I’ve carried my extra weight in my thighs my entire life–ever since my mom struggled to find diapers that didn’t cut into my little baby legs–and believe it or not, losing 120 pounds doesn’t come with the reward of transformed hourglass proportions. I think most people would agree that one part of your body is bigger than the rest of you, it can become a major source of insecurity, and that insecurity only compounds exponentially when fashion turns its back on you, too. I may never be able to look in full-length in full acceptance that my thighs are excess carbohydrate magnets, but the biggest obstacle of my thighsolation is not cellulite or chafing–it’s thwarting the insufferable waistband gap all pear-shaped women have endured at some point.

Waistband gap.
Waistband gap.

What Is Waistband Gap?

Waistband Gap is an unfortunate low-level wardrobe malfunction that arises when a person shops for bottoms with leg holes (pants, shorts, etc.) that fit the lower half of their body but discover the waistband accommodates a larger waistline circumference. In layman’s terms, it means your thighs are booty are a size–or several sizes–bigger than what usually fits your waist.

How could such a thing happen? Well, if you’ve experienced this, chances are you’re a science experiment, a Frankenstein women whose body is a hybrid of a petite woman and sculpted quadricepped soccer player. Perhaps you’re a Mrs. Potato head whose kit came with the wrong size legs. Maybe, albeit less likely, you’re just a normal woman whose measurements and sizes are at the reckless whims of hereditary and genetics. Whatever the reason your lower half isn’t in congruence with what’s up top, it sucks all the same.

Getting large thighs (calves, hips, etc.) into unhospitable leg holes is probably the most entertaining one-woman show a lady could put on within the small confines of a fitting room. It beings out on the sales floor, when you see a pair of pants that look like they’d be Mother Theresa levels of forgiving toward the most voluptuous parts of your lower body. You thumb sift through piles to find your size and head off to the fitting from slumping your shoulders because you’re so certain these pants will fit that it’s a guaranteed waste of untying your shoes.

You willing seal yourself in the fashion equivalent holding cell with the flimsy door and the wrinkled pile of rejected clothes some indecisive woman couldn’t walk seven steps to hang on the designated overflow rack. It is in this humble hovel that you’ll discover the pants you chose do not fit because despite successfully clearing your knobby knees, the trousers refuse to be pulled any higher. When you tried to push the limits, the zipper fly made that warning “I’m about to explode if you try me” sound. If you’ve lived through this trauma, you know there’s no worse feeling than staring at yourself in your oldest pair of underwear looking like a pants shark started eating you from the bottom up and lost its appetite less than halfway through. Would the waist have fit though???? No time to think about that now; you must focus your attention on getting yourself out of this snare like a banana with a plan to escape its own peel.

While you stand there half-naked, the pair of inside-out pants crumpled on the fitting room floor is mocking you; the fact that you’re not doing your signature “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” fitting room dance in a soon-to-be-yours pair of pants is a testament to this. And so you retreat to the department from whence you came and grab the next size up, refuse to suffer the indignity of a second fitting room trip, and buy the bigger pants without seeing if they fit. Sometimes we purposely take the gamble of buying something without trying it on because we think being in our messy, poorly-lit bedroom at home instead of the store’s sterile, communal dressing room will bippity boppity boop our bodies into even the most unlikely articles.

So you try out your new, already pair for, bigger-size bottoms, and they fit your thighs this time! …But your crotch looks like an unimpressed emoji and there’s a gap between the waistband and your lower back that could easily turn into a plumber’s crack situation if you don’t bend carefully.

I suffered this experience recently when I impulsively (they have since been returned when cooler heads prevailed and I realized no one, least of all me, needs distressed jorts in their wardrobe) bought a pair of shorts:




Waistband gap might not seem significant in a world of nip slips, but until you’ve spent a day wearing bottoms that are held up entirely by the width of your thighs/butt, you have no idea what it’s like, but the controversy doesn’t end there.

Belts And Waistband Gap

There are people on this good earth who believe every time something doesn’t fit someone’s lower body, a belt will rescue them.  Their response to every complaint about fit is:

“Can’t you just wear a belt????”

I call these people Belt Backers. They own leather belts and pride themselves on their ability to poke new holes in their belts as needed. Belt Backers don’t understand why waistband gap is a problem, because they see nothing wrong with tightening the wardrobe equivalent of a noose around their waist. I have no belt bias. I am not anti-belt. I’ve even been known to wear a skinny belt over a dress to define my waist. But only 15% of the population can comfortably wear belts, and 10% of that group only tolerates belts because they don’t know any other way. Five percent are men who think wearing a belt is essential to their masculinity as wearing a watch. Let me show what you happens when you try to remedy a waistband gap situation with a belt:


Sorry this looks like something straight off Kylie Jenner's Instagram.
Sorry this looks like something straight off Kylie Jenner’s Instagram.

Maybe the belt I used was too skinny, or maybe belts are really just that awful, causing bunching and belly pinching wherever they go. For most of my life I’ve weighed a lot more than I weigh today, so I can confirm beyond all reasonable doubt that belts are equally miserable at every size. Belts are like a brand new hair tie that you force around your mid-section and spend the day pretending it doesn’t feel like you’re being squeezed in half. Putting a belt around an ill-fitting garment doesn’t make it “fit;” it makes something wearable. Belts can redress waistband gap, but it’s not a lasting solution any person who likes sitting down or prefers not to have a constellation of dents in their skin when they undress at the end of the day.

If Not Belts, Then What?

There are a variety of ways to fix waistband gap, but most of them require some sewing expertise or a visit to the tailor. Some of the tutorials look downright terrifying to anyone who doesn’t know their way around a needle and thread.

Image via Presserfoot

Short of wearing extra layers or long tops, or embracing a life of yoga pants and elastic waistbands, the best chance you have of beating waistband gap is shopping smart. Unfortunately, “shopping smart” often means missing out on buying the cute jeans that would fit if your thighs weren’t out to get you. By no means am I trying to suggest what you should or shouldn’t wear–if a little gap in the back doesn’t bother you, more power to you–but waistband gap often inspires those notorious “It’s not fair!” purchases: Clothing items you buy even though they’re ill-fitting because you like them a lot, so you hope that because you’re pure of heart someday you’ll dig them out of the closet and they’ll suddenly fit your body.

Most of us have taken issue with our proportions at some point in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we deserve to torture ourselves buying items that could make us feel confident and beautiful at some future time, perhaps in a next life when we inhabit a different body or after we lose X amount of pounds, but currently are uncomfortable or make us look and feel sad. A lot of people striving to change their body (through managing their diet or exercising) have a pair of jeans or a dress sitting in their closet that they’re striving to fit into. As if being okay with their body relies on approval in the form of successfully closing the zipper on some scraps of fabric that are stitched together. That method might work for some people, but I’m of the opinion that attire should not be aspirational. You deserve to have apparel that makes you feel good today, regardless of what parts of your body you may not be 100% cool with yet.

So the next time you’re confronted by waistband gap and curse your thighs, remember who the enemy is. Those jeans with the baggy wasitband? They’re tourists on your body, easily replaced by a friendlier pair with a stretchier fabric blend better suited to hug your every curve. Fashion aids and abets even the most muted pangs of body shame, but we could all benefit from being reminded that no matter what size you are your clothes should fit you, not the other way around.

19 thoughts on “Coping With Waistband Gap and Aspirational Attire

    1. I think you might be referring to the illustrious “Pants Sag,” which doesn’t qualify as a wardrobe malfunction because it’s intentional.

    1. Belts are just an archaic way of keeping pants up that should’ve been retired once we perfected the science of elastic band and zipper flies.

  1. I feel you here so much. My mom bought me a pair of jeans for my birthday that are marketed “curvy” and they are fantastic. They are curvy SKINNY. It’s marvelous. No waist gap, no struggling to pull them on, and less hitching them up all the time. I’m glad you mentioned what belts do, too, that photo made me almost laugh out loud because that is precisely what happens to me with belts, too. The only way I can wear them is for “fashion” rather than function. D:

    1. Those sound amazing! Where are those jeans from?? My favorite pair right now are these bootcut Levis that have an amazing fabric blend that accommodates my thighs AND waist in the most comfortable, flattering way, but I’d like to find something similar in a skinny.

  2. Thank you Katie for writing this. Those belt pictures are so me! I have given up wearing belts with jeans – It just makes the situation worse. I had better results with a pretty scarf though the loop holes. But I’ve gained weight lately so at the moment waistband gap is not an issue for me!

  3. Man, oh, man this is exactly me! Especially the belt pictures, lol! Sadly I have long accepted that there are no retail sized pants out there for me, so whenever I buy a new pair of jeans, I have to calculate in the extra 30% that goes to the nice sewing lady who lives around my corner, and works miracles.
    Another thing that pisses me off about retail sizes: I’ve been told by so many lingerie shop workers that it’s “perfectly normal” if your boobs aren’t the same size, I really don’t understand why all those size scales pretend that it isn’t! Why don’t they measure your boobs separately and produce bras that accommodate this, if it’s so normal?

  4. I lost 31 kilos and even at 58 kg I still couldn’t find the jeans to fit me right. And the part about belts HAPPENED ALMOST EVERY TIME, I swear! Still hate them. Unfortunately, I’m not 58 kilos as I once, but still, the problem persists. The owner of a jeans shop once told me that we (me and her) are this kind of women whose asses are rounder, not in the upper area of tje butt, but in the lower, but we shouldn’t worry, cause something will come up for us too. I hate waiting for that day and brand, though.

  5. I love you for talking about this. Let’s just say I’ve been attacked by many a pants shark in my day, and it doesn’t help that my husband is as hardcore a belt backer as they come. I raise my (metaphorical) glass to you and say, May us large-thighed lovelies someday get properly waisted! (Until then, we can always get properly wasted.)

  6. I absolutely have this problem…but ever since I realized the forms at retail stores have the same issue I feel better about it. They always look fab so I why can’t I rock it! 🙂

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