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What is a Drop Waist?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 21, 2024
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A drop waist is a low, horizontal waistline in a dress or skirt. Drop waists skim past the natural waistline and over the hips. The natural waistline is the narrowest part of the waist between the rib cage and the belly button. Drop waist dress styles may just ease over the body or hang very loose, depending on the dress style. Many dresses and skirts with a drop waistline feature a pleated skirt.

The pleated-skirt part of a dropped waist style dress may have soft folds or crisp pleats. A dropped waist dress may be long or short in length. Long drop waist dresses are often made in comfortable knit or cotton fabric and are designed for lounge wear or as a summer dress. Shorter styles can have a scalloped or uneven edge; these short, dropped waist dresses can look quite funky when paired with leggings, slouch boots, and perhaps a long rope necklace. Slouch boots have draped or bunched fabric at the instep or ankles, while rope necklaces are a strand of beads or a metal chain.

Some shorter styles of drop waist dresses are made from elegant fabrics such as silk and lace. These evening-wear dropped waist dresses are often worn with nylons and high-heeled shoes. Some wedding gowns feature a drop waist. These can give a long, lean look to the figure.

The drop waist style is especially flattering to fuller figure types. A dropped waist skims the waist and hip areas without clinging to the body. Since a drop style of waist doesn't sit on the stomach or hips, it can have a slimming effect on these areas. A dropped waist skirt may have an elastic or fitted waistline. The top section is often smooth, while the drop part of the skirt is usually pleated.

A drop waist first became fashionable in women's wear of the 1920s. Flapper-style dresses had low dropped waists that were often fringed. Today, similar styles in rich fabrics and colors are sold as evening dresses. Long, elegant drop earrings can be a good accessory to wear with a dropped waist evening dress because they keep the elongated line consistent.

Dropped waists are frequently found in children's fashions, as well. Both drop waist dresses and tops are popular looks for little girls. The dropped section may be gathered or ruffled. Infant dropped waist fashions include onesies with a gently gathered skirt to give the look of a short dress. A onesie is a one-piece, shorter-length baby sleeper suit with snap closures.

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Discussion Comments

By lighth0se33 — On Oct 23, 2011

Those skirted onesies are so cute! My friend recently had a baby, and she stocked up on these before her daughter was born.

She has one that is black and hot pink. The majority of the garment is black, but it has hot pink flowers on the chest, and the gathered, drop waist skirt alternates between the two colors. The top ruffle is pink, the middle is black, and the outer one is pink.

I knew that she loved this style, so I bought her three of them for her baby shower. They are comfortable to the baby, because they don’t sit tight against the skin.

By wavy58 — On Oct 23, 2011

I have a drop waist skirt with funky edges that I love to wear in the fall. I pair it with gray suede slouch boots, and the result is instant style.

The skirt has a marble pattern of gray and black swirls. It goes with lots of things in my wardrobe, so I wear it often to different places.

It has folds around the elastic waist that extend softly out to the hem, which varies in length around the skirt. It looks like someone took scissors and cut the hem in a random, jagged manner, but it was done in a tasteful, artistic manner.

By cloudel — On Oct 22, 2011

When I wear a drop waist dress, I feel like I’m ready for vacation. It takes the pressure of needing to feel slim off, and I can just relax.

I have a red, orange, and white drop waist cotton dress that always makes me feel good. It is beautiful enough to wear to formal events, but it is also comfortable enough to wear on long road trips.

I have tried wearing empire waist dresses, but I think they make me look fat. Drop waist dresses don’t call attention to the fact that I am ten pounds overweight, and this makes me happy.

By seag47 — On Oct 21, 2011

I have found that any sort of high-waisted skirt or pants causes pain in my abdomen if I wear it all day, so I try to buy only drop waist garments. High waists press on my intestines, and this usually causes me to develop cramps.

I like the drop waist skirts that have hidden elastic under a wide band. This band sits on my hips, so the elastic doesn’t cinch in my guts.

I feel stylish in this type of skirt. No matter how cute they look, I never buy button front pants or skirts anymore, because I want to stay comfortable in things I have to wear all day.

By hyrax53 — On Oct 21, 2011

I have an hourglass figure, so drop waists are usually the worst style for me- they go past the smallest part of me and end up highlighting my hips. However, I do occasionally wear a drop waist tunic, or a tunic that I make look drop waist by belting it much lower than my natural waist. I have to be careful though, to make sure the proportions are okay and don't make me look too short.

By honeybees — On Oct 20, 2011

I have a black, pleated drop waist coat that is very flattering. I always receive a lot of compliments when I wear this coat.

Black always helps you look slim, but the drop waist helps too! I also like the drop waist coats that have a belt just below the waistline. This goes a long way at making you look thinner.

The thing about drop waist clothing is that it looks good for both women and girls, and for just about every occasion.

When I wear a coat that has a drop waist, I can wear bulky sweaters underneath without feeling like I am stuffed in my coat. It gives me the extra room I need without looking like it is too big on me.

By John57 — On Oct 20, 2011

I don't know if I own a dress that doesn't have a drop waist. These are by far the most comfortable and flattering for my figure.

I used to make a lot of my own dresses, and would always look for a drop waist pattern when looking for new styles.

I feel much more confident when I am wearing something that is both comfortable and appealing. If I am wearing clothing that is uncomfortable or tight, I am miserable all day long.

Sometimes comfortable clothing is not all that flattering, but you can find a lot of drop waist clothes that are stylish and attractive at the same time.

By Sara007 — On Oct 19, 2011

When I got married I had a drop waist wedding dress because it was by far the most flattering. It was quite beautiful, and just after the drop waist it flared into a floor length tulle skirt. I got a lot of compliments on my dress choice because it was quite unique at the time.

I think when you are choosing a waist style for your wedding dress you just need to find something that is comfortable and hides your problem areas. You'll be in your dress for hours so you need to be able to move about without too many problems. I found the drop waist was slimming, without being constricting.

By animegal — On Oct 18, 2011

I found a gorgeous drop waist blouse at a vintage store and it really does a lot for my figure. I pair it with a pair of black leggings and let the blouse speak for itself. It could almost pass for a dress, but it is just a touch too short.

One of the best things about drop waist blouses is that they really elongate your figure if you are a bit shorter. I love looking like I have a long waist, even if that isn't really true. Also, if your drop waist blouse is a solid color, the texture of it is what really matters. Just make sure it doesn't bunch too much at the bottom or it will make you look pudgy.

By burcidi — On Oct 17, 2011

@subway11- I'm not so sure about how flattering a drop waist skirt is. It does help to hide a bulging stomach, but it also makes the waist area disappear because it doesn't cover it all.

I generally wear drop-waist skirts too, just because it is more comfortable. High waist skirts feel tight after a meal and it's kind of bothersome during the time of the month. Drop waist skirts are much more comfortable and even though I like the fact that it hides my belly, I feel like my thin waist completely disappears.

So I think the drop waist style makes me look thinner but also wider. I don't know if that's flattering or not, I guess it depends on personal preference.

By SauteePan — On Oct 16, 2011

@Subway - A drop waist gown might be more flattering on a fuller figure, but you can’t say the same for drop waist pants. These pants are better suited for women that are slimmer because the lower waist hugs the hips and will accentuate the muffin top affect that many women experience when they wear drop waist pants especially if they are tight.

The muffin top is really not flattering and it is very uncomfortable for a woman that has a few pounds to lose. Also the drop waist pants have another problem. When you bend over you tend to see your underwear because of the nature of the way the pants are cut. I really try to stay away from these pants because I don’t feel comfortable in them.

By subway11 — On Oct 15, 2011

I have worn many drop waist skirts and dresses and I really like the way they look. I do have a fuller figure so it is not easy to always find a style that works and this one certainly does. What I love about a drop waist outfit is that it tends to give the appearance of a narrow waist which gives me a nice silhouette. It also makes me feel thinner which is always a bonus.

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