Theoretically speaking, the waistline is the line of demarcation between the bodice and skirt of your gown.
While it may sound like a small element of the design, visually speaking, the waistline is what balances the two halves of your dress.
Choosing the perfect waistline can complement your height and figure in the most flattering way.
The right waistline can both hide your ‘problem areas’ whilst enhancing your figure. You can pick a waistline to highlight your curves, to give the illusion of more height, or to balance the lengths of your torso and legs. Hence, choosing the right waistline for your gown is as important as choosing the right neckline, silhouette, or sleeve style.
So, read on to find out all you need to know when it comes to discovering which is the waistline for you.
A Dropped Waistline sits at the bottom of the torso, more than 3 inches below the natural waistline and gives the illusion of a longer torso. Popularised in the 1920s ‘flapper era’, dropped waist dresses are often made from elegant fabrics such as silk and lace. Nowadays this waistline tends to be paired with both flowy and structured skirts, with popular silhouettes ranging from trumpet, to mermaid, and also A-line silhouettes.
Drop waists skim past the natural waistline and over the hips, it looks especially flattering on tall women and can be used to add a modern touch to ‘traditional’ wedding gowns. Dropped Waistlines often just ease over the body and hang loosely, without clinging to you.
These waistlines tend to look most flattering on those who have longer legs and wish to create a balanced proportion between their upper body and lower body.
This style is especially flattering to fuller figure types, as dropped waist skimms the waist and hip areas, and as the waistline doesn’t sit on the stomach or hips, it can have a slimming effect on these areas.
An Empire Waistline is a raised waist that rests right below the bust with the gown flowing down from the waistline to the hem. This waistline tends to be paired with an A-line silhouette that can cinch you in above your natural waist, creating a lengthening effect that can make you look taller and slimmer.
This classic design can draw attention toward the bust area and draws attention away from a wider waist or hip region. Empire Waist dresses are particularly flattering on women with thicker waists, since the Empire Waist dress doesn’t rely on a thin waist to give it its shape.
Those with an hourglass figure, or those wanting to show off their shape, tend to avoid this style as it will mask their best feature aka their curves.
A Basque Waistline sits a couple of inches below the wearer’s actual waistline and dips in the centre of the bodice to create V shape. With a close contoured fit, in the style of a corset, these waistlines were popularised in the Victorian era.
With a bodice that either extends below the waistline or over the skirt, which is typically a ball gown or mermaid silhouette, a Basque Waistline gives you the opportunity to add some extra glam to your ensemble through embellishments.
This waistline creates the illusion of a narrower waist and flatters the curves of those with an hourglass figure beautifully. It draws attention to the lower part of the stomach, so you may want to avoid this waistline if you are not comfortable flaunting that region of your body.
A basque waist tends to be recommended for tall women or those with longer legs as this dress may ‘drown’ a shorter woman.
An Asymmetrical Waistline runs diagonally across the natural waistline area and is higher on one side than the other. This waistline adds a statement look to the gown and is perfect for those who wish to add a ‘modern’ twist to their outfit.
Asymmetrical Waistline creates a slimming effect on the lower half of the body, which is great for curvier women wanting to celebrate their curves, but not draw too much attention to their midriff. On the other hand, those on the shorter side should stay away from this waistline as the long waist will make the rest of the body appear smaller, and it may take away a few inches from your height.
Asymmetrical waists can be great for those wanting to add an extra something special to their gowns as they can easily be made more dramatic by adding ruffles or diamante’s along the waistline. This waist can be paired with all silhouettes, but most typically is seen alongside mermaid or ball-gown shapes.
As the name suggests, a Natural Waistline follows the natural shape of your body and sits at your actual waistline, which is the narrowest part of your torso between the ribs and the hips. Often paired with a ball gown silhouette to create a harmonious balance between the tiny waist and the fuller skirt, this waistline, however, does work with most silhouettes.
Arguably the most comfortable of waistlines, this waistline looks great on all body types as it enhances your natural curves. Although those with an ‘apple’ body type, or those not wanting to draw attention to their stomachs, should avoid gowns with a Natural Waistline because it will draw attention to the widest region of the waist.
However if you are on the taller side, a Natural Waistline may work for you as it divides your figure, and can make you appear shorter.
Though several types of waistlines exist to go with every kind of body, there is a particular style that does not need a visible waistline – the Princess Waistline style. The Princess Waistline epitome of soft femininity and is essentially an invisible waistline, with no horizontal seam line between the bodice and the skirt and vertical seams instead that follow the curves of the body.
The Princess Waistline was associated with Charles Frederick Worth, a prominent English fashion designer of the 19th and 20th century who is also acknowledged by many as the ‘Father of Haute Couture’. Due to the way it is designed, the style does not need a waistline since it runs along panels down the body. This waistline is typically paired with fitted sheath silhouettes as well as A-line silhouettes.
This waistline has a slimming effect and suits most body types. It is a popular waistline choice for evening gowns for special occasions due to its flattering nature. Particularly ideal for those with an hourglass figure who wish to flaunt their curves with the long, shapely seams that gather in at the waist and flare out again at the hips. However, the princess seam works well with any body type as the seams help to slenderize your frame.
Remember, the best gown for you is the one that you feel the most comfortable in. So, identify the features of your body that you feel the most confident about and let your gown’s waistline celebrate the same. With the useful cues from this waistline guide, you will surely be able to make a foolproof choice!