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How to Dress Your Body Proportions

Dressed for My Day...My Way
August 2, 2018

Have you wondered if you look better in cropped jeans or full length ones? What about the hem lengths of your dresses and skirts? Which looks best on you? And maybe you’ve also wondered why empire waist dresses look slimming and striking on some women, but when you put one on your legs actually look shorter.

Today as we consider how to dress your body proportions, you may find some of the answers to those questions and more.

How to Dress Your Body Proportions


Today we’re continuing our series I’ve called Dressed for My Day…My Way. We’re learning how to discover our body shapes, proportions and variations, as well as how to factor in coloring, personality and lifestyle when determining our personal style. We began our series here, in case you’d like to go back and catch up on all the information I’ve provided thus far. And you can find all the articles in this series here.

Also, I’ve been providing some worksheets to help you calculate the specifics about your own body, but you need to subscribe to my emails for free in order to receive those. You can find out more about the benefits of being an email subscriber here. If you subscribe during the series and would like to receive the previous worksheets, just email me and tell me the email address under which you have subscribed; then I’ll send you the password to all the subscriber freebies. Easy peasy!

What are body proportions?

Honestly, it’s been a while since I wrote the post about discovering your body proportions. So I wouldn’t mind at all if you went back and reviewed it and then jumped back in here. That’s what I had to do as I was writing this, for sure!

But I’ll sum up body proportions for us quickly. Your body proportions could be considered your vertical body shape. When we talk body proportions we’re talking about your “measurements” from head to toe. Predominantly, we’re looking at the length of your torso in comparison to the length of your legs. To assess our proportions we learned to measure and compare 8 different portions of our body from head to toe. Really, if you’re lost at this point, you just need to read discovering your body proportions and then rejoin us right here.

A very few of us (proportionately) may be fairly equal in all eight measurements, meaning our bodies are pretty balanced. But in fact, the three dominant body types are:

  • Short torso with longer legs
  • Balanced upper and lower body with a short middle body
  • Long torso with shorter legs

What can I do with this information?

If you by chance have balanced body proportions, then you have fewer restrictions or guidelines when it comes to hemlines and other lengths. But again, very few people are completely balanced. So don’t let that throw you. Your body proportions are not right or wrong; they just are what they are. And knowing them will help you dress in a way that creates that beautiful and aesthetically desirable Golden Ratio.

Remember, the Golden Ratio says that we find a 2 to 3 ratio most aesthetically pleasing. We like photos that are broken up into 2/3 and 1/3. We like shelf compositions that are 2/3 and 1/3. And we find it beautiful when a body is adorned to achieve a 2/3 and 1/3 ration as well. This is why it really doesn’t matter if your body is completely balanced with the same length of torso and legs. We’re not trying to dress our body in halves anyhow! We just need to know what kind of canvas we’re working with so that we can dress in a way that achieves the 2/3 and 1/3 Golden Ratio.

Alright, enough science and math. Let’s get to what you really came here for! Let’s find out how to dress each of the above body proportions.

***I’ve created special shopping cards for each body proportion! All you have to do is either print yours out or, better yet, save it as a photo on your phone. That way you can just bring it up on your phone when you’re out shopping! Yay! You can find them here, but you’ll need your subscriber code. Those come in the emails I send to you. You’ll need to subscribe to receive these. ***

Honestly, I suggest you only read the information below that matches your body type. Otherwise, it’s all very confusing!

How to Dress the Balanced Upper and Lower Body with a Shorter Mid-Section

You want to create balance between your longer and shorter portions of your torso. To do this, you’ll want to elongate your shorter section (your upper torso) by using solids and vertical lines while staying clear of horizontal lines. Then you’ll want to accentuate and draw attention to your longer portions with accessories and prints.

  • Keep your shorter mid-body clear of detail. Avoid wide belts and don’t tuck in your shirts in a way that exposes the line of your waist band. If you do tuck in your top – and sometimes you just must – then blouse it out over your waist band or do a sloppy partial tuck.
  • Wear empire waist tops and dresses to create the illusion of a longer waist.
  • Use vertical detailing through your body to elongate. For instance, wear an open jacket or cardigan which creates long vertical lines through your torso.
  • Wear kimonos, long cardigans and jackets with a column of color inside. You create a column of color when you wear a top and bottom piece in very similar or identical colors. That way you don’t have a line across your midsection, further shortening it.
  • End skirts and dresses at your knee, no longer than just below your knee. This will create the illusion of longer thighs. The exception would be the maxi skirt, which you may wear.
  • Wear a mid-rise jean or pant, achieving balance. You’re in luck! While high rise jeans are making a comeback, mid-rise jeans and pants are still available and fashionable. Stay away from the high rise jeans!
  • Because you have longer calves, draw attention to this area with fabulous shoes with lots of detail and/or color. Also you can add detail like embroidery to the bottom of your jeans, fringe at the hem of your skirt or an interesting hemline on your jeans, which also draw attention to your longer calves.
  • Because you tend to have a longer decolletage, draw interest there with jewelry and interesting necklines.

How to Dress the Shorter Torso and Longer Legs

You want to achieve balance in your body proportions, but not at the expense of shortening your legs. Long legs are always an asset, so don’t go too far and make them look short. Here are some shopping and styling tips for you.

  • You may still have a long chin to bust portion even though your torso is shorter than your legs. If so, draw attention there. Use interesting jewelry and necklines to lift the eyes to your decolletage so that the eyes do not drift all over, which is important when dressing any body style. If you get the focus on your neck and face, your shorter waist will be overlooked.
  • Sometimes, when you’re short waisted it may almost seem as though your rib cage almost sits on your hip bones. There’s very little space between the two, so you don’t have a very defined waist. Losing weight is not going to create a more defined waist on you. There simply isn’t room for a lot of curve. If this is the case, you’ll need to “skim over” your waistline by not accentuating it. Don’t tuck in, don’t wear horizontal lines here, avoid wide horizontal belts and don’t draw attention to your mid torso with accents of any kind. Instead, wear empire waistlines with detailing just under the bustline.
  • Your tops should skim over your waist and should end no higher than your hip bone. Preferably, keep your tops long.
  • Avoid wearing multiple layers of tops, which can look great on women with longer torsos. Instead, make sure that if you do have on layers, they both end at the same point, no higher than your hip bone.
  • Don’t tuck your shirt in if both the shirt and the pants are fitted. If your shirt is blousy, you can tuck it, but leave it a little blousy over your waistline. If your pants are fuller, you can tuck your shirt. If you use a belt, it might be best to go with a wider one. But play around with belts and see which help to elongate your waist and which ones shorten it. (This tip is for those with a more defined waistline.)
  • Avoid high waist pants. But you can wear mid and low-rise pants well.
  • You can wear pretty much any hem length because you have longer legs. Still be aware that shorter hem lengths, such as crops or capris will shorten your leg some. Also, if you have slender legs, as many women with long legs do, you can wear pants with visual interest such as wide pockets, cargo pockets or embroidery.
  • You can wear shoes with a low or high vamp, unless your ankles are thick. Then you’ll want to stick with low vamp. You can wear flats or low heels as well as high heels.

How to Dress the Longer Torso and Shorter Legs

Your goal for dressing your body proportions is to bring balance to your body by visually elongating your legs. But you may have some additional dilemmas to work with due to your long torso. By the way. Don’t feel odd. This is perhaps the most common body type among women.

  • It is common to have a long chin to waist portion in this category. If that is the case, it is imperative to wear a good bra that lifts. Otherwise you will appear to have a very low bustline. Also avoid strapless tops/dresses and spaghetti straps for this reason.
  • Wear shorter necklaces, no longer than the peak of your bust.
  • Try to keep the visually interesting details on top, and steer clear of prints, florals or patterns on your lower half where you need to elongate with solids.
  • If you do choose or need to wear prints on your bottom half, try to go with a brighter, more interesting top to draw attention there.
  • If you choose to wear prints on the bottom half, keep them busy and dense so they don’t grab as much interest.
  • Avoid empire waist lines as they elongate the torso.
  • You can wear ruffles, bows, embellishments and other details up top that others should avoid.
  • Avoid low rise pants and jeans. The new trend in high rise jeans is ideal for you, but you can also wear mid rise. The higher the rise the better, really.
  • But keep the length of the trouser long. In fact, the lower the rise (and don’t go below mid rise) the longer the pant needs to be. If you want to wear crops, they need to be high rise.
  • However, if you are long in the rise (that’s the waist to leg bend measurement) don’t wear pants that hit you at your natural waist. You’ll look unusually long in this area if you do. Instead go with mid rise pants.
  • You can layer two tops if one is cropped. In fact, this trend looks best on you.
  • To elongate your legs, wear solid pants or pants with a vertical stripe, like pinstripes.
  • Match your shoes to your pants if your pants go to your shoes.
  • If you wear crop or ankle pants, wear flesh colored shoes, preferably heels with a low vamp.
  • Generally choose shoes with a low vamp to elongate the leg.
  • If you like heels, wear them. They’ll add length to your legs, but they’re not mandatory. If you do like to wear heels, wedges and platforms elongate the most.
  • Hems on skirts and dresses should hit just above the knee, on the knee or no lower than just below. You can also wear maxi length skirts and dresses, but make sure they go to just a half inch or so above the floor, no shorter.
  • On pants, avoid cuffs and pocket detailing. Choose pants with minimalist styling and straight or slender lines that elongate.
  • You probably look great with belts. Play around with different kinds, but if you have a defined waist definitely use belts to accentuate your waist.

Listen up

Remember, your body proportions are not right or wrong. They just are. We all are wise to steer clear of a few things, but we also all get to wear some things better than others. The goal here is simply to know what consistently works for our body and what doesn’t. And we can certainly break some of those rules, but we’ll do so knowing the price and making the adjustments.

I hope this post was helpful to you. I think it’s a little overwhelming if you try to take it all in. Instead, just focus on what you need to do for your body proportions. And take those tips with you when you go shopping.

In fact, if you’re a subscriber you have access to shopping cheat sheets I created for each body proportion. Just save your sheet as a photo to your phone. Or you can print out a larger version if you’d prefer. Not a subscriber? We can take care of that right here.

Have a blessed day!

Some of my favorites right now:

Blessed for My Day

Today I pray that you will be filled with a deeper understanding of God. May you discover more fully His goodness, mercy and love for you today. But may you also be in awe of His holiness. And the more you understand, may you realize how much there is yet to discover. So I pray that you would continue to draw close to God each day, seek Him diligently and open your heart to Him. Blessings to you, dear friend!

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints… ~ Ephesians 1:16-18

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xoxo, Kay
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26 thoughts on “How to Dress Your Body Proportions

  1. This information was eye opening! I went back and read the last post as you suggested. I have a strange body. My top two measurements mirror my bottom two. I am technically long torso with short legs (my thighs are super short) but I am also short middle body! That sounds strange to me but I went back and actually measured so that I would know this was the case. So now I’m confused! But it does one thing, explains why every time I gain weight it really shows up in my middle. Thank you so very much for researching all of this. It will definitely start me thinking about the clothes I choose. Your explanations of why dress lengths look best at my knees and no shorter makes sense. Thank you again!

    1. Hi Karen, I’m glad you found the post helpful…or confusing! And yes, it is completely normal to be shorter in a variety of areas and longer in others. The key is to know which are which and dress accordingly. Just remember balance is the goal and you achieve that by drawing attention to the longer areas by adding interest and detail and keeping the shorter areas free of detail or horizontal lines. Thanks for reading and commenting. ?

      1. Kay you did a great job explaining this, it’s my body that’s confusing! Sorry, I didn’t want you to think it was your instructions that were confusing. I know a lot more now than before I read your post. You have been very helpful in helping me figure this body out. Thank you!

  2. I have been waiting for this article! So interesting!

    I am tall and have always been complimented on my long legs. But when I measured myself, I found that my upper body is two inches longer than my lower body. That surprised me, and I wondered how significant an inch or two makes in defining your personal body proportions?

    1. Well, I guess it’s possible to have long legs but still have a longer torso if you’re tall, huh? I think that’s the case with me, too. I’m not longer in the legs than the torso, but I am tall so my legs are naturally long. But it does help to understand these things, huh. Thanks so much for reading. I’m glad the post resonated with you. 🙂

  3. Thank you for this helpful information. I feel stupid asking this but what do you mean by “just to peak of bust” when you speak about wearing shorter necklaces?

    1. Ha, ha! Not a bad question at all. I was kind of stumped on that at first, too. Clearly put – without using words that might draw the wrong audience to my website! – the peak is the peak. The highest point on the mountain. Does that make sense?

      1. Lol! Yes it makes sense now. And I will have to shorten some of my necklace chains. I never did think longer ones suited me. Thank you!

  4. Hello, I’m a pear shaped with short torso and long leg. I find the conflict between how to flatter for body shape and body proportion. What guideline should I follow in this case? Thanks

    1. Hi Chi, I’m so glad you asked this question. Remember, none of this is really about rules; it’s about guidelines. Since you do need to take into consideration your body shape, proportions and variations, you have to determine what you want to highlight. Think about what you like about yourself and would like to feature. I assume you’re mainly asking about whether or not to belt at your waist since you have a short torso. Here are some tips for belting at the waist – if you want to – when you have a short waist.
      1. Use a narrow belt instead of a wide one.
      2. You can choose to use a low slung, loose belt that drapes from your hips inward and downward at your middle. Does that make sense? So the belt would draw attention downward, creating a longer waistline.
      3. You can leave your shirt untucked and add a thin or draping belt (as mentioned in #2) over the shirt, thus creating a column of color and elongating your midsection.
      4. You don’t have to belt, but can wear something that cinches in at the waist like a fit and flare dress or a tailored, fitted shirt that you leave untucked. These would create a longer torso, but also accentuate your narrow waist.

      Really, the best thing to do, keeping these suggestions in mind, is to just get in front of a mirror and play with the looks – tucking/untucking, wearing a narrow belt/wearing a draping belt, belting in the same fabric as the top, etc.

      I hope that helps, Chi. I’m so glad you asked!

  5. I’m curious if a few inches make a difference in measurements. For example, my top 4 are 31″, and my bottom 4 are 34″. Does that make me “short torso” with “long legs?”. Also, when I compare top 2/ last 2 with middle, I come out to 36.5″ vs. 28″. Does that make me short waisted? Thanks so much for helping define what the measurements mean!

    1. Hi Maria. Yes, you could have a shorter torso and longer legs. One other thing to try: can you put your hand sideways between your rib cage and your hip bone? If there’s not enough space there to fit your hand comfortably you are definitely shortwaisted.

  6. Thank you, Kay! Yup, def shortwaisted. I’m curious, though, about the “long legs” part. My top 4 are 31″, and my bottom 4 are 34″. Does that mean I have “long legs” (ha! I’m petite, so that’s funny to me), and thus should follow the directions for those proportions? Not sure if I should follow the guidelines for: How to Dress the Balanced Upper and Lower Body with a Shorter Mid-Section, or for: How to Dress the Shorter Torso and Longer Legs. Thank you for your help.

    1. So yeah, we’re just talking proportions. Your legs aren’t long (hahaha) but they’re the longer portion of your silhouette. But I’ve forgotten now what you said your upper body measurements are. But since your bottom portion is longer than the top, I’d go with the tips for shorter torso and longer legs.

  7. Dear Kay,
    I love your tips for dressing in a realistic but stylish way for women over 50. I signed up for your website a while ago, but I missed getting your ebook-Its Your Day-Style It Your Way.
    Could you please resend it to me? Thankyou.

    I would also like to suggest that you consider you have some information for dressing for different lifestyles or occasions, such a working in a casual or corporate office, lounging stylishly at home, dressing appropiately for a funeral, graduation, wedding (as a grandparent), concerts. Thanks

    1. Hi Marilyn. Thank you so much for subscribing. I’m glad you’re enjoying the content. You’ll need to go back to your welcome email and there you will find the link to download the ebook. That’s the only place it’s accessible. If you can’t find the email or you deleted it, you could just unsubscribe and then subscribe again.

      I do indeed share posts about outfits to wear to weddings, funerals, graduations and such. I think if you’ll look back through my content for the past few years you’ll see those. But there will be more in the future too.

  8. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I am really enjoying this! I’m learning a lot, but unfortunately, I’m also confused lol because I am an inverted triangle AND I have a long torso/short legs, so some of the rules appear to contradict each other.

    Example: inverted triangle rules say vertical lines on top, horizontal lines on bottom…but the rules for long torso/short legs say the opposite.

    I am an inverted triangle (defined waistline), thin, 5’4″, with a DD cup, and long torso/short legs (about a 6 inch difference). When I gain weight, it’s in my belly. Any advice for me? What rules should I stick to? Thank you!

    1. Hi Alyssa. Lol! It’s NOT unusual to have conflicting body shape and proportions. So don’t fret. I think the keys are to remember that proportions generally trump body shape. I mean we can do all sorts of things to slenderize areas. But creating those pleasing proportions is so crucial and beautiful. So do what you need to in order to achieve the optimal proportions and then focus on highlighting what you want to emphasize and keeping the focus off areas you want to diminish. Does that help any?

      1. Hi Kay! Thank you for getting back to me so quickly 🙂 What I interpret you saying is that I should:

        -first, focus on elongating my legs (in reference to my long torso/shorter legs proportions)
        -then, focus on the areas I want to highlight (for me, that would be my big bust/thin waist. For example, I could wear fitted tops with a good bra)…while also keeping the focus off the areas I want to diminish (for me, that would be my narrow hips and smaller backside. For example, I could wear fuller skirts. This would also give the illusion of an hourglass.)

        Is this correct?
        (PS also, in reference to my first comment, I guess this means the vertical vs horizontal stripes question about my lower half is up to me? lol)

        1. Spot on. And yes, I think some things you just have to try on and decide that way. I find that taking photos of myself in outfits really helps me see the results better.

          1. Yay, thank you! I don’t know if you’re familiar with the 1995 film Clueless, but in it, the main character is referencing her outfits and states “I don’t rely on mirrors, so I always take Polaroids .”

  9. Hi there
    I stumbled across your blog and am loving it!
    I’m 171cm and have a short waist and long legs.
    My problem is my boobs are big 🙁 and dresses etc these days all have some kind of waist accentuation and a lot of tops are short…which causes me to look like a set of boobs with long legs.
    I know I suit longer lines but really struggle to figure out how to wear them with today’s styles

    1. Hi Diana. The code for the Printables is in the welcome email and I always include it at the bottom of each daily and weekly email, too. Thanks so much for subscribing.

  10. I appreciate your article, but I need more detailed information. I have a 43 waist, 43 hips and 43 bust. I have been losing weight so I am confident those measurements will balance out. However, my problem right now is if I buy jeans according to my actual waist size the jeans will be too big in the hips. So how do I determine what size jeans to buy. Do I just have to wear them baggy in the hips until my measurements finally equalize? Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to read my comment.