Principle 2: Defined Waist
A major principle of good design is to keep the overall structure simple, and then emphasise the elements of that structure with detail. The function a thing performs will determine the structure that it has. When we turn our minds to designing feminine dress, the thing which will give the outfit its structure is the woman who wears it. The distinguishing function of a woman is her capacity to bear children. This potentiality exists even if a woman is infertile, not called to the vocation of motherhood, or is not baring children at that particular time. The fundamental difference between women and men is still this potential to bear children. A woman’s bust and wide hips are the outwardly visible bodily structure which she has been given to achieve this vital function. Therefore, if we wish to dress as women, and not try to camouflage ourselves as men, we must delineate these parts of our structure.
The way to emphasise your womanly structure without being immodest is to ensure that the waistline of your outfit sits at your true waist. A women’s waist is narrower than her bust and hips and forms a natural hourglass shape with them. The exact proportions of this shape will vary for each individual, but should be present for all ladies. Very large women may be an exception to this rule, although even then there should be a place under the bust where her body comes in before the stomach begins. This figure will be briefly treated later in this article. Pregnant women also call for special attention and will be given due consideration further on. Aside from these two exceptions the universal rule is to keep the waistline at or near the true waist. By having a fitted waist on your clothes you will nicely illustrate your feminine figure without needing to expose anything which good taste calls for covering. Your true waist is the narrowest part of your midriff, not your hips, or where your jeans sit.
In the images below we see the results of poorly placed waistlines. In the first image there is no waist at all, which leads to an unglamorous sack like dress. In the second image we see the waistline has been placed far too low, and then further reinforced by the low belt. This makes the model seem bottom heavy, although this is probably not the case. In the third image the waistline has been placed too high, making the model appear blocky and rectangular, which is also probably inaccurate.
Defining your waist will ensure that your natural hourglass shape is visible, without your needing to wear skin tight jeans or low cut tops. By illustrating our femininity we communicate to onlookers that we are comfortable with our gender and the physiological, psychological and spiritual traits that accompany it. Nobody enjoys being around people who dislike themselves or are struggling to cope with reality. By dressing in a way which accords with your nature you immediately place yourself on a more graceful and calm footing than if you try to fight reality and deny your womanhood.
With dresses, the waistline will obviously sit wherever the waistline has been sewn into the garment. This means it is necessary to ensure that the waistline is at or very near true waist when you purchase a dress. If a dress is very fitted, then there may not be an obvious waistline, but so long as it sits quite snugly around your waist the outfit should be visually pleasing. Adding a belt or tie to further draw attention to your waist can also be very effective. If you are not particularly curvy, then a full skirted dress which comes in at the waist will assist to create the illusion of fuller hips.
When wearing a skirt, the easiest way to define your waist is to ensure that that is where the skirt sits, and then to tuck your top into the skirt. A major fashion faux pas is to wear a loose top with a skirt and not tuck it in. This will obscure your waist and, if the top ends at your mid or lower buttocks, it will draw attention to the widest part of your body. If the top has a waistline at the true waist then it does not need to be tucked in. Peplum tops are a good example of this. If the top ends at your hips, rather than your mid-buttocks it can be worn out as long as it is brought in at the waist with a belt or tie.
The same is true of many jumpers and cardigans. As women in the western world have increasingly made pants a staple of their wardrobe, jumpers have grown to end where the pants start. A jumper finishing at the bottom can work with pants, because most women’s pants today are very tight, which enables us to see that the woman wearing the jumper is not fat, and has a nice figure underneath the jumper. As a skirt will not show the circumference of your thighs, a long jumper will completely conceal your figure and give the impression that you are shapeless.
Thus if you want to wear a jumper or cardigan with your outfit, you can tuck it into the skirt also, although this may not work well with very thick jumpers. A far more sophisticated solution is to find jumpers and cardigans which end at or near your true waist. These will ensure that attention is drawn to your waist however they are worn. These cropped styles are harder to find, but do exist. One thing to consider with cardigans is that they may make your outfit look quite ‘vintage’. It is not advised to present as though you wished you were living in another era. It gives the impression that you are not coping with the world as it exists now. Also, many feminists have already adopted the 50’s vintage look, often making the pin-ups of that era their idols. It is not a good idea to place yourself within such a category of women. If you choose a cardigan in a nice colour without pictures of cats or fruit on it, and pair it with clothes which are also in pleasant colours you should not fall into the vintage category.
Jackets which end at the waist are wonderful, also. Suit jackets or blazers can work well with skirts if they have a tailored waist, or belt at the waist. It is essential that the jacket fits well however. Oversized jackets will not look becoming. Because this design is the feminised version of a man’s suit, it is suitable for the workplace where you do not want the focus to be upon your femininity. It is still recommended that the jacket end at the hip, not the mid or lower bottom. When combined with floaty feminine skirts and dresses it will not look unduly severe. Jackets which do not have a tailored waist are very masculine and are to be avoided. Jackets which are not the classic suit jacket pattern follow the same rules. If they are belted at the waist or have a waistline tailored in they will work well. If a jacket is worn open, you may be able to get away with a more shapeless design, as long as the waist on your outfit beneath is still visible. In general jackets with waists are preferred so that you are less restricted in how you choose to wear the garment.
Coats will totally cover your outfit, so the waist of your coat will need to be at or very near the true waist also. This can be a lovely, dramatic look which we should all make use of when the weather becomes cool. A well-made and well-proportioned coat will last for a very long time and never be out of fashion. It is also a very practical way to keep warm, be modest and stylish in the colder months of the year. The Duchess of Cambridge is always very well dressed and often wears coats. She is also careful to keep the waist at her true waist, unless she is pregnant. Trench coats are acceptable as long as the colour is nice and the tie at the waist is done up. However, the double breasted design is quite masculine, so if you are going to purchase a new coat, perhaps avoid this style. Puffer jackets are not allowed unless you actually are camping in Antarctica. It is not possible to be well dressed while wearing a sleeping bag. Europe survived before electricity or heated cars without wearing such hideous thing, so pleading the weather is no defence. A good wool coat will be very warm and look far better.
Pregnant women will find that as their pregnancy progresses the narrowest part of their body moves up to be below the breast. This is where the waistline of your clothes should move as well. However, it is not good to bring the clothes in too tightly under the breasts, as this will only draw attention to the size of the pregnancy and your breasts. We understand that this is not your normal figure, and there is no need to try to convince onlookers that you are still ‘sexy’ in spite of your condition. Pregnancy is not something to be ashamed of. It is far more elegant to merely hint at the differentiation here and have your clothes glide smoothly over the bump. Conversely, there is no need to drown yourself in a sack.
Tradition in Action has an insightful article on the degradation of maternity style where it is explained that the pregnant belly has no business being exposed to the public. There is no need for the world to be shown the full outline of your pregnant belly or its naked flesh. More structured styles, or lighter materials with enough volume to avoid clinging to the body are preferable. Try to resist putting your hands under your belly to show how large it is. As you get close to delivering this will mean that you are holding yourself very near your crotch, which is never a good look. It may also appear that you need to support the weight of your own body with your hands. All women should strive to carry themselves as though they were light and delicate, no matter their size.
For women with larger abdomens than average, these same instructions apply. If you are a bigger women but your true waist is still your narrowest point, continue to emphasise that part of your body, but with due regard for the tightness of the fabric to ensure no unsightly bulges are on display. If your stomach is not your narrowest point, then it is likely to have moved to beneath your bust, as with pregnancy. Therefore you should follow those instructions and move the waistline of the garment up to beneath your bust and try not to wear fabrics which will cling to your stomach. Fitted jackets can be a very flattering look for larger women as they will put in a waist, draw attention to the bust but glide over the stomach. More structured styles are also recommended.
Hopefully the necessity of the waistline sitting at the narrowest point of a woman has been thoroughly demonstrated. The simplicity of dressing well and modestly ought to continue to become clearer as we continue to examine feminine dress.
 Marian T. Horvat, ‘Immodest Trends in Maternity Wear’, Tradition in Action, http://www.traditioninaction.org/Cultural/C027cpMaternity.html