How to Define Your Waist Without Wearing a Belt

How to define your waist without wearing a belt.

I’ve begun updating some of my greatest hits posts so they’re more current. This is one of them!

I don’t belt as much nowadays, but I’m a big believer in the power of belts to transform a silhouette. Before I discovered the wonderful world of belting, my waist was seldom seen by anyone besides my husband.

But belts are not for everyone. Depending on your proportions, belting may feel strange or look strange. Depending on your personal style, belting may have very limited appeal. Depending on your preferences, belting may feel incredibly uncomfortable. But if any of those things are true AND you still wish to define your waistline, you might want to give one of these alternatives a try:



Depending on your proportions, these may be a bear to find … but there’s nothing quite like a blazer with a nipped-in waist to define the midsection. Since blazers are generally made from thicker material than sweaters and blouses, they do a fabulous job of creating structure. And there are some darling blazers made from jersey/sweatshirt material if you need a bit more give!



Button-down shirts, dresses, and jackets are likely candidates for these waist-defining seams. Buy ’em whenever you find ’em. (This dress isn’t the clearest example, but I wanted to use something semi-recent from my own archive. For a better idea of what princess seams look like take a peek at this sheath dress.)



A high-contrast break – like the one created here by the dark top and bright skirt – draws the eye right to your waist. Choosing separates that create contrast and placing their break right at the waistline is a great way to define it. This even works beneath a blazer, as shown here.



If you’re a stickler for details, this might not work for you … but if you don’t mind a few errant buttons, give it a whirl. Any v-necked cardigan can be tied like this. Just gather up and fold under the back a bit, bring the flaps around your torso at the spot where it’s slimmest (your natural waist), and tie in a knot. Tuck any trim and buttons away as best you can.



True wrap dresses are not the foolproof solution that some style gurus have declared them to be, but they work wonders on some bodies. The gathered fabric at the waistline and swoop of the cloth conspire to carve out a waist without the aid of a belt. And even designs with surplice or faux wrap detailing like this one can do the trick.



Just like blazers, truly fitted vests aren’t exactly easy to find, but they do work like a charm. A fitted vest has the same properties as a fitted blazer without all the hassle of arm and shoulder fit. Seek out styles designed for women, though, as true menswear vests will be designed for bodies with zero curves.

If you’re trying to emphasize your waistline without emphasizing your rack, take a peek at this guest post from Kelly, who has dressing tips for women with large busts.

If you love belts but just can’t seem to find one that works, be sure to explore all your options before giving up. Try belts of all widths (from skinny to wide), materials (ribbon and cloth belts are more forgiving than leather), and placements (just below the bust, at the natural waist, and below the natural waist). The easiest way to do this is to put on a simple dress and grab a scarf that fits around your waist. Roll it tight and skinny. Then roll it to the width of two fingers. Then three or four fingers. Find out which width suits you. Try skinny, mid, and wide just below your bust, between your bust and natural waist, at your natural waist, and two fingers below your natural waist. Find out which placement suits you. Sometimes, the answers are “none” and “none,” in which case one of the six ideas from this post might be just the ticket!

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9 Responses to “How to Define Your Waist Without Wearing a Belt”

  1. Sewing Faille

    Hey Sally– maybe I just can’t see it from that photo, but the tunic in the photo you picked for “princess seams” doesn’t appear to actually have princess seams. I can only see a single center front seam.

    • Sally McGraw

      You’re right – not the most obvious example! I was trying to use relatively recent images from my own files but will add a note in the post so people can see a clearer example.

  2. argentinaleyva

    This is so great! I aways struggle with finding flattering styles that favor my apple shape body. I will be trying these suggestions, I have everything I need. Thanks! I’ll share with my followers.

  3. Wendy Leonardo

    That jacket in your first example is fabulous! Any source info or suggestions on where to look for one similar? I particularly love the way the front pieces come to a point, which I think makes it extra flattering.

  4. CarpeDiemJoyOver50

    Really great ideas! Thanks, Sally! Could you do a post sometime on current trends in jeans and ankle booties for Fall/Winter? I wear mostly skinny jeans or a cigarette pant/straight leg style, with some type of ankle boot. Is cuffing still on-trend? Sock/no socks? Thanks so much!

    • Sally McGraw

      For sure! I was wondering about cuffing myself and did some poking around. Looks like boyfriend and slouchy jeans are still getting cuffed, but most folks are doing a cropped frayed hem for skinnies … which is unfortunate news if you do ankle boots and live in a cold climate like me. I’ll try to get a post together soon!

  5. Jess1216

    I’ve been having trouble locating a good nipped-in blazer and the one you’re wearing in “Fitted Blazer” is perfect. Where can I find this gorgeous blazer?!