Finding Your Natural Waistline

Yes – you do have one!

Amazing to think of but some of us have lost our waists.  And the usual culprits of sloth and overeating cannot be blamed. After years of low-rise, low-cut, booty-hugging jeans some of us have forgotten, or if you are young enough, never learned, the true location of our natural waist.  I have sometimes asked young women to show me their waists and they will invariably point to their navels!  When I demure they vehemently insist that is their waist.  That’s where their pants fall isn’t it?

No!  Where you pants fall may or may not be your waist. 

Pictured here is the waistline of a pair of pants.  Clearly the waistband is not at the natural waist.

Nothing wrong with that.   Why bother to even find the thing you ask?

Because a fashion designer can put a waistline any where they want.  And lately they have all been drawing the fashionable waistlines upwards of the navel, at the natural waistline.    


After a decade of flat fronts and peasant tops, designers, department stores, and pattern makers are doing an  about face and offering up the shirtwaist dress, belted at the natural waist, showing off our womanly hourglass forms.  


So in order to sew or shop these designs we are going to have to find our waists.  Though I know some may be consterned by this graphic illustration of the female form, it is for educational purposes only.  With only one quick glance can you tell me where this woman’s natural waist is? 

Can you find the locations of this woman's natural waist?

Here is the solution for you to check your answer.

Depending on age and figure type locating this on oneself can be a bit trickier.  The natural waist is the smallest point on the torso above the navel, and for most, under the rib cage. (A very short-waisted person can have her waist skim the bottom edge of her ribs.)

How to Find Your Own Waist.  

If You Ever Lost It That Is.

  • Stand up straight.
  • Look in mirror and see if its apparent.  For some of us, that’s pretty much it.
  • If you are still unsure take your measuring tape and draw it around you, pulling down and crosswise.  It should stop at the smallest point.

Now you are ready to sew up those new waist-enhancing designs.  In an upcoming post we will look at some pattern offerings for the latest in shirtwaist dresses.  But for the next two posts we are going to return to looking at all of the options for getting a nice sleeve placket in a dressy blouse.

Next Post: Returning to how to get a nice sleeve placket on dressy blouses –  What Not To Do: The Faced Placket; Thursday, March 11, 2010


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elaray
    Mar 28, 2010 @ 16:33:38

    Very informative post, but I’m not convinced a have a waistline. I ‘used to’ have one, but I’m sure it’s gone. At least it is so high it looks unnatural.


  2. Angela
    May 11, 2013 @ 04:47:30

    If it’s where you’re the smallest, then my underbust (where my bra sits) is my natural waistline, which sounds weird. I’m quite annoyed at all the different ways to try to find it because they’re contradictory or leave too many “what if’s?”


    • Sewista Fashionista
      Jul 06, 2013 @ 18:21:51

      Knowing where you are smallest around in the torso is important in sewing but you don’t have to put the waistline of your clothing there. I am narrowest, not right under the bust, but right under the ribs, a bit higher than the waistline patterns are typically made for. You are right, it can be annoying.


  3. Concreteblonde
    Jul 31, 2013 @ 21:08:18

    Well, this is interesting.

    I am 5′ 10″ and I was having an argument with a friend who is 5′ 9″ about a year ago and I kept telling her I was short-waisted and that ready to wear waistbands, even on tall women’s clothes, just about kill me because they choke the living daylights out of me. They always fall across my solar plexus.

    Men’s jeans, on the other hand, have always fit me very well as long as they are relaxed fit. The snap usually comes across my belly button. I have full thighs and hips and relaxed fit, is just right.

    I quit using my natural waistline measurements a long time ago for the simple fact that my hips and belly button measurement match pattern sizes. My supposed “natural waist” and hip measurements do not.

    I have 2″ between my hip bone and rib cage. And that is usually were those stupid store bought waistbands usually run, and cut my air off or if I try to wear a belt the buckle will usually hurt there.

    Therefore, ya’ll normal people may have to measure the skinniest part of your torso to get your “natural waist”, but this gal uses her belly button!

    Oh, and another thing…my bustline is lower than most. Many RTW bras have such short straps that it pulls the wires up an inch above the bottom of my bust. OUCH!! Same goes with those straps you buy to make your own bras. They aren’t long enough.

    I don’t buy into the “natural waist” being the skinniest part of your torso. If that were true, my waistband and underwires would be so close together it would make me appear deformed.


    • Sewista Fashionista
      Aug 05, 2013 @ 14:36:45

      I like your comments and you have illustrated how difficult fit is for women and how much thought has to go into something as simple as buying jeans.

      Like you, I am short-waisted, and I would never wear my clothing at my natural waist which is right below my bust by a few inches. I would resemble TweedleDee or maybe his twin, TweedleDum, if I belted myself where I am skinniest! My hip bones are also seemingly dangerously close to my ribs. Occasionally when I bend quickly to my side my floating ribs get pushed by my hip bone – OUCH!

      Using your belly button as the marker for the waistband of your clothes is A-OK. That can be very flattering. And it matches the current style of pant.

      What I am distinguishing in this article is the “waistband” versus ones “natural waist.” Within reason, one can design the waistband to go anywhere on the torso, ranging from right under the bust to a few inches below the hip bone. Various waistband styles are more or less flattering to various women. We can put the waistband of clothing anywhere we want, but as to where we are thinnest at our torso, we are stuck with that. Women whose waist does not fall within the hourglass stereotype often feel that their figure is somehow “not right.” There are gorgeous women in all varieties of waist length and type. I did not in any way mean to say that short-waisted women are not “normal”, especially as I am one myself.:)

      My point, is that as a home sewer, you need to know both where that smallest portion of your torso resides and the mathematic difference between your smallest part and the parts above and below. That way you can be very intentional about how you handle pattern alteration and where you place that waistband. When I talk to non-sewers and ask them to point to their waist, they always point to the place on their torso where waistbands resided on the fashions of their youth. The waistband of clothing is not your waist. Choosing patterns and sewing clothes using the waistline you wish you had is not likely to be as successful as being super-honest about your measurements and body type.

      You are actually in the majority as hardly anybody places their waistbands right at their waistlines. It sounds like you are altering patterns to hit your navel square on, whereas another woman might alter for an inch or two higher or lower than the navel. Another woman might use her hipbones or her natural waistline as her marker. It depends on the woman. Whatever gets that pattern to look like the fashion style you are going for and still be comfortable and fitting – that is the right approach for you.


      • Stephanie
        Aug 05, 2013 @ 18:16:47

        Hi there! I really like your reply.

        Yes, I am trying to alter patterns where the waistband hits at the belly button. You know, when I was in my mid teens I used to sew for money! Back then I could buy a pattern sew it exactly the way it came out of the envelope and it always fit.

        Got away from sewing my own clothes with lifes ups and downs and a few surprises thrown in and found out that none of those patterns fit me anymore!

        Back in 92, I bought a simplicity pattern for a pant skirt with elastic waist. I sewed the pattern, walked out into the living room to show my friend and we both broke out laughing. That thing looked like…oh it was awful! The crotch hung almost to my knees and the bottom hem was mid-calf. It was so baggy ( I explained to her, I used the amount of elastic I was supposed to but I kept pulling it shorter and shorter and it’s still trying to fall off!) I could hardly keep it up.

        Somewhere along the way they decided that this sewing ease had to allow for at least two sizes, or something. It’s gotten downright ridiculous.

        Well anyway, after I got fat enough for two people 200 lbs. and finally got off the high fructose corn syrup and got back down to 155 lbs. I’m starting to try and sew again. I was gaining weight gradually and I knew that I would just outgrow whatever I tried to sew, so I didn’t for the longest time.

        I’ve got an ancient pant skirt pattern that my mother used to actually use when I was in high school, LOL! And amazingly, I finally found a pattern that was in my size. 30″ waist 40″ hip. I’ve loved pant skirts all my life and I also tend toward a Bohemian style. I like flowing maxi skirts and tunics and stuff.

        Now down in this FL heat, the usual is to wear skimpy clothing but I’m tired of not being able to bend over in my shorts without the neighbors seeing what color my undies are.

        So, I’ve ordered a huge lot of assorted pant/skirt zippers and am waiting on them in the mail right now. I bought a roll of archival parchment paper and I got the pattern design rulers and french curves and such and I WILL sew those stupid pants skirts and they WILL fit me if I have to use up all the sheets in the house to get it done right, LOL!

      • Sewista Fashionista
        Aug 08, 2013 @ 08:45:32

        Good for you! I admire your determination. When you get those pants to fit you are going to have a wonderful awesome Go-To pattern that will last for years. You will be way ahead of the game. And should you use all the sheets in your home, thrift stores also have sheets – cheap! Best of luck. You must write about your experience when you are done. 🙂

  4. Manoj
    Oct 27, 2013 @ 00:01:37

    Actually, the natural waist is the narrowest part of the torso only for people who are not obese. When one starts putting on pounds of belly fat, the natural waist does not move up, though the narrowest part will! The natural waist is anatomically static, not dynamic.


    • Sewista Fashionista
      Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:51:52

      I agree that the waist is static. I’ve been thin and obese and the narrowest part of my torso did not move up or down. I gained inches all around, but the proportions stayed the same. I’ve seen other ladies, who also gained weight, but their narrowest part stayed right in the middle of the torso, hourglass shape. Nearly no one uses their natural waist as the waistline for their clothing, they let fashion dictate that, but in sewing, one must know where on the torso one is narrowest for fitting.


      • Kristy
        May 20, 2014 @ 17:11:42

        I am morbidly obese (5 foot 7, 275 pounds). The narrowest part of my torso IS at my belly button. I have a massive roll of adipose tissue above and below it. Even my underbust measurement is larger than the measurement around my torso at the navel.

      • Sewista Fashionista
        Jul 11, 2014 @ 17:15:27

        I would love for the narrowest part of my waist to be at my bellybutton because then I would have an hourglass figure! Lucky you! Sadly my underbust measurement is smaller than my waist because of my shrimpy ribs and meaty waist. 😦

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