on the “normal” people. But they work very well. Of course, I can’t remember the names of these various fits, but they are described online or can be by whoever helps you at the store.

  11. I love the concept of the protruding belly on short-waisted women of being caused by the intestines having nowhere to go. I have struggled with a protuding belly since my 20’s, even when I weighed less than 100 lbs. Makes perfect sense

  12. I’m short waisted, and when I was pregnant, a lot of folks thought I was having twins. I guess it’s because there’s less room. Also, I think the belly thing is spot on. I’ve always had one, even before kids. I would be a whole two inches taller if I had a normal waist! There’s only about two to three fingers width between the bottom of my rib cage and my hip. Talk about a short waist! When I see myself topless in a mirror, I feel like I look old womanish with my boobs so close to my waist, lol. Does anyone else have trouble with strappy tank tops, etc? They’re always too long for me and I have to look for the ones with adjustable straps like bra straps.

  13. Pingback: Short waisted | Harvardunivers

  14. I understand everyone’s love for low-rise jeans but I hate the way they feel – like they are about to fall down. And watch it if you bend over. Also I bulge around the top of the jean which is unattractive too. I feel much better in a just below the waist jean.

    • I agree, Donna. Low-rise jeans also have a tendency to slink down. (At least on me they do.) So, I spend a lot of time hiking them back up–which is not an attractive look. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

      • I have the same problem. I’m 5’9″ tall. My inseam is 33/34. The space between my rib cage and hips is the width of a finger. I don’t really have a waist so my jeans are always slinking down & I have a muffin top. I actually had a retail worker not believe me when I was measuring my waist. She said ” No dear. The tape measure goes around your waist.” When I said it was she had me do a side bend to prove it! A weight gain of a few pounds is SO obvious on me. It’s extremely frustrating:(

  15. Thanks for the Pinterest link. That should develop some good resources.

    I saw a great article (not suitable to be added there, but perhaps affirming in some regard for those of us struggling with the potbelly-even-if-slender issue) in the Daily Mail at.

    Per this article, Barbie’s waist, at 16 inches, is so slender as to allow her “only a few inches of intestines”. Of course, if Barbie had a pot belly, she would have room for a yard or two of intestines, and she might survive. Although, per the article, she would be crawling on all fours with wrists and ankles unable to support her weight.

    My research continues……;-)

  16. OMG! Just found a post on Beachbody from a young woman whose mother, a nurse, told her that short-waisted people’s tummy’s can pooch out because their intestines need as much room as a normal person’s and have nowhere else to go. I knew it! So the question for everyone who visits this blog would be — how many of us pear-shaped, relatively fit short-waisted women have poochy tummies, versus flat ones? I mention pear-shaped, because if the pooch starts above the waistline, it’s more an issue of being apple-shaped, than it is a tummy pooch. And fit, of course because if one is not yet in shape, there’s no telling what the tummy will be like once excess weight is gone. Now I’m really curious!

    Of course, if the majority of the short-waisted demographic that’s relatively fit have flat tummies, my theory’s blow out of the water. In which case, I really would like to know where you’re putting your intestines! 🙂

  17. i have a short waist, but im “plump” too! i know high-waists and accentuating my waist makes it seem shorter, but dropped-waist and low-rise look terrible on me! im so confused and im only 18! i cant wear loose and flowing blouses either because of the lack of a natural waist line

  18. How does having a short waist relate to determining one’s BMI? Medical guidelines don’t seem to allow but a 33″ maximum, healthy waist measurement, and someone with a short waist would most usually be over that maximum.

    • That’s a good question Gloria. I think the level of fat that resides around the waist (vs. around the hips) is what matters. From what I’ve read, excess fat around the waist area is what would cause a health risk. But I could be wrong about that.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

  19. You know, for the longest time, i thought I was the only one with this problem.. seriously, until i was about 25… but now i live and die by shift dresses, mini skirts and empire waist dresses that are fitted. for the short waist girl with long legs, dresses that seam under the bust, then create a waist through vertical panels are the way to go. it helps if the dress is shorter, too. show off those legs! thank god for the illusion that a 5’5 girl looks like she has legs for miles because her waist is so short.
    As for a belly… at my height, i need to be about 115 to be even remotely flat in the tummy area. a gain/loss of 2 lbs is a significant change in how i look. 140 for a “proportional” girl isn’t necessarily chubby, but if you have a short waist, you might as well be 170.
    Does anyone else have issues with weight gain going to your back as well?

    OH! i also have to ask, does anyone end up bruising their hip bones with their elbows? i talk with my hands, but elbows and hips are at the same level, and i get… injured.. lol.

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