How to Downplay Your Hips

clothes to downplay hips

My body has shifted and changed a lot over the years, but my hips have remained constant. No matter how much or little I’ve weighed, I’ve always had full thighs and hips. And I’m not afraid to show them off on occasion, but I generally dress to downplay them a bit. As always, each woman determines her own figure flattery priorities and many of you may not care to minimize your hips. But in case you’re looking for the basics of hip minimization, here are some illustrated examples:


Full skirts had a resurgence in popularity a few years ago, and I honestly felt like I’d never even considered them as a possible option before that. Now, I know that full, flared, pleated skirts in gorgeous colors are comfortable, stylish, and possibly the ultimate tool for downplaying a set of hips on a figure similar to mine. Their hip-minimizing power relates to ratios: A flared skirt emphasizes the waist and deemphasizes everything below, until the hemline hits. A-lines are great bets, too, especially if the fullness of a pleated skirt overwhelms or works against your unique proportions.



The legging-tunic combination works marvelously on many figures with full hips, and picking the right layers can create some artfully flattering ensembles. Longer cardigans can feel clingy and unflattering for those who are self-conscious about their hips, but heavier knits will often skim over your hips instead of glomming onto them. Tunics should bell at the hem and empire styles work for many women. Play around with the long-over-lean formula until you find a version that works for you.


One of the simplest ways to downplay a part of your figure is to highlight a different part. With hips, it’s often most effective to draw the eye to the waist or narrowest point on the torso. Many women with pronounced hips also have defined waists, so belting at or above the natural waist creates a long, lean silhouette. Belting high also creates the impression of longer legs which helps to balance out full hips.

This suggestion won’t work for everyone, and women who struggle with belts or have short torsos may want to skip it entirely. But if you’re already belting and seeking to distract from your hips, see if belting higher on your torso does the trick.



Belts needn’t always cinch the outermost layer, and placing them on inner layers can have fabulous effects. If your hips and midsection are a bit squishy and putting a belt anywhere near them creates divots, you may shy away. But belting the layer closest to your body, then throwing on a flattering, looser outer layer will help downplay the divots, too! This technique also defines your waist, draws the eye up on your torso and away from your hips, and elongates your legs.



Leg elongation has already come up several times, but it deserves its own moment in the spotlight. Anyone seeking to downplay hips is likely doing so because she feels her hips are slightly out of proportion. Creating the impression of more height can counteract that disproportionate feeling, and making your legs appear longer is a quick way to do just that. Wearing like-colored tights and shoes and playing with platforms are among the simplest ways, but here are more tips for how to make your legs look a mile long.

Again, these are merely guidelines and you should take what applies to you and leave the rest. Furthermore, if you prefer to highlight your own hips, go for it! We all select our own dressing priorities, and there’s no right way to look amazing. Hopefully, though, a few of you looking for ways to minimize your hips found these basic suggestions helpful.

Originally posted 2012-02-07 06:19:07.

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47 Responses to “How to Downplay Your Hips”

  1. Carbon Girl

    Downplaying my hips while “upplaying” my waist is definitely my number one priority with clothes. I too love full skirts and wear them constantly in the summer. I seem to have trouble finding them in more heavy fabrics though. It was your love of full skirts that drew me to your blog. I found it inspiring to see some dress like me. I don’t know what I will do when they go out of style!

    I have also tried the long over lean but with much less success.

  2. meli22

    Interesting, the idea of picking figure flattery priorities. I need to ruminate on this a while.

    For me, making sure that my body looks proportionate head to toe seems to work best. Long legs are great, but not always desirable IMO- only in proportion- I don’t like extremes.

    My body is thinner waist up than waist down. I have wide hips, super curvy thighs, and ‘athletic’ legs. I do have a small waist, and when I dress myself well I have an hourglass shape.

    Defining my waist is a huge priority for me- even in oversized tops, I make sure it at least does something for me. I wear push-up bras even though I’m a C-cup to balance my thighs/hips. I have super curvy thighs (not ‘fat’ thighs, I’m talking about shape). Narrower shaped pants and skirts I have learned make my legs look leaner and longer- something that clings to my thighs and then makes a straight line down is often best. Full skirts actually tend to add too much volume to my hips/thighs and make me look bottom heavy (which I already am naturally). But I do try to experiment and I do like my rear/thighs.

  3. Herbee

    Great tips-I have a hard time getting belts to work on me, but I love the idea of belting the INNER layer of an outfit! Definitely going to try that. And, as always, your colour combinations are inspiring!

  4. Gail

    Hmm. Not really sure the full flared skirt theory works for minimizing hips, looking through the pix you posted. All the bottom examples do, for sure. I know that full flared skirts make me look like a munchkin; I’ve always thought that’s just because I’m quite short. Actually, unless these full skirts are made of rayon or silk knit, I think they only complement the very tall and very thin.

    • Susan, the one in Berkeley

      I think a full skirt doesn’t actually downplay wide hips as much as camouflage them, so the fullness appears to come from the skirt and not your body. Its crucial then to find a width that is in proportion to the rest of your body, otherwise this could look clownish very easily. Sal has worked it out – gorgeous!

    • K

      I think the other thing that full skirts have going for them if you have generous hips and thighs is a pretty high comfort factor. I find that while it can be hard to find flattering fitted pants and skirts that fit in these ares, a fuller skirt paired appropriately can mask just how much you are filling the skirt out with and be a relief for the comfort of these areas not trying to force your body into something that may not be cut for someone so curvy.

  5. Anonymous

    I also try to downplay my hips, but in the context of being petite from the waist up and having long skinny legs. Often I’m trying to make the rest of me look less skinny rather than trying to make my hips look smaller.

    A line skirts are great. (Full skirts seem to make me look bigger and aren’t my style.) Empire waists are also great.

    I actually avoid anything that cinches at the waist, since I don’t want to emphasize my waist-hip differential too much. Things that taper at the waist but aren’t belted are helpful for this. Think a flattering/well fitting sheath dress, for example. I often wear button-down shirts that taper at the waist and start to flare over the hips but end before they flare too much. This gives some waist definition, and with dark pants the hips are less noticeable. I usually don’t tuck in my top, relying on tapering in the top to provide some waist definition rather than on the waistline of my bottom to provide more drastic cinching of the waist. (This has a side benefit of making my torso look longer.)

    Low- or mid-rise bootcut pants are great. My backside looks smaller when it’s covered from the hips down than when it’s covered from the waist down. Then narrow in the thighs to show my slender legs, then flare at the bottom to balance the hips. Straight legged pants with the right drape to them can also be flattering, but I don’t have as good luck with finding those.

  6. JuliR

    I actually quite love my, um, strong hips. They can carry my sister’s children without me needing to twist my spine out of it’s proper place by cocking a hip to the side. It’s my stomach I’d like to downplay.

  7. Patience

    Great tips. I’ll have to try the inner layer belting. Shoe choice can be important too. Choose a shoe that lengthens the line of your legs. I like to wear full skirts, but I’m thinking that A-lines are more flattering on me.

  8. Anat

    I am very much like you in terms of poportions, and usually also opt to de-emphasis my hips. Lately I’ve also tried the opposite – to play off my hips with a pencil skirt. This create a very hourglass, madmen-like effect. See also the amazing things Chelsea of Brightside dweller does with her pencil skirts and sheaths.

    It still feels a bit “out there” to me to have my bum and hips clearly outlined by a straight lined skirt, but I am gaining confidence with this look. I haven’t seen you in these styles though…. have you ever tried it?

    • K

      I love that you mentioned this! Finding a pencil skirt that fits (or just altering a slightly larger size to work with your waist to hip differential) is one of my favourites. I feel so much thinner and leaner overall in this look. I like to balance the look with slightly larger styles on my top half like scarves, blazers, strong shoulders or dolmen sleeves. That and I find it nice to embrace my curves when I can get my clothes to work with my body rather than against it. My only tip is to be careful how much curve your skirt gives you on the underside of your butt. It may be worth altering a larger skirt so that you don’t look like your skirt it too tight.

  9. A Reader

    A full skirt does not down-play hips, at all. It emphasizes a small waist but since it flares out it almost accentuates hips. I think you look great in full skirts and they create a great hourglass figure on your body. Your hips/thighs are not large by any means. Your suggestions for minimizing hips do work (well, beside the full skirts), and it almost looks like you have no hips at all! Especially in that last outfit where you elongate your legs.

    I hope you don’t take any offense do this as it’s not meant to be offensive. I’m just trying to offer a different perspective.

    • Sal

      To each her own, and I don’t take offense! Still stand by full skirts, though. They’re my favorite way to downplay my own hips.

  10. Melissa

    Great tips. I do many of these given I’ve got some hips going on too. I wish more stores would come back with nice, a-line work skirts instead of those dang, straight pencil skirts!

  11. Dee

    Its kind of funny that for years I thought I had a typical pear shape but as I got older and wiser I realized I am more straight up and down and my hips/thighs are smaller than my top half. So I relish that I don’t have out of proportion hips or saddle bags. (mind you, I have other figure issues!) I use the belt under layer “trick” all the time, it gives the illusuion of a waist (and longer legs?) and I love belts! If I try to belt over a top or jacket its just not flattering on my shape. I think Sal looks terrific in those full skirts but I can see where it would not work for all women with larger hips. Sal is really quite thin and I really never noticed that she had hips out of proportion to the rest of her. But maybe thats becasue she has learned to dress her body so well!!

  12. Nuranar

    I’ll have to chime in with those who disagree on full skirts, Sal. However, I don’t think it’s an all-or-nothing Yay or Nay. Your example is adorable, and I really wish I could do it. I think there are two vital factors that can determine if full skirts are good for big hips:

    (1) Waist/hip proportion. Depending on my weight, I have from 11-13″ difference between my waist and hips. Full skirts, particularly those gathered or near circle, create a very dramatic triangle that emphasizes the extreme disparity between waist and hips. This works when the goal is to create a huge skirt, like when I’m doing 1950s. That’s not really down-playing the hips, though.

    (2) Hip height/shape. I have a high hip. This further exaggerates my waist/hip disproportion. I also have a wide hip. Not so much junk in the trunk, just wide. My most unfortunate fashion choices have been semi-full flared skirts that hang wide, from the hips. They make me look twice as wide as I am, no joke!. I actually just cut up one and remade it with a 1940s pattern, because I never wear it as originally designed.

    I’ve discussed only waist/hip proportions, which for full skirts I think is most important, but of course bust/shoulder, waist length, and height all impact. I have average bust and shoulders that don’t come close to balancing my hips. I’m also very tall, with long legs, but short-waisted for my height. Put all together, full skirts don’t work ON ME to hide hips.

    So I think it comes down to proportions, one way or another. There’s a point past which the proportions are too exaggerated to look good. And that point varies in each individual’s estimation. IMHO, your proportions are on the less-exaggerated side and you look AWESOME in full skirts. I have had that outfit with the black turtleneck and yellow skirt bookmarked for a long time. I just know the frustration of being advised (by others, not you) that full skirts are the best for big hips, while they’re really not for me.

    Ahem. Sorry for the length. Answering your actual questions: Down-playing hips is definitely a priority for me! I have most success with:

    Skirts and dresses with fitted waists.
    Moderate and modified a-line skirts in just-above or just-below knee length.
    My favorite skirt is an 8-gore “trumpet” skirt, in which the flares start at the upper thigh instead of mid-thigh, so there’s a lot of flare and movement above my knees but the skirt skims my hips.
    Another has a wide fitted yoke, and then three inverted pleats front and back (not sides). The result is a semi-full skirt that stays slim actually over the hips.
    I have a few fuller skirts, which are all of heavy and/or very drapey (but never clingy) knits. They have volume at the hips, but their own weight keeps them from “puffing” and adding apparent size there.

    Occasionally I can make an empire waist work, particularly with short dresses over leggings. My favorite is another heavy knit. The skirt flares rather full right from the high waist, but it’s got so much weight that there’s no volume added at all. It just swings a lot when I move. 😉

    • Sal

      Well said, Nuranar. I have tried to point out in my post that full skirts work dependent on proportions, but you’ve added some great detail.

      In my opinion, no figure flattery trick will be foolproof for anyone!

      • Nuranar

        I’ve thought about it a lot, trying to figure out WHY it looked so “off” in my mirror. I love analyzing to define a WHY. 😀

        • Candace

          Sal and Nuranar –
          I think that you hit the nail on the head with the whole “full/pleated/gathered at the waist” type skirts on a pear shape. I am hourglassy with wide set hips and I love to wear full skirts, like Sal, and I think I look super cute in them. The key, I believe, is that my torso (from collar bone to pelvis, is VERY long. I mean I can’t even wear a one piece bathing suit because I am freakishly long. Having that extra length in my waist allows for the proportions of a full skirt to sit beautifully without looking like I tucked my boobs into my waistband. Sorry short-waisted ladies, the full skirt is just not the best for you!! I’m not 100% certain but judging by the pics, this could be the case for you also Sal and why you love full skirts as much at I do!

          • Nuranar

            Wow, Candace, that’s awesome to hear! And it does confirm what I’d suspected, that my short waist also worked against me and full skirts. Go you!

  13. Kasmira

    Love these tips and I think I’ve used every one of them myself! I really like the tip on belting UNDER an outerlayer for almost any figure. It also gives an hourglass shape to pears and rulers. (And masks the squishy bits on all of us!)

  14. Katharine

    Yes, I also am one of the full-hip persuasion who should not wear a full skirt. Belting isn’t that great for me either, because like Nuranar, I have very high hip fullness, and belting (or a tight waistband) not only makes me look bizarre on top (because my shoulders are visually twice the size of my waist from the back and my torso is short) but weird on the bottom, because my butt will then appear darn nearly square. (Which is also the reason I sold a number of straight skirts I thought were fine, recently; I checked out the rear view with two mirrors, and ew!)

    For me, empire waists do work, as do A-line skirts. Low waistlines are also perfect for my particular figure. Even a full skirt with a wide waistband that sits low on the hips won’t look too terrible; it will hide the less savoury details of my buttocks’ shape while not exaggerating the immediate surge of my hip-shelf out of my waist.

    As for belting… well, I’ve talked about my general aversion to belts before, but that’s also because of the way I’m shaped; there just isn’t much room on my torso for a belt, and belts will naturally roll/fall to that very abbreviated, weird, small area of my waist, which just appears off if super-defined. (I wish I had figured this out at a younger age. When I was young, I was super proud of my tiny waist, one of the few things I liked about my chubby little bod, and it was several inches smaller than it is now. And Le Chateau sold those wide elastic belts…. The result is that I look like a pudgy little stuffed creature tied up with a tight string in the middle in a lot of old pictures.)

  15. Colleen

    I think that maybe where people have problems with full skirts is when the fullness blouses out moreso on the sides of the hips than by the tummy or tuckus. Then it does indeed create a widening effect. The fabric weight in your examples is heavier and the flare is uniform around the whole skirt which is part of why it works.

    I find that fabric weight and placement of pleats are most important for hip flattery. Lightweight pleated skirts in silk chiffon especially hang off the sides of my hips in a blousey, potentially unflattering way. Whereas a circle skirt in a heavier fabric like wool has enough heft to it to maintain the proper shape and not cling or emphasize the wrong areas.

  16. Mrs.M in MI

    Something I sometimes do when attempting to balance my top and bottom halves is to bulk up the top half so it is in proportion to my larger bottom half. This also serves my first priority when dressing in the winter, which is to KEEP WARM.

    So I may be wearing a pencil skirt or a pair of slim pants, but on top you can see at least three layers (plus my unseen long underwear layer and my unseen, um, “enhancing” bra). It helps that I have a strong, broad shoulder line, but a good jacket can make one for you if you don’t.

  17. Lynn Bert

    It is interesting how we see ourselves can be so different from how others see us. Sal, you are quite proportional, and to my eyes, you do not have too wide hips. I think the long over lean actually hides your nice curves. I do not think your hips need to be hidden. I think you will look much better if you show them.

    I myself have relatively big tummy compared to the rest of my body. I wore boxy tops for years to hide them and only recently realized that I do not need to. I can dress my curves and look great and my tummy is only a problem to me, never to others.

    Just my two cents.

  18. Debs

    I use the long lean look all the time… same color bottoms and shoes. Mainly I have a long torso and short legs, so even as an older woman I look better in shorter skirts.

    I have never been comfortable with wearing a belt.. I feel it draws to much attenttion to my belly (which I have now at 52 that I didn’t have at 35). I have a very high waist as well. I wear clothes that have curves… princess seams etc… to help define my curves, but I never wear anything that cuts me off or makes a stop… I can’t wear high heels anymore so this is partiularly important to me. I really love my kitty heels!

  19. Frenchie

    I prefer a-line skirts rather than full skirts on me. I have an “athletic” build (broad shoulders, not much waist definition). The closest I get to a fuller skirt look is when I belt a waistless (rectangular) dress or tunic. I definitely agree on the layered look: cardigans or jackets, preferably mid-thigh length. Love the looks you’ve shown. They look great on you because you have a small waist. (I don’t think you have a hip or thigh issue, but that’s just my opinion).

  20. Lucy

    I have a different question from most of the people commenting. On the belt high photo, where did you get that magnificent sweater? It’s gorgeous.

  21. Heather

    My mother loved the ’50’s- she had a tiny waist and huge hips, and crinolines were made to flatter her! There’s a reason hoop skirts were so popular, they make your waist look tiny in comparison.

  22. A-Dubs

    Omigod. I feel pressure to choose which outfit I like best. But they’re all so good and include excellent bootage. And yet I must choose: Top Three are as follows:

    – Belt Inner Layers (what a jacket! sweet beautiful chocolate brown and buttery boots)
    – Try Full Skirts (love the mustard against the black ‘body suit’ look)
    – Long Over Lean (it’s your princess look)

  23. Lydia

    I agree that it is all about the proportion with wider skirts — whether pleated, a-line, circle, or gored — it all is about the type of pleats/ fullness/ gathers, type of fabrication –chiffon vs cotton, and width of waistband.

    I wanted to add that when I travel, I always take an a-line skirt with me, and a straight skirt. One looks good in photos (straight one), and the other in films (wider one) — In other words, some wide skirts may have movement, that creates a lovely contour around the body, while others that remain close fitted, give a more structured appearance. I have come to the conclusion that how we move in clothes, not just a photo — alters the look. Great tips, I like the inside belting one, which is the type of belting I like best.

  24. Villanelle

    I am a fairly new reader of your blog and I have fallen in love with it!

    I have also fallen in love with the cream sweater in the “belt it high” photo. I tried searching old posts, hoping to find it, but had no luck. Any chance you could (please!!) post info on the sweater so I can satisfy my lust?

  25. Thursday

    My hips should have their own postcode, so I incorporate at least one of these into my wardrobe every day. Waist definition and full skirts are my staples. However, the long over lean doesn’t really work for me, mostly because I tend to lose waist definition and proportion through it. After years and years of only wearing A-line skirts, I have incorporated pencil skirts into my wardrobe but there MUST be waist definition and leg elongation involved. And I can’t wear them on days when I’d rather forget about my hips.

  26. KL

    Sal–I haven’t searched through the archives to check, but have you ever written a post about dressing to play UP the hips? I am strongly boyish in shape with only ~6 inch difference between my waist and hips, and usually try to dress to hide my tummy–but I’d like to think about POSITIVE dressing maxims instead, about emphasizing rather than hiding.

  27. notemily

    I have a small waist compared to my hips, but wearing pants or skirts that come up to my waist makes me feel like I’m suffocating. I like the look on other people, but I HATE the feeling of high-waisted clothing. I prefer my pants and skirts to ride low on my waist–anything that comes up past my belly-button is out. Sometimes I buy a size bigger so a skirt will ride lower, but since a lot of skirts are meant to be worn high, sometimes that just looks weird.

    Unfortunately I have a proportionally long torso and short legs, so my hatred of high-waisted things can work against me. I prioritize comfort over fashion most of the time, though. If I love the look of something but hate wearing it, I can’t feel good in it. (High-waisted dresses are generally okay, though, for some reason.)

  28. subduedjoy

    You don’t look like you have a small waist and big hips, but then most of your photos (all except the one in which you are wearing a sweater) are hiding your waist. Then again, your waist size looks normal in that photo. Perhaps your definition of tiny waist and big hips is different from mine. I have a tiny waist and big hips. The difference between the two measures something between 13 and 13.5 inches depending on my overall weight. I tend to gain weight in my thighs, which right now are normal due to lots of exercise and a vegan diet. I have always thought my tiny waist and big hips were my greatest assets. I always try to play them up, and I get lots of stares and guys approaching me when I do. My only issue is with buying clothes. It is extremely difficult to find clothes that fit. I try to get pants that tie on or are low cut. Otherwise, I have to sew them at the back or sides. As for shirts, I tend to go for those that have a gather or tie in the middle. And I will button only the middle buttons when wearing sweaters and jackets.

  29. Claire

    I have the same “figure concern” and really appreciate this post. What is the maker of the lovely rose hoodie in the first look?