A Waist Is a Terrible Thing to Waste


That title is maybe too far a stretch, but after last week’s feasting, stretching – and more crucially, constraining – might be the perfect metaphor for fashion’s brewing trend – outfits and accessories that accentuate the waist.

If you’ve been busy digesting designer pre-fall 2011 offerings, you’ve noticed the subtle references to the waist-friendly 70s that dominated springs/summer 2011 collections continue to endure. At DKNY the long flared pants, tucked in sheer blouses and midi-length skirts were paired with brightly-colored tie belts to give a fresh, modern look to the retro separates.

While the look is often referred to as high waisted, I think what we’re seeing on the runways is actually a return of the natural waist. In terms of traditional garment construction, the natural waist refers to the smallest part of a women’s midsection. Long celebrated as the epitome of femininity, isn’t it strange that a lady-like pulled-in waist silhouette seems like such an anachronism now?

Vintage lovers know first hand that while we are getting bigger overall, the waist has grown more in proportion. There is evidence to suggest the increasing stress of our modern day lives has rendered women more apple-shaped, but I’ve always wondered if there’s a bit of a muscle memory component to it. After years of low-rise jeans, tunics, blousons-style tops and long tees, we’re no longer used to clothes that focus our attention to this area of our bodies. Certainly, women under the age of 45 aren’t. Wearing a corset – or even a tight belt – during your ordinary day of sitting, standing and walking around is an informing experiment. I’ve marveled at how it forces you to tighten the upper part of your torso, automatically giving you the flat tummy and straight back you go to Pilates class for.

Perhaps the easiest way to creating an hourglass shape of your own is to employ an optical illusion or two. Wrap dresses, cardigans and tops that create a deep V neckline are brilliant for this. Royal bride-to-be, Kate Middleton demonstrated the effectiveness of this strategy in her Issa-designed engagement dress, adding the perception of curves to her reedy physique. Anything that highlights a low v-neck, such as a dangly medallion on a chain (very 70’s) works. By building volume at the shoulders and hips, voluminous sleeves, tulip skirts, and boat neck lines are particularly clever for whittling down the look of a waist too. Another trick is is wearing a fitted top and bottom in the same color to create the illusion of length and adding a contrasting belt. My sneaky move in summer is to wear a black top with white jeans to streamline an almost daily ice-cream bloat.

Since we all have a closet full of those blousons-style tops, I’m not suggesting throwing them out this coming season, but simply tucking them in and belting them up. So, if your fashion future is looking nipped in, cinched and knotted at the waist – or you’re thinking of all the money you’ll save on Pilates – you’ll want a new sustainably-made belt. Check out this Obi wrap belt by taxi cdc, made from reclaimed materials. Available from Candystore Collective and Shift Boutique.


Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.