I have a clear memory of being in Just Jeans and scoffing when I spotted a pair of jeans with a slightly higher rise than the beloved ‘hipsters’. As if high waists would ever make a comeback! Were these people taking crazy pills?
Fast forward a decade or so, and the waistband of my pants/shorts/jeans/skirts/bikini bottoms have risen to the point where I can barely remember what my bellybutton looks like. Feel very welcome to call me Harry HighPants.
This all began about three years ago in a General Pants change room. I’d just about given up on the hope that I’d find a pair of flattering skinny jeans (incidentally, I railed about that right here), when a friend suggested I try a high rise. I figured it couldn’t hurt, and grabbed a pair of high-waisted black Cheap Monday skinnies off the rack.
I loved them almost immediately — instead of making me look like Eugene from Grease, they made me feel, dare I say it, cool.
Since then I’ve just about banished any style that sits lower than right on my navel. Not only do I find higher waistbands more comfortable, I like the way my body looks in them. I’ve found a style that really feels like ~me~.
Meet my latest (and new favourite) pair! And don't judge me for the mirror selfie. Please.
So it saddens me to think I'd dismissed high waists for so long because I'd been led to believe they were dorky (thanks, pop culture) and/or criminally unsexy (thanks, tedious articles about 'the women's fashions men actually hate').
Now, I want to spread the gospel. I'm not here to tell you what to wear — I'm a card-carrying member of the 'wear whatever makes you feel great' school of style — but if you've been avoiding high waists because someone once told you they're unflattering or uncool or something equally ridiculous, I reckon it's time to reconsider.
Here are the eight reasons I can't get enough of 'em.
1. No accidental "cleavage"
First and foremost: it is so, so reassuring to wear pants or shorts that allow you to stand, sit, kneel and squat without revealing any unwanted 'cleavage' (of the, ah, butt kind) or the top of your undies.
Back in the days of low-slung jeans, I spent way too much time hitching them up at the back and avoiding having to kneel or sit in any capacity while wearing them. Not ideal, really. With my high-waisters everything's concealed, so I can move as I please.
Watch: Know what looks great with a pair of high-waisters? A white shirt. (Post continues after video.)
2. No hip cutting
This probably isn't the case for everyone — different body shapes and all that jazz — but I find really low-cut pants (especially jeans) have a tendency to saw into my hip bones. It's both painful and uncomfortable.
Physical discomfort aside, they also cause a bit of overhang and bumpiness in my hip area. I've found a high-rise gives me a smoother silhouette overall.
3. They have retro appeal
I guess the accusation that high-waisted pants are "old fashioned" is true, but that's not a bad thing — in many ways, the dames of bygone years had style nailed. You can't look at photos of Katharine Hepburn in her high-waisted trousers and tell me she didn't look magnificent. Ditto Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich. Goddesses.
Swoooooon. (Images: Getty)
4. ...but the look is versatile.
Wearing high-rise pants doesn't mean you have to adopt an entire retro aesthetic, a la Taylor Swift. The type of pant you buy, and how you style it, is entirely up to you.
If you're not keen on high-waisted skinny jeans, try a looser-fit trouser or a more tailored capri. You can wear them with cropped or tucked-in or knotted tops, or do a bit of layering. You can wear the waistband up under your boobs, or right on your navel. There are no hard and fast rules.
The overall look can be '60s beach girl' playful, or sexy, or sweet, or androgynous, or edgy, or bold, or Winona Ryder circa Reality Bites — so many possibilities! They're also a great office option. A blouse tucked into high-waisted trousers is simple elegance. (Post continues after gallery.)
5. They just feel secure
You know how sports bras make you feel strapped in and ready to conquer the world, without any need to faff around? That's how I feel in high-waisted pants. They won't slide down and off your hips, and they give you the general impression they're holding your internal organs in place.
Oh, and they can be quite forgiving with the 'food baby' issue as well. As one of my friends argues, "you can eat without fear of bulging out over the top."
6. They're (seemingly) less likely to stretch out
Perhaps this is just personal experience, but I always found the waistbands of lower-slung skinny jeans — particularly ones with lots of stretch — would loosen within a wear or two, necessitating frequent washing to tighten them up again. I assume this is because they sit at what is often the widest part of a woman's figure. With higher-cut styles, this doesn't seem to happen as fast.
7. The visual illusion
Having asked a number of my friends for their opinions, there was a general consensus that the high-waisted cut generally creates a nice shape — the cinched-in style can give you the illusion of a waist (handy for broads like me who are lacking in hip/waist definition), or highlight your lovely natural curves.
A high waist can also make your legs look longer, especially if you tuck in your top.
Here are the Mamamia team's pick for high-waisters. (Post continues after gallery.)
8. Body shape-friendly
Disclaimer: I'm not a fashion expert (although Kahla Lagerfield has a nice ring to it). However, I will leave you with this: in my humble opinion, this style looks gorgeous on all different kinds of bodies. I've seen women of various heights, shapes and sizes wearing their pants up high and absolutely owning them, so don't let anyone tell you that you can't do the same.
What's your favourite pant "rise"? Are you a fan of the high-waisted look?