In fashion, the term, natural waist, refers to the smallest part of a person's midsection or to a garment constructed to fit this area. No matter one's figure type, everyone has a natural waist or waistline. Clothing designed to accentuate this waistline can include dresses, tops, and pants.
Pants that are made with a natural waist fasten between the lower ribs and the belly button, where the smallest part of the waistline occurs. The natural waistline is considered to be flattering on all figure types. It's especially flattering for pants for the heavy set figure, because the trousers then cover the belly and hang in a way that creates a long lean leg line. The look of a longer leg can help to make the waist appear smaller. Pants that fasten here can also help shorter figures look taller because of the illusion of a longer leg.
Natural waist jeans are different from the low rise jean style. Jeans with a natural waistline fasten at the smallest part of the waist, while the low rise jean type reaches only as high as the hips. Low rise jeans tend to flatter only lean figures.
In shirts or tops, a noticeable seam at the natural waist has the effect of cutting the body in half, which may not be flattering on shorter and larger body types. Empire, or high waist, top styles usually look best on these figures. Thin belts that fit at the natural line are also not recommended for petite and plus size figure types. Tall, leaner body types are often flattered by horizontal waist seams and narrow belts. Wide waist accenting on tops, as well as wider belts, can be worn well by all body types, even petite and plus sizes.
Dresses made to fit at the natural waist may have vertical seaming from the shoulder that changes to horizontal seams that accent the waistline. Elastic waist dresses with horizontal gathering also accentuate the waist. A dress may also feature a band of a contrasting color in order to focus attention on the waistline.
The idea of accentuating the waist in women's dresses dates back to the 1820s. The dress styles featured long sleeves and drapes of fabric from head to toe, but the natural waist was accented with seaming. Later, corsets became popular in dresses. A corset is a lace-up strip of fabric that cinches or tightens a garment at the waist.