How To: Flatter Your Figure (Part 1 – Short-Waisted)

I love sailor pants. I love their clean lines, framed at the top by a bib of buttons and festive in their nautical colors. There is just something about their look  that makes me want to drive out to the Hamptons and cast off onto the bay at sunset. Very Ralph Lauren.  Sailor pants are fresh, they are crisp, they are polished – and they are an awful look on me. Unfortunately, the sailor pant tops out closer to the navel than the hip, which is not good for someone who is short-waisted like myself. Sadly, the sailor pant and me are at fashion odds.

We all have figure foibles, so today I’m starting a multi-part series on how to flatter different figures. Since I know mine oh so well, I’ll start with some of the things that I’ve come to learn over the years, beginning with being short-waisted.

The classic pants/button-down shirt combo have always given me the hardest time. Oh, how I would just love to pair a crisp white shirt with a great pair of trousers and call it a day. But alas, once I tuck in that shirt, my waist practically disappears and it looks like my chin is hovering just over my belt. So here’s what I do to bring that waist back into focus:

  • Go untucked. When I want to wear that trouser/crisp white shirt combo, I just leave my shirt untucked to give more length.
  • Go monochromatic. If I’m going the blouse with pants look, I’ll go for one color from shoulders to ankle. The single swath of color also creates the feeling of length.
  • Go with longer sweaters with pants. Whether a cardigan or a full sweater, I stick to longer versions to draw the eye downward, and then I throw a belt over the whole kit to “create” a waist where one doesn’t exist.
  • Go away from the high-waisted pants. Fortunately they are now out of style, but when they were in, I gave them a spin. They definitely made my legs look miles long, but I was all shoulders. High-waisted pants are definitely on the banned list.

So armed with this knowledge, I’ve learned how to cultivate a friendship with the sailor pant, a partnership that has blossomed into permanent placement in my rotation. Here are a few of my favorite combinations:

  • Navy sailor pants with a white untucked tee and long navy open-style cardigan, with red kitten heels
  • Black dressy sailor pants with a black turtleneck and leopard print heels
  • Grey sailor pants with a black silky tee (with grey detail at the neck to keep the eye up), a hot pink unbuttoned cardigan and dark grey platform heels

Another hard item for the short-waisted – the bathing suit. A term that puts fear into the hearts of many women, the bathing suit is a particularly tricky item for gals tiny in the torso department. To help create the perception of length, short-waisted sisters should shy away from bikinis (they exaggerate your lack of length) and instead go for a wonderful one-piece or tasty tankini. When selecting, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • One-sided. Your choice should be all one color or pattern, again to create that illusion of length.
  • It’s all in the details. It should have some detail at the bust, such roping, banding, ruching or ruffles, in the same color of the suit. This detail will create an empire-style look, and will draw the eye up towards the face.
  • So hip. I love this suit pictured below because it creates additional length through its hip-hugging style – very Mad Men

Jantzen suit

Next up – we’ll help out those long-waisted lovelies!

What figure foible do you want us to decipher?


April 15, 2010. How To.


  1. Barbara replied:

    Okay Stephanie I’ll bite, embarrassing as it is. Large stomach, abdomen and thin legs so clothing fits around waist but looks like bags on my legs. Also large busted so overall big! I was long-waisted but now I just don’t have one.

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