Reader Request: High-Waisted Skirts

how to wear high waisted skirts
Reader Olga asked this question in a comment a few weeks back:

Perhaps you could find the time to write how-to post about high-waisted skirts? I have a pencil skirt similar to yours in black, but I always end up wearing my blouses above it instead of tucking it in. Otherwise, my upper body seems ridiculously short. Am I doing something wrong? I have an average figure (65 kg, 1,76m), few curves and H-shaped, so probably there is some secret that you know how to get the look right?

OK, I’ll tell you the secret to rocking a high-waisted skirt: Confidence. No, really. This is a style that is challenging to pull off for just about every body type. Depending on your build, it can make your biggest bits look even bigger and create vaguely funhouse-reminiscent proportions. And besides being a challenging piece, a high-waisted skirt looks best with sassy, retro-influenced styles that are often pretty bold. This style is not for the faint of heart, but if you’ve got the chutzpah you CAN rock it.

Is that all there is to it? Well, it can be. But if you’re looking for more specific advice – Olga clearly is – here’s what I think:

Heed hem length: Since a high waist will make your top half appear shortened, make sure you don’t shorten at both ends with an extra long hem. For me, this means a wee bit above knee-length. Everyone has their own preferred length, but remember, a high-waisted skirt that hits mid-calf may be sassy and fun, but it may also make you look like you’ve got a very tiny top half.

Lengthen with necklaces: This style of skirt divides the bod into two distinct and unequal sections, but you can unify them just a smidgen without losing the silhouette. A long necklace that passes well below the waistline of the skirt will draw the eye from neck to navel.

Tonal tricks: Although the point of a high-waisted skirt is its high waistline, you can downplay it a bit and still look ravishing. Pair your skirt with a top that’s in a similar color range. If you’re wearing a khaki skirt, throw on a beige, mustard, or dove gray top. The less contrast, the more your outfit will look like a single, unified piece … and the less it’ll seem like you have an 18-mile-long bottom half and a 3-inch top half.

Belt it, baby: Placing a belt an inch or so below where skirt waistband meets tucked-in top can lower your perceived waistline a bit and create balance. Belting this style of skirt can also help create faux curves for ladies like Olga who don’t have many of their own.

High waists can serve to simply minimize tummy jiggle when worn with untucked tops, but showing off the unusual cut can be loads of fun. Some folks abhor this style, but many more simply wish they could find a way to make it work. Hopefully, some of these tips will help build up your confidence!

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  • lopi

    I am a deifinite hourglass shape and I swear by high-waisted skirts! They bring attention to my waist, while streamlining my prominent hips and generously shaped butt. I'd have to agree with you Sal and say, always wear a nice belt. It makes the outfit look more "complete" and at the same time it eases the transition between your torso and your bottom half.
    Also, for those who are just starting to experiment with high-waisted shapes, it's best not to start with tailored pencil skirts. A softer fabric and a looser shape (say a tulip) will make you feel less self-concious, at least until you feel at ease with the high-waisted part.

  • Imogen Lamport, AICI CIP

    As an H shape, high waisted skirts are pretty much impossible to pull off – the high waist, on a usually short waisted body makes you look boxy, blocky and stumpy all at once, so you then have to wear your top untucked which means you wouldn't know it was a high waisted skirt to begin with!

    They work much better for those with a longer torso and a small rack.

  • La Historiadora de Moda

    I love wearing high-waisted skirts, and I think belting, as well, as confidence, are the keys to looking amazing in them.

    I also say go with a darker color palette initially, if you're feeling self-conscious, because there is no doubt that a black or dark purple or grey will be more slimming than a lighter color.

  • Eliza

    I swear by my white eylet high-waisted skirt. Though it's seriously flattering, it wasn't supposed to be worn the way I wear it. It's supposed to be worn larger and lower, but hiking up the smaller size works best for me! The skirt is very full, and the wide waist band (which was supposed to be worn around the hips)fits snuggly from my hips up nearly to my chest. A bright colored top, coordinating scarf belt, and I'm all set.

  • Rachel

    I love high waisted skirts and pants! They are so much fun to style. I agree with belting these types of cuts close to your natural waist line, but my biggest rule is always wear heels with a high waist. I'm petite and flats make me look even shorter with this type of cut.

  • Kelly @ blackdog finds

    I adore high-waisted skirts, but I am short (5' 2") and have a very short torso and am a self-proclaimed "rectangle" shape. I generally pair high-waisted skirts with v-neck tops. It creates an elongating effect like Sal's long necklace tip. I also tend to like sky-high heels (if you dig 4" heels) with this look just to further elongate and a belt to pull it all together.

  • Sarah

    Like lopi, I'm an hourglass and I love high-waisted skirts. Not so for high-waisted pants, although it took me a while to get behind the skirt trend, so we'll see.

    Oftentimes, high-waisted skirts come with self-belts, which for accessory-challenged people like me, are blessings.

  • Amy

    I consider myself an Hourglass shape so most of my skirts and highwaisted and even the ones that arent i often tuck shirts into them. It took me a while to get the hang of finding ones that you could tuck stuff into and it wouldn't show, but I think the key is to find more higher-end skirts with linings and thick, luxe fabric. But it doesn't have to cost a lot! i got my Nine West black pencil skirt at salvation army for 6 bucks :p

  • CompassRose

    I like high-waisted skirts for the very reasons some people DON'T like them. They emphasise all the most Victorian things about my figure: wide shoulders, short, short torso, small waist. I think you just need to be there with presenting an unusual outline in your high-waisted skirt. (Although they do also work really well with cropped, wide tops worn untucked, for me, keeping the midriff modestly hidden and preventing my whole shape from dissolving into one big box.)

    The most flattering shapes for me are high-waisted A-line gored skirts. High-waisted pencil skirts are generally a bit too ba-boom-chaka (although there was one Le Chateau calf-length one that I wore the heck out of in the late 80s) and tulip or paperbag skirts too voluminous.

    I would, however, never wear a long necklace with one. It would hang down off my boobs like a rappel line.

  • Olga

    Thank you, Sal! I will definitely try out some of your advice – I'm already looking forward to wearing my high-waisted skirt tomorrow. Luckily, I work at a university, so I can choose anything from jeans and sneaker to pretty dresses for work.

  • Len♥reNeverM♥re

    I was just checking high waisted short fm forever21! You can certainly carry this proportion Sal!
    xo

  • V

    Wearing a top with long sleeves also helps, especially if you belt the skirt. The different color on your arms below the waist line gives a bolero look to the top.

  • Future Lint

    As someone with a short torso and a pretty large chest, I didn't think I'd ever pull off a high-waisted skirt… the first time I tried I threw on an open cardigan to kind of ease myself in… I think it helped me to feel more comfortable in the shape of the skirt…

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/futurelint/3344225036/in/set-72157607076423878/

    The only other time I really tried a high-waisted pencil skirt, it was a friggin' Alexander McQueen so I just waltzed around like I owned the joint all day, duh!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/futurelint/4520081917/in/set-72157607076423878/

  • Joanna Goddard

    this is such a beautiful and sexy look! LOVE.

  • The Raisin Girl

    I would never tell a woman that she CANNOT wear any style of clothing. But sometimes, it comes down to this:

    Comfort, effort, and love.

    There are styles I absolutely love that I never wear. Why? Because I'm entirely uncomfortable in them. Or else it takes so much effort to GET comfortable in them that it's not worth how much I love the style.

    I think you have to weigh these things. For me, the style is the boxy, oversized stuff. I love how this style looks on other women. And I COULD do it, but it would take so much effort to make me like the way I look and feel in it that it wouldn't be worth it. And if I'm NOT comfortable in it, that just defeats the purpose. You see?

    High-waisted skirts, though…those are extremely tricky. Pencil skirts are beyond me, but if you just want a high waist, flared skirts with high waists are pretty exciting, and are sort of a funky variation.

  • Fritinancy

    One more tip: Shapewear. If you're going retro on the outside, you gotta do the retro underlayer, too.

  • Apostolica

    Thanks for the tips! As a plus-size hourglass, I too was very wary of the high-waisted skirt. I didn't think I needed any help emphasizing my large bust or stomach pooch. Once I figured out the right type of shirt and foundation garments to wear, I came to love this look. I feel like a bombshell!

  • Pat

    Ha ha! "Take an a-line or flared skirt a size or two larger than you'd normally wear, hike it about an inch above your natural waistline, and belt it for a paperbag effect." I do this by necessity. I am very short and have 23" waist. Most skirts I find are both too big and too long so I pretty much have to do this with all of them. (And that's one reason I very rarely wear skirts.) Good to know that some people do it intentionally!

  • e. of academichic

    This looks so fab on you, Sally!

    I have a small chest and long torso, so the high-waisted skirt has become my style go-to. I don't entirely remember what I did before them, and I'm not entirely sure how I survived having them taken away during pregnancy.

  • Rad_in_Broolyn

    I love high waisted skirts. But I am a long (mostly) flat torso that often looks disproportional in certain outfits (low slung jeans? boyfriend sweaters? I do it anyway) so I think of this as being high on the figure flattery list. I do think that if you're worried about figure flattery, you could go for similar colors, lighter colors on top, and the great accessories. I like these skirts because they help create curves on my less curvy body, and I just read others saying it really highlights and flatters their curves. Awesome.

  • Clare

    I LOVE high-waisted skirts. They are my lifeblood.

  • Emma Clark

    Great post. Turns out I did both tonal and belting on today's outfit with my high-waisted skirt. What a coincidence.

  • Frances Joy

    I am not an hourglass, but I still love my high waisted skirts. For me, the key is to wear a belt and heels to elongate my body. A cardigan doesn't hurt, either; I feel like an open cardi does the same thing that a long necklace would do.

  • lisa

    This probably seems obvious, but if you're planning to tuck the top in, make sure the top isn't too thick and won't bunch up in funny ways or ride up. It makes a world of difference for high-waisted skirts!

  • Rosie Unknown

    As a happily pear shaped gal with a very high waist, I love high waisted pencil skirts. My main tips would be wear even just a slight heel, because you will feel sooooo much more confident about your butt.

    Another thing I like to do is wear a top with a bit of volume tucked in, it makes my top half look less tiny.

  • SWF_Terra

    I swear by high-waistied skirts. Especially being petite. I feel like my legs are a million miles long. I'm a huge proponent of taking knee-length skirts and getting them above my natural waist. Jersey materials work really nicely for this.

    Great post! And you look so lovely!

  • Marie McGrath (The Joy of Fashion)

    I love the leopard print with the red belt!! so chic!

    http://www.thejoyoffashion.blogspot.com