What is a Basque Waist?

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  • Written By: Douglas Bonderud
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 30 December 2019
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A basque waist is a style of waistline found on women's formal dresses, including wedding gowns. This typically begins just below or at the wearer's actual waist, and then the center plunges downward to form a 'V' or 'U' shape. These shapes tend to accentuate the hips. The basque waist is also known a the dropped V waist.

This style is very popular in wedding gowns, and is often referred to as one of the defining features of such a dress. Other styles include the empire waist, a-line, and ball gown. A basque waist wedding gown is recommended for tall women or those with longer legs. This dress may not be as flattering on a short woman. Often, wedding dresses are a combination of several different styles, so it is advisable to assess the exact features of each dress individually.

The word basque originally referred to a Victoria-era fitted jacket that was designed to look like a corset. These garments fit tightly across the midsection and flared out at the hips. Today, the word usually refers to an undergarment that has the style of a corset, without the compression. It typically has brassier cups and is longer than a bustier, usually to the waist. A basque is also known as a torsolette or a merry widow.


Basque, pronounced as 'bask' in English, is a French term that may actually have its origins in the Italian word basta, which means 'tuck.' It should not be confused with the group of people known as the Basques. This is a group of European people who live in Spain and France, but whose language is not Indo-European.

The 'U' or 'V' shape found on a basque waist can cut extremely deep or dip just below the natural waistline — there is no hard and fast rule for this. Sometimes, the dropped waist features embroidery or sequins, but it can also be left plain. This style of waist gives a great deal of choice to the wearer.

Typically, any dress that features a basque waist will also have a full skirt and fitted bodice. Although not as risque as its cousin — the simple basque — a basque waist dress shares similar features. Both often include some type of boning or lacing along the back to hold the bodice in place, though without the pressure applied by a corset.


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