I’m periodically bemused by all those Sunday Supplement views on fashion. I’m showing my age here, because I don’t think that many people actually buy printed copies of newspapers. However, I couldn’t think of another generic term to describe those articles where the author tells you about the latest “must have” trend and seems to imply that your life isn’t work living unless you have this blazer or that midi skirt. So, one of these trends that is commonly spoken about is for high-waisted trousers. In fact, I would say that the high-waisted trouser is something much talked about in the sewing world too. The trouble is I don’t really know what is meant by “high-waisted”. Sounds odd I know, but bear with me as I try to explain.
Where is my waist?
First of all, I suppose let’s define where the waist is, because I’ve found there isn’t just one answer for this.
According to this site (medical) this is how we should measure our waist:
- Remove or wear thin clothing around the abdomen and hips.
- Hold the tape measure between the top of the hipbone and the bottom of the ribs.
- Breathe out normally.
- Bring the tape around the waist.
- Do not hold the tape too tight and ensure the tape measure is straight around the back.
- Record the measurement.
The above instructions sound logical, but how about “between the top of the hipbone and the bottom of the ribs”? Depending on your body there could be quite a bit of difference between the hipbone and the ribs.
This site (scientific) maintains that the waist circumference should be measured 2.5cm above the umbilicus. However, the authors were interested in the measurement that the best explains abdominal fat mass.
When I am taking measurements for sewing though, my primary aim is to make comfortable garments, so what do the sewing websites say? I found Jenny at Cashmerette advice probably the best. She asks you to consider the following question – “where do I want the intended waist on my garment to hit me?” She also provides the following advice for people who are pretty straight and up and down (which best describes my shape) – “You can pick wherever you want, and it becomes more about the proportion of upper: lower body in a garment that you prefer”. This explains a lot about my ambivalence when it comes to rise.
What is rise?
Rise is the distance from the middle of the crotch seam (right between your legs) to the top of the waistband. According to my online research, rise can vary from 7 inches to 12 inches (both these websites mention this range – I find it odd that the range is quoted as the same for men and women).
I found this handy picture on this website, describing the fit of jeans:
How to choose the rise I prefer for my trousers?
I have just been measuring the rise of the jeans I am currently wearing. It is 6 inches. The measurement is so low it fits below the range I quoted above. These jeans are very old and were bought in the noughties when rise so low you can see most of the person’s bottom was the prevailing trend. But on me they sit exactly at the top of my hip bone and across my belly button. What I can conclude from this is that my anatomy is quite different from the average in this respect and I have a very short body.
Using this website as a guide, low-rise is described as 3 inches below the navel (even lower than the diagram above), mid-rise is described as 9 – 11 inches , and high-rise as over 10 inches. This means that for my body wearing a low-rise pair of trousers at two to three inches below the navel would be very indecent on me! Given that my preferred rise is about 6 – 7 inches, this means that all those trendy high-waisted trousers with rises of over 10 inches wouldn’t be high-waisted at all, but would come up over my ribs and be competing with the bottom of my bra! Or most likely they just wouldn’t stay at this height and just ride down the whole time.
Below I’ve inserted a picture of me wearing my Palisade shorts. These shorts are a toile and the rise is really too high. It isn’t that evident from the picture, but the shorts tend to slide down resulting in a drop crotch look, which isn’t the look I’m after.
I have learned that rise is a measurement unique to the individual and where they wish to wear the waist of their trousers. It seems rather neglected by the pattern companies though. Why don’t we get jeans patterns, for example with different rises, just like there are many pattern companies now doing different cup sizes? I had a look at a few jeans patterns and quite a few describe the pattern according to rise. Of course, that rise will look quite different on different people:
Ginger jeans (Closet Core Patterns) are described as low-rise
Jamie Jeans (Named Clothing) are described as regular-rise
Birkin flares (Paper Dahl), Ames jeans (Cashmerette)and Dawn jeans (Megan Nielsen) are all described as high-rise
Admittedly it isn’t a particularly difficult adjustment to make, provided that the pattern has lengthen/ shorten lines. For me, it is one of the most common changes I make to trouser patterns. It is also worth bearing in mind that you may need a different size of zip if you alter the rise by a substantial amount. (This is one of the reasons why I buy haberdashery as I go along and not at the beginning of a project, tempting as it may be to have everything to hand at the start). The explanation for short rise given here makes me wonder about how this rise is drafted trousers in menswear. Short rise is not the same as low rise. Sadly, I couldn’t find more information on this. I wonder whether there should in fact by two lengthen / shorten lines on trouser sewing patterns; one above the zip and one below?
So, am I any the wiser about what high-waisted trousers are? Yes, I suppose I am. But at the same time, I realise that I am never going to wear them “off-the-shelf”, either from a shop or directly as drafted by the pattern company. They simply wouldn’t fit or be comfortable. I think I’ll continue to do those rise adjustments.