August 27 2013, Women’s Insite

The waist: belt it; define it; nip it; parade it; hide it under a shift or disguise it with an emperor line. It can symbolise femininity, fertility and sexuality; it can bear the signs of ageing, comment on our gene pool or belie our Weight Watchers promise. Essentially, it can come down to you either got it or you ain’t. Which means that fashion’s focus shifting to this, most evocative body part, will likely cause equal amounts of despair and delight, but rarely indifference (unless you refuse to take part in the biannual fashion watch and plan to ignore it altogether). Legs we can lengthen with heels or cover with our tights; the décolletage is rarely a chic focal point —  we’re far more likely to be strapping it down and trying to squeeze into unforgiving sample sizes than celebrate it, but there too we have many a trick up our sleeve to coolly fake it, should the occasion (namely the office Christmas party) demand; but the waist? How do you fake losing 10 lbs overnight? And the colder months are hardly the time for self constraint.

Thus, the return of the waist, with its connotations of 1950’s glam, pin ups and Hollywood screen sirens, is likely to evoke a mixed reaction.

After a few seasons of the cool tailoring and strict lines of androgyny being the height of chic, which, at its peak, even persuaded us to do the unthinkable and trade in our low cut cocktail dresses for high necked options (still dresses, sure, but one step at a time) —  and granted, this is still very much the flipside for A/W13 —  it’s no real wonder that designers such as Prada, Dolce and Gabbana and Nina Ricci are once again calling for a return of that ultra feminine ideal; despite the much decried fascination with the waif, fashion’s fascination with the hourglass continues.

So where does this leave us? If you’ve got it, great; if not fake it. A bit of fashion magicianship comes in handy here: distract, detract and misdirect. The full skirts as seen on Prada’s catwalks will work well to this aide, immediately drawing attention away from, whilst maintaining the impression of a neat waist; while the jackets at Prada did all the work, narrowing to a defined waist before curving out into a lantern shape fit. Team with a pencil skirt and feel more Marilyn in minutes. Find it on the high street with peplums: your new best friend. And look on the bright side: this gives unparalleled justification for an accessories shopping binge —  that perfect waist belt that fits and flatters will see you through nary a wardrobe wobble.

This may seem like an insurmountable challenge, but with the right styling, it’s forgiving and flattering for all of us, promising us those Mad Men curves with minimal effort, simply some smart shopping.