If there is one word that can be used to describe (one of) this year’s hottest trend, that word is most likely ‘unpredictable’. You see, baggy, over-sized bottoms with a bunch of excess material near the waist is exactly what fashion gurus would describe as a strict no-no. And yet, if done correctly, Paper Bag Waists are remarkably versatile, can make your waist look two sizes smaller and set you miles ahead (fashionably speaking) of the skinny jeans-wearing milieu.
So, what is a Paper Bag Waist?
The paper bag waist, quite unsurprisingly, draws its name from the quintessential paper bag. These garments are usually high-waist, are cinched or scrunched up at the waist (like a paper bag), where they are secured with a ribbon or a belt. This waist also features some extra fabric ruffles above the cinched area. The paper bag waist trend was very popular in the eighties and featured regularly in power-dressing work wear.
Paper bag waists are used in pants, skirts and shorts, and garments that feature this waist are usually over sized and made of lightweight or medium-weight fabrics. At first blush, the paper bag waist may seem quite unflattering as it adds extra fabric, and hence bulk, to your waistline. However, the ruffled waist can actually elongate the pant leg and hence make you look more graceful and ‘leggy’, which are two very good reasons why you should try this trend today.
How do you wear a Paper Bag Waist?
Focus on the fit: Since paper bag waist pants and skirts are usually oversized, aim to pair these with a fitted top like a sweater or a smart shirt. Tuck in your top to show off the paper bag waist. Do not wear a blousy top since this will only make the entire silhouette appear too boxy. Avoid pants that ride too high as they will focus (unflatteringly) on your stomach and mid-section. Stick to fits that sit near your natural waistline, or where your mid-section is the narrowest.
Crop it up: If you’re a fan of cropped tops, you’ll be happy to know that this waist pairs perfectly with a tiny sliver of abs, so bring out your coolest cropped tee!
Length is everything: To balance the look when wearing trousers, opt for cropped pants or roll up the legs for a more casual twist.
Belt with care: If wearing a belt, keep it thin and flat so as to not add any unnecessary bulk, or be creative and use a thin rope or a ribbon.
Shoe style: A smart pair of pumps or wingtips (if you’re going formal) can really elevate your look by making the silhouette more sleek and stylish. For a more laid back look, wear wedges or keds.
Accessorize subtly: Don’t crowd your outfit with too many elements since the waist will already be the centerpiece of your ensemble. Instead, keep your hair and makeup simple to keep from looking too dated. If you must wear a jacket, wear it long and unbuttoned.
Go with the flow: This waist can look beautiful when worn in a flowy, slightly loose style. Dress for your body type: Paper bag waist skirts, while quite dramatic, work well on slender and tall figures. If you are curvy or hourglass, stick to pants. You can even experiment with really dramatic ruffles near the waist, since these will further accentuate the narrowest part of your waist, highlighting your curves. However, steer clear of loud embellishments or large prints.
Where can you get your hands on some chic Paper Bag Waist apparel?
Paper bag waists were all over the Spring Summer 2016 runway, and high-street labels in India have been quick to adopt the trend.
Zara’s paper bag trousers (priced at INR 2,490 and now marked down to INR 990) are a safe bet to help you get started.
Also great for work wear is this pair of Dorothy Perkins paper bag waist trousers, available on Jabong for the reduced price of INR 1,533. For a more relaxed twist and an array of silhouettes that range from flared to cropped, head over to Polyvore.
With that, the writing is on the wall: the paper bag waist is a great way to step out of your comfort zone and experiment with a new silhouette. Go out there and bag it up!