The Wandering Waistline Explained

wandering waistline

The Wandering Waistline

Pulling on a pair of vintage 1980’s pleated shorts (sharkstooth print, no less), I found myself thanking the fashion gods that the best of fashions always keep coming back for a revival, thank goodness for retro style! The pleated high waist, which was a no-no for so long, finally acceptable to wear again and I’m grateful, so comfortable and so practical!

Consider for a moment, the insanely low waistline of the hipster pants and jeans from the late 90’s and early 00’s, the inevitable plumber’s bottom and the hassle of making sure that your undies (which tended to end up sticking out) didn’t have sheep or anything else ridiculous printed on them. To think that that was perfectly acceptable and yet a picture of a 1980’s pleated pants at the time looked totally unsavoury and rather hilarious, someone actually wearing them was considered tragically uncool. It’s strange how we change and how fashion changes with us, hopefully for the better!

Now the high waisted skirt and trousers are back and quite acceptable to wear again, whilst you’ll be hard pressed to find a low cut hipster in any store!

The whole experience really got me thinking about the waistline, such an integral element of fashion, the way it varies over time and place and really how important the waistline style is to the fashion movement as a whole. I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at different waistline styles, what body types they flatter and where they fit into the fashion spectrum.

Basque / Antebellum / V-shaped Waistline:

Here’s a waistline that’s perfect for those curvaceous pear shaped or hourglass shaped ladies. This classic waistline is usually reserved for ball gowns and wedding dresses and lengthens the torso whilst the full skirts normally associated with it will hide a multitude of chocolate induced sins (like serious hips and bottoms). With the bottom of the V or U well below the belly, between the hips, this style works better with a flat tummy, although the stiff material of the bodice might do well to cover those extra lumps and bumps as well.

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Dropped / Drop Waistline:

Now, this waistline we don’t really see too often in everyday fashion, maybe the fashion cycle has yet to bring this one back in full force. Think 1920’s, long cigarette holder, the wavy bob and the feather headband and then you’ll know what a dropped waistline is. We do still see this in ballgowns and wedding dresses, usually with a full skirt. This waistline lies at the mid or upper hip and works best on slim women who are looking to gain the impression of height or women with an hourglass figure…but if you already have a long torso, stay away from this style.

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Empire Waistline:

This everyday and formal favourite sits just below the bust, usually with a skirt cascading straight down from it. This style accentuates the bust and hides fat tummies, giving an impression of height and slimness…not to be worn if you have a hefty bust as it really does make the ladies look larger!

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Raised Waistline:

A horizontal waist about an inch above the natural waist, this line is often confused with the Empire line, which falls just a little higher, right beneath the breasts. This style lengthens the legs, curves the hips and shortens the torso. This effect also applies to mid and high waisted trousers. This won’t look good if you have a short torso or buxom hips!

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Diagonal / Asymmetrical Waistline:

An interesting style, most often seen in formal, wedding and office wear. Running diagonally across the waistline, this line is above the waist on one side and below the waist on the other. This waistline slims down a larger figure but won’t look right on a short person as it really cuts the figure in half.

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Inverted V / U Shape Waistline:

This style, also mostly seen in office and formal wear, wedding and ballgowns, shortens a long torso and lengthens short legs.

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Natural Waistline:

A horizontal waistline, falling directly on the natural waist. Arguably the most comfortable of waistlines, for both a two piece ensemble, like trousers and top, and a dress…the waist is where the body naturally bends and it makes sense that the narrowest point should be there. This waistline looks great on all body types as it enhances all natural curves, except for the apple shaped figure, where the waistline is the largest point. Extra tall women appear shorter with a natural waistline because of the way it divides the figure.

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No Waistline:

These dresses are sewn together in panels, and have no waistline at all.  They are suitable for any body type and create a slimming effect.

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Wedding dresses and ball gowns are one thing…but it's really in our everyday street fashion that the wandering waistline strikes me the most.

Consider the wandering waistline on men's trousers for instance, which reaches it's lowest point at the age of about 16 years old (where the boxers must be seen and the pants held up with one hand, goodness forbid), it falls across the natural waistline in the late 20's and the 30's, after which the real waistline is never seen again as pants reach up, as high as just 7 inches below the armpit for gentlemen in their 70's and upward…a known fact.

Indeed, fashion is a funny thing, influenced by not just time and place but a wealth of other factors and it's exciting just to wonder…”what on earth is coming next?”

As an added bonus to our readers, our partners at are providing a $100 eGift card to spend on anything you want!  Please enter below.

Wandering Waistline Giveaway


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288 Responses to The Wandering Waistline Explained

  1. Monica says:

    I like the Empire or Raised Waistline.

  2. Mary M. says:

    I like the raised waist line the best.

  3. I like a dropped waist line or no waist line.

  4. Sandra Y. says:

    Great article Thank You!

  5. Marcia Strow says:

    Lots of different waistlines & I think I’ve worn most of them over the years! 🙂

  6. You are absolutely right…the styles come back!

  7. Ola Norman says:

    Interesting article!

  8. Janine says:

    I reckon I’ve had outfits with most of the waistlines. Raised or Empire waistline are good for fat days.

  9. My fave is the “Dropped Waist”. Thanx for the giveaway!!

  10. I prefer the natural waistline. When I’m thinner, I also like the empire waistline.

  11. Debg82 says:

    Thank you for the explanation.

  12. Beal says:

    I like the natural waistline

  13. Mary in AZ says:

    This is a great article. Thanks for the explanation.

  14. Deborah W says:

    I prefer a natural waistline.

  15. Kay Labitzke says:

    Fun article!
    I have really enjoyed your ‘new’ format – lots of informative readings, thanks.

  16. Marcia Gault says:

    As a former hourglass, it is distressing to be an apple. From the front I still have curves, but from the side, it just curves out from the bust down. Wish that I could wear something that wouldn’t make me look like a tent. I think the no waistline would probably work.

  17. Sherry Fram says:

    I like the Empire & Raised waistlines since they camouflage my tummy!

  18. diann Mize says:

    Very informative

  19. When I was younger and had that hourglass figure I could wear all of these style but now that I am older and no waistline it is the empire and the raised waistline for me. Have to be careful with the empire as I am large busted. Great article!

  20. Amy F says:

    Interesting. I don’t often think about waistlines, most of my outfits have a natural waistline.

  21. I have a big stomach so I’m somewhat apple shaped. I like a higher waist with a full skirt to camouflage my big tummy and to give the illusion of hips (something I totally lack). An empire or raised is probably most flatteing for my figure.

  22. Sereesie says:

    I preser the natural waistline

  23. lk says:

    Finding the right waist line that wotks for you is the hardest. I’ve found that a natural waist line or a dropped waist line works best for me.

  24. Nicole D says:

    This is great information. I’m saving it as we have all sorts of body types in the family!

  25. Kathleen Watson says:

    Loved the visuals of the various waistlines.My preferances are the raised and u or the V waistline.

  26. Debra Chauvin says:

    I was unaware of the different choices to disguise my expanding waistline. I am partial to the empire waistline.

  27. Alesha Klein says:

    Wonderful, helpful tutorial on different waistlines. Very informative, thank you!

  28. Barb Jolly says:

    Very informative

  29. Lynn Stovall says:

    I prefer a slightly lower waistline.

  30. Glenda B. says:

    The natural waistline.

  31. GrrannyH says:

    Great informative article.

  32. myra says:

    Raised waistline every time, due to expanding and contracting “middle”.

  33. Kim D says:

    Natural waistline for me

  34. Ayanna Welch says:

    I’ve never realized that there were so many different kinds of waistlines. I like the natural and raised waistlines the best

  35. Pamela Joy says:

    I’m eternally dieting, so rather fond of the “no waistline” look! ? Great article!!

  36. NaomiG says:

    Natural waist for me or sometimes raised. Love a good raised waist summer dress

  37. Anne Botha says:

    Very interesting. I do love the empire style.

  38. René Bolton says:

    i like the natural waistline. It’s more comfortable for me.

  39. NANCYEDP says:

    I prefer raised and natural waist

What do you think?