Reader Request: How to Balance a Long Torso

Reader Toni e-mailed me this question:

I’ve known about my long-waisted, short legged body style forever – ever since I realized at age 12 that one-piece swimming suits don’t fit me. However, I’ve just dealt with the short shirts and long pants that don’t really fit or flatter. I’ve been looking through my closet and sure enough most of my wardrobe is not made for me or not made to flatter my body style. Can you give me any advice?

There are some garments and shopping tips that may benefit women with long torsos and short legs, but there are also some styling ideas that can make your current duds more workable. So I’ll share a bit of both.

The photo up above is E of the now (sadly) defunct blog Academichic, from whom I learned much of what I know about balancing a long torso! Here’s what she taught me:

Try to elongate your legs

The longer your legs look, the less the observing eye will see any discrepancy or imbalance between legs and torso. Good bets include sporting short hemlines, wearing shoes and tights in the same color range, wearing pants and shoes/boots in the same color range, and trying out a few pairs of platform shoes.

Investigate high waists

High-waisted pants and skirts are an amazing tool for the long-of-torso. Since they end well above your true, natural waistline, they create visual balance along your midsection. Luckily, high waists have been trendy for a couple of years now, so they shouldn’t be too hard to locate!

Belt high, belt wide

Empire waisted dresses and tops are fabulous bets, but you can belt shirts and dresses on your own, too. And when you belt, belt high. You may be belting above the smallest part of your waist/torso, but in doing so, you’ll balance all that length. Utilizing a wide belt will help, too, since skinny belts might actually make your torso look yet longer. The width of the belt will break things up more gracefully. (If you’re a petite woman with a long torso, either stick to belting high or experiment with medium-width belts.)

Consider tops from the tall section

Since your torso is longer than most, your tops need to be longer to accomodate it. Even if you aren’t or don’t feel tall, tall size tops will have more length to them. Toni mentioned that many styles of pants are too long for her, and you long-torsoed gals can also investigate petite pants … but proceed with caution. Petite pants are scaled to a smaller overall frame, so you may experience issues with rise and waistband comfort.

Cuff or scrunch your sleeves

Long sleeves are likely to draw the eye right to the spot where your torso and legs meet. If you cuff or scrunch them, they’ll draw the eye higher on your frame to a spot nearer your waist. This is a subtle trick, but can really help.

Aside from nabbing tall-size tops, I am loathe to recommend actual, specific garments since no two long-torsoed women are built alike. Curves, bust size, shoulder span, leg length, presence of absence of a defined waistline, and countless other factors mean that few items will work universally. But I’d still love to hear what works for you, my long-torsoed lovelies! How do you balance your proportions? Any other tips or tricks to share? And do pore over E’s Academichic archives to see torso-balancing practices in action!

  • http://www.befabulousdaily.us Cynthia

    How can you tell if you’re long-torsoed? I think I might be short above the waist but long between waist and hip, if that makes sense. What are the proportions “supposed” to be? I’ve never been quite sure what’s up with my peculiar body, except now I know I have short calves relative to my thighs.

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      There are measurement tactics like this: http://www.insideoutstyleblog.com/2011/12/how-to-measure-your-body-proportions.html

      But another good way to tell is how clothing fits. If high-rise pants don’t reach your waist and/or regular length tops are too short, both are indicators of a long torso.

      There’s no real “supposed to,” but clothing manufacturers design for bodies that have relatively average/balanced torso lengths.

    • Wendy

      I know I am long-torsoed because of the way clothes fit me. Standard length one-piece swimsuits are too tight, and it is sometimes challenging for me to buy clothing that provides enough modesty around my waistline, although my legs fit standard length trousers.

  • Wendy

    Thanks for this article as I also have this body type. I bought a one-piece swimsuit in a “tall” fitting recently and it fits me really well. I got mine from Next (in Britain), and Long Tall Sally have a good selection. I am also going to try buying “tall” trousers and shorten the leg length, as they may fit my elongated waistline better.

  • Lesley

    I live at the beach, so swimsuits are a must for me and my super long torso. Lands End has the best long torso swimwear. They have a great size chart that includes the torso length. They have endless combinations if you choose the tankini route and the quality is great. Also, you can usually find a free shipping promo, order loads of styles and sizes and return all of it at a Sears store, and best of all, your thighs will never be exposed in a fluorescently lit dressing room!

    • http://wheelsamsara.blogspot.com LK

      I second this! Their suits are amazing and totally worth the money. Sign up with them and about once a month you get a 30% coupon.

      • Kate K

        Third! I have a long torso and they are the only suit that works for me. (And I’ve tried countless long torso suits in the past with no luck. *shakes fist at J Crew*)

  • Miss T

    I have a long torso and I find the “fit-and-flare” style to extremely flattering, especially in a longer lengths like in a hoodie, coat, or tunic. This style is classic, but can be hard to find sometimes; I tend to stock up on such garments when I do find them, because they always look good.

  • http://www.mischiefmydear.com/dramatispersonae Ashe @ Ash in Fashion

    I love eShakti because I can order shirts for a “taller” Ashe that fit my long torso! If I order it for my 5’6-7 frame, then they’re too short. But if I pick one up for a 5’9 Ashe? They’re the perfect mid-hip length! (That’s where I like them to end typically, anyhow.)

  • Velma

    I have the opposite issue (legs disproportionately long and relatively short-waisted), but I feel your pain! :-)

    • Anneesha

      Me too … and throw in a large bust and it makes it challenging! Sal, how about a take on the opposite body type (short waisted)?

      • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

        You bet – just got an e-mail asking the same question. Will do as soon as I can!

  • http://chicagogirlgonemild.blogspot.com/ Mel

    This is me to a T! And having a long torso is why I prefer skirts (usally higher at the waist) and dresses to pants and tops. Tops are always too short on me and longer length cardigans get boring! I have to buy “tall” shirts for the gym/yoga, for sure!

  • Mrs.M in MI

    This is definitely my problem. I’m on the tall-ish side, but I can wear regular-length pants. My height is in my rise, meaning that I’m incredibly long between my natural waist and my hip. I also have long arms. (Side note: when the dress code at your high school is that shorts and skirts must be longer than your fingertips when your arms are at your side, long arms and short legs put you at a distinct disadvantage! I got sent home to change all the time.)

    If I can get my hands on them, tall tops are absolutely lovely. I also try to buy tall dresses and coats, especially in the last few years, when super-short hemlines have been in style. Those are chocha-short on me.

    I own a lot of collared shirts so I can wear then under sweaters with too-short sleeves, flip up the cuffs, and no one knows the difference. I wear high-waisted skirts, tights, and pumps in one color. I belt everything at my waist. I also wear heels a lot; even a small heel helps balance my top and bottom. The basic principle is trick the eye into thinking my natural waist is where my legs begin.

    • EAS

      (Side note: when the dress code at your high school is that shorts and skirts must be longer than your fingertips when your arms are at your side, long arms and short legs put you at a distinct disadvantage! I got sent home to change all the time.)

      ^I had to LOL at this – I never thought about it, but the same thing happened to me in school. I got accused of raising my shoulders up to make my arms shorter so my skirt could be shorter and still pass the “test,” but that wasn’t the real issue! I just stood up and did this now, and I think they would barely cover my rear now! I think my arms are fairly normal – just long upper body and short legs.

  • http://princessrhyme.blogspot.com Sophie

    I have long everything: long hair, long legs, long fingers, long arms, long torso. I guess the only short thing about me are my feet and nose! Rarely do I get frustrated with my long torso, though, except when it comes to rompers and one pieces. I love rompers but they often pull too tight in areas that should never be pulled too tight in polite company.

    I thought I’d also recommend dropped waists. It seems like they would exaggerate a long waist but I have found them to be extremely flattering. Come to think of it, maybe they do exaggerate a long waist, but that might just be the point? Instead of trying to minimize an attribute, why not just exaggerate and celebrate? I feel like often what we think of flaws don’t need to be covered up (which can end up looking awkward besides ultimately feeling yucky) but appreciated on their own rights. In any case, those of the long torso tribe, try a dropped waist! they can look great! anyways, dropped waists are popular this year so one that fits your fancy shouldn’t be too hard to find!
    sophie
    princessrhyme.blogspot.com

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Hi Sophie. Since this reader asked specifically for tips to balance her long torso, that’s what I’ve provided! You’ll note that I never referred to this as a “flaw.” My views on “flaws” here: http://www.alreadypretty.com/2011/12/flaws.html

      Further thoughts on figure flattery priorities:
      http://www.alreadypretty.com/2010/07/what-is-flattering.html

      None of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent!

      • http://www.zahnzone.blogspot.com LisaZ

        As I commented below, as a long-torsoed gal myself, I find this post extremely helpful. I wish I’d seen this years ago! Long torsos can be hard to fit, and I’ve had problems ever since I can remember. Pant legs too long, rises too short, one piece swimsuits that pull at my shoulders and neck (Lands’ End long torso suits are the best! Or, bikinis or tankinis…) Sometimes we don’t even know our proportions but find clothes hard to fit right, so the more knowledge we can have, the easier.

        • Wendy

          I totally agree with your last sentence LisaZ. Since I realised I have a long torso, I have felt much more satisfied with my body. Now I know why clothes don’t always fit so well, I don’t feel the same sense of frustration with my body that I used to have. I understand what the challenge is and can tackle it, rather than randomly trying on clothes and wondering why they don’t fit. I am also learning to sew and hope eventually to be able to wear a wider range of styles.

  • maryeb

    How I miss those academichics!

    • Kate K

      That was my first thought as well! I pulled up this post on my Google reader and immediately said “It’s E!!!!”

    • Secret Squirrel

      I know, me too! :-(

  • Krysta

    It’s funny! I have a long torso, but I’m short, so longs are still too long on me! At the same time, I’m petite above the bust, so regular doesn’t fit well either… But I do wear my jeans and skirts higher. My favorite place for a waist line is right between my natural waist and an empire waist. Both look good on me, but between them really looks stunning!

  • http://www.zahnzone.blogspot.com LisaZ

    These are great tips and will help me a lot. Several of them I have discovered through much trial and error, but a few I never thought about–like sleeve length and looking at tall tops. I am 5’5″ and not considered petite, but I do find I can wear some petite pants as long as the rise is not too low. Boy, did that take a while to discover! Low rise pants are terrible for me, but some brands like Gap and Coldwater Creek work better.

    I can also wear some petite top items. I ordered a petite car-length coat from Lands’ End that has a belt, and I find it actually works great because the belt fits higher on my torso. That this is flattering is a very recent discovery for me (last year, in fact, and I’m 41 years old!), so I concur with your advice to belt high. I always used to think belted items made me look frumpy, but mainly it was because the belt sat too low on my torso and did not go around my narrowest part. My waist seems to be quite high in proportion to everything else, I guess. And now that I’ve discovered this, I can use belts and waist lines that truly do flatter my hourglass figure.

    Egads, there is a lot of trying on clothes and scrutinizing for fit, to find these things out. I hope your article will help a lot of us long-torsoed gals!

    • http://www.zahnzone.blogspot.com LisaZ

      I should add, I ordered that petite coat because they were out of my size in regular and I desperately wanted it. Finding it looked even better, because the belt sat higher on my torso, was a surprise! Sometimes good surprises happen and I’m trying to be open to them. I try EVERYTHING on for fit and flattery before I buy it, especially at the thrift stores.

  • Nadine

    How to tell if you have a long torso: If I sit up straight on the floor, REALLY straight, I can’t get the heels of my hands on the floor (long torso = short limbs, alas).

    DRESSES! Dresses, dresses, dresses. I wear dresses every day. I own exactly zero pairs of jeans and one pair of harem-cut shorts, and four skirts which I hardly ever wear. I do wear pants for exercise, and I wear the fold-over waistbands unfolded UP to provide reasonable coverage. Low-cut pants are RUDE on a long torso! Bumcrack anyone? Sheesh . . I wear full-coverage knickers (undies) instead of hipster-cut – they sit below my navel anyway.

    I too love the look of a dropped-waist on my long torso. Sure I have ridiculous short legs, but who cares? My long lean boylike torso deserves love!

    I miss Academichic SO BAD. That site was just lovely!

  • http://www.anjeladancer.com Anjela

    Thank goodness for Banana Republic, Gap, and Old Navy, without whose Tall tops I would struggle mightily to get dressed for work. I’m a big fan of tunic tops, with or without an empire waist, which I belt, as Sally suggests.

    I’ve also recently started discovering the joys of wearing skirts at or above my natural waist. I used to always try to wear skirts at the hip, but man, no wonder I never liked how I looked when I tried that! My shirts always looked way too long that way–the proportions were way off.

    I agree that it’s tricky to find jumpsuits and rompers, but when I do find ones that don’t pull, I feel really awesome in them. I’ve managed to get well-fitting ones from Eileen Fisher, Tibi, and bebe. I tried ordering a few from Target.com, but OH MAN they were way too short in the torso. (Target’s clothes in general are not friendly to long and tall types, sadly.)

    Thanks to the commenter above who suggested Lands End for one-piece swimsuits. That is one clothing item for which I have been continually questing. I know that Athleta has some options, but none of them have particularly good customer reviews, especially for the prices they’re asking.

  • Cee

    I have an extremely long torso and stumpy little legs. I love high-rise pants/skirts because they’re more like “normal” rise on me. Meanwhile anything low-rise is somewhere around my knees.

  • Gayna

    Hi, I like to add cropped cardigans or shrugs to shorten my waist.

  • Wendy

    I’d like to add that I found Trinny ahd Susannah’s book “The Body Shape Bible” really helpful in understanding my body shape. There are photographs of different women’s body shapes there so you can compare your proportions with others. The “Vase” shaped lady has a long torso relative to her limbs and she is a very similar shape to me. I’m still working on finding ways to dress my shape but understanding my shape is a great start.

  • Toni

    Thanks to Sal for this post. You have really opened my eyes to what works and doesn’t work for my body type. Knowledge = Power!

  • Jenni

    i am late to this party, because i just clicked over from the post on short torsos. sally, could you clarify the differences between a short waist, a short torso, and a short rise? (and maybe how to balance each of them?) i THINK i have a short waist and a long rise – the longest bit of my middle is between my ribcage and my leg break – and i struggle with looking “top heavy” because my legs are proportionally short. (and i’m short all over, 5’1″).

    i usually try to elongate my legs with color and heels, but i’m wondering if there’s also something i can do around my middle to make my top and bottom halves look more proportional? thanks!

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Oooh, good question. Your rise is between your crotchpoint and the top of your pelvic bone. If you have a REALLY short rise, even low rise jeans will come up high(ish) on your waist. My understanding is that being short waisted and short torsoed are the same since both refer to where on your torso your natural waist falls.

      You will have an easier time balancing your figure with skirts and tops than pants or dresses, since there is usually some wiggle room when it comes to waistband placement on skirts. Opt for skirts that sit a bit lower than your natural waist (assuming they don’t widen you or make you feel uncomfortable in some way) and/or try belting your skirts. Belting works especially well if the skirt has a wide waistband and you can place a skinny belt right in the center of the band, bringing your waist visually down. And keep elongating your legs with color and heels so they are balanced, too!

      • Jenni

        thanks sally! skirts! i never do skirts because i am an H shape (to boot!) and have a hard time getting skirts to sit comfortably and not ride up. but belting them is something i haven’t tried yet – i’ll explore. thanks again!

  • Rose

    Any recommendations for high or medium waisted pant brands? I have not found these to be widely available, or maybe I just haven’t figured out where to look. I have found Land’s End to be a little too high. I like where Lee at-the-waist pants hit me, except they have a “relaxed hip and thigh”…and that’s no joke! They’re actually baggy on me. Other brands are nothing short of frumpy, like they’ve expected we’ve given up! What about those of us who just want our short stubby little legs to appear longer?

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Rose, how about Talbots? I like their Heritage Rise, and they tend to do a variety of leg styles with it!

      • Rose

        I will definately check that out, thanks!

  • Greta

    I too am long torso’d short legged. At 5’4 I can wear some petite pants and all regular pants must be hemmed. I hate the way most shirts are too short for me… Never thought to buy tall! As for jeans, I’d like to suggest Paige premium denim Hidden Hills bootcut. They are called high waist, which is normal fit for our long torso. I get these in petite and still have to hem several inches off but they are cut beautifully. After years of stretch legs and saggy butt, I’ve finally started investing in premium jeans- and by gosh, they make me look amazing! As for workout wear, jcpenney has a great X line- the capri tights are high rise!

  • http://alqmortgage.co.uk Alfie

    My husbands long shirts and a collection of belts does the trick for me. I do have to keep the sleeves rolled up but it doesn’t spoil the look.

  • Sarah M

    Wow! Its so reassuring to know that I’m not alone in this! I had started to believe I was the only one with a closet full of clothes made for someone else.

    Throughout my young adulthood; I’d surrendered to only sporting uncomfortable heels and high-heeled boots as not to let my dress pants and jeans drag along the ground to become tattered and torn within a few wears. (Not to mention the hundreds I’d shelled out and countless frustrating hours in stores searching for that perfect pair). What was further frustrating is that I am casual creature of comfort. Decking my comfy jeans out in heels and boots constantly was exhausting! This; coupled with frequent trips to the ladies room in the office to re-tuck my ever creeping dress shirt tails into my underpants became rather annoying to say the least. It wasn’t until recently that I’d discovered why at 5’8″ my pants inevitably gave me the appearance of a frumpy little girl drowning in my fathers dress pants.

    This mystery was solved upon stumbling into “The Loft” one day. They have a myriad of fits in easy to understand terms that flatter almost any body type. This includes an entire section dedicated to petites. Although I am not considered petite by any means; Petite PANTS have now completely eliminated my need for a tailor! I can now sport stylish flats in pants that appropriately land at my ankles; and not awkwardly dragging under my soles!…Additionally: LONG shirts have become my savior! This rings especially true (as someone else had mentioned);, in yoga/workout pants. I only wish I’d found this little sharing space of fellow Long torso-ed short-legged fashion-istas sooner! .. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lily

    Oh wow, its good to know I am not alone in this problem. Mine is slightly different though, here goes: I am 5ft5″, I have a high waist and the distance between my waist and hips is huge. I am a perfect pear shape (very wide hips and big butt) legs are pretty short. I love dresses, skirts, trousers, jeans etc. Can anyone recommend website with pictures of styles that will shorten my torso, elongate my legs. i love looking trendy, but that doesn’t always look nice. Its also very difficult to know what suits me and what doesn’t. So seeing we are all of the same shape, help a sister.

    • Lily

      i forgot to mention that my butt looks really droopy, saggy and jelly. i also have a high crack which complicates my look with jeans. I always have to pull them up, eish

  • http://youtube.com/vt_veggiebear Hillary

    Hey long torso ladies… I feel your pain. EVERYTHING rides up on my long frame, Regular shirts become belly shirts, low-rise skinny jeans keep falling down due to lack of hips so I’m constantly having to pull up my pants! I am long all over. Long legs, long torso, long arms… I am constantly losing the battle to find stylish jeans or pants that aren’t mom jeans or tween low rise. Does any one else notice with longer tops the space between natural waist and hips is exaggerated? Especially fitted tank tops. I’ve noticed the new ruched tops work with a long waist, empire waist always looks good, button downs are a savior as long as they aren’t fitted at the bottom. They need to flare out a little bit. The belting never seems to work for me because I put it at my natural waist or right under the ribs and it ALWAYS falls down. I love the look but I just can’t get it to stay. Can’t wait for clothing companies to wake up and start making mid-rise skinny jeans…. I’m sick of showing my butt-crack off to the world!