Friday, October 24, 2014

A Waist is a Terrible Thing to Waste

From Wall Street Journal Article - "The Quest for the Perfect Pants"
I decided to do a quick trouser inventory of my fall/winter pants last week.   Waaaaay in the back of the closet I found two pair of high (i.e., natural) waist pants that I must have had for over 15 years.  I had completely forgotten I still had them. 

Hepburn in her Signature Beige, High-Rise Trousers - Getty Images

They brought back great memories, so I tried them on, just to see if they would still fit.  Drum roll, please!!  They did, although a tad more snuggly than I remembered.  But the big surprise was that I’d forgotten how flattering they looked.

“Hello, there, Miss Waist, it’s lovely to see you again.”  Although she no longer measures 20 inches, she’s still there, and I figure we have a few more good years together before we go our separate ways. 

In the meantime, it would be nice to show her off; however, the fashion gods have decreed that those of us with a waist and curves should just shut up about them and be content with low-rise/mid-rise pants, which put the emphasis squarely where we do NOT want it – on our hips and tummies.  Even when I get that nasty gap in the back fixed, I still find myself tugging at the damn things every time I stand up. 

For some time now, designers have been designing women’s pants for models built like 12-year-old boys, which is fine for the runway, but where does that leave real women with real bodies and real curves?  Until about 10 years ago, we could look at those models in low-slung trousers, chuckle to ourselves and run off to our favorite retailer and find a pair of pants that actually flattered our figures.  Hélas, those days are gone, and the best we can now hope for is something that sits below our belly buttons that retailers laughably call mid-to-high-rise.  HA! 

Theory's Max 2 Urban Trousers Available at Bloomingdale's
Theory’s Max 2 Urban trousers are among the most flattering I’ve seen of the current crop.  I love the flat front, center crease and slight flare below the knee.  They’re a great classic, day-to-evening trouser.   In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t own a pair, as they don’t come in petite sizes, but those of my friends who do, love them and look great in them.  Just be aware that they run long. 

French Actress Polaire - famous for her taille de guêpe (wasp waist)
While the wasp waist may have gone the way of corsets and lace hankies, a small waist still holds a certain feminine allure. 

The woman in the pew in front of me at church last Sunday was wearing low-rise jeans.  She was of average height and slender, but because she was obviously long-waisted, the low-rise jeans only served to accentuate her long torso, making her legs look even shorter.  Definitely NOT a good look. 

When I first went into the image consulting business, I thought I would be dressing mostly pear-shaped women; however, I quickly discovered that the majority of my clients were either apples or tubes, without a well-defined waist, so the idea was to create the illusion of a waist by choosing well-structured clothes that did the work for them. 

For my client with a waist, it’s important that she know where her waist falls in relation to her torso.  In other words, is she average, short-waisted or long-waisted?  It does make all the difference in the rise of your pants and the length of your tops. 

Here’s how you can determine that for yourself. 

First, take the measurement from your armpit to your waist, then from your waist to your leg break (roughly where the hip ends and your leg begins).   Ideally, there should be no more than 1 to 1 ½ inches between the two measurements. 

If the distance from waist to leg break is longer than from armpit to waist, you are Short-Waisted. 

If the distance from armpit to waist is longer than from waist to leg break, you are Long-Waisted. 

The short-waisted woman looks best in mid-rise pants and longer tops.  (M-T Tip:  Match your belt to your top to elongate your waist slightly.)

The long-waisted woman looks best in higher-rise pants and shorter tops.  (M-T Tip:  Match your belt to your pants to shorten your waist slightly.) 

Remember:  Where your waist falls has nothing to do with your height.  Tall women can be short-waisted, and short women can be long-waisted. 

The point is, if you’ve got one, show it off.  We don’t have them forever. 


  1. Bonjour, thank you for a great article. I have a short waist and think I have worked myself out to be an hourglass, but not a full one if that makes sense. I'm in between super-curvy and straight. I thought I was odd for always having that gaping waistband at the back yet the legs are tight around my thighs when buying trousers. Now I know it's the clothing that is odd and not me :) Merci for the tips on belt matching the top and mid-rise pants.

    1. No, Fiona, it's definitely NOT you. You may also find you have a problem with the "pitch" of the waistband in these modern trousers. They can dip in the front or the back, so be aware of that little issue, as well. I keep hoping that some designer out there will coming to his/her fashion senses and give us real ladies a break. One can only hope!!

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Cheers, M-T

  2. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    Well, like you I still can fit into most of my older pants with high waist band. Since I've been at the hospital for 6 days, I lost another pound or three so that helps!
    When I was a teen, my Dad used to call me a wasp too... but that has slightly filled in when curves do change with maturity. For my long legs the problem most times is for finding pants that are long enough but with Escada it is always just perfect!
    Sending you hugs,

    1. Ma chère Mariette, I'm so sorry to hear of your latest hospital stay. 6 days??? Wow. You can't afford to lose any weight, my dear. Please let me know how you are feeling??? Oh, you do love your Escada.

      As always, I love hearing from you.

      Big bisous, ma grande, M-T

  3. I love this!! I'm an inverted triangle with a long torso and short legs so have detested low rise since they first appeared. When will they go away?!
    It is rather funny what they consider mid rise. Mid on who? I've got some oldies that I preserve carefully. Still praying for waists to return.

    1. When will they go away???? Oh, if only I had a crystal ball to tell the future, I would throw it at all those low-rise designers. Like you, I'm hanging on to some of my oldies but goodies and hoping to muddle through until SOMEONE comes to his/her senses.

      I'm not only saying a prayer, but a full rosary for waists to return.

      xoxo, my dear friend,, M-T

  4. Hello, I'm short waisted, all the women in my family are. However - we call it having low arm pits!.
    My measurements are 25 and 29. I wear my pant were they are comfortable but always wear my shirts out.
    I have often toyed with the idea of wearing a waist coat so I can tuck in a shirt but give myself a long lean line.I will have to have it made as women's waist coats are hard to find.

    1. I love the "low arm pits" expression. So cute! You don't necessarily need to "tuck in" a shirt to show off your waist. Just wear something with darting on the sides or ruching to draw emphasis to your waist. Yes, the perfect woman's waist coat is not easy to find. Sometimes bespoke is best.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Cheers, M-T

  5. I so agree. I hate trousers that sit below the waist. I am a classic pear with small waist and wider hips. I just have to have trousers that sit on my waist otherwise I spend all day hiking them up. NYDJ do good waist jeans and in the UK Jaeger to trousers that fit well.

    1. NYDJ is a great line for natural waist jeans, but finding the right pair of dress trousers is still an issue for so many of us. Quite a few ladies of contacted me personally in response to this piece to tell me they, too, are hanging on to those great old natural waist trousers. I think we're in good company, don't you? Why don't the designers hear us???

      Cheers, M-T

  6. Bonjour ma chère M-T. A very informative post, as always. I looked in my closet after reading it today, and - guess what - found a high waisted pair of black slacks. I am not sure how long they have been with me. They still fit! (sort of) Just wanted to let you know I finally launched my new website. French Girl in Seattle has moved! New beginnings. :-) Stop by when you can and let me know what you think, oh, and don't forget to update your blogroll with the new address, http://frenchgirilinseattle. Bisous. ---Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)


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