Style Glossary: The Paper Bag Waist

paper bag waist

Welcome to our very first Style Glossary post! In this series, we’re going to give insight into the more obscure cuts and styles of some our new (and fabulous) items! This week we’re going to start with the paper bag waist. We predict that this unique look is going to be hot this spring – and with good reason.

A paper bag cut generally means a garment features extra fabric at the waist – making it perfect for belting! Typically worn high at the waist, it creates a feminine silhouette that adds shape to an outfit, making it chic, but not overdone. Our Midnight in Manhattan Skirt is one of many paper bag style skirts that will be featured on ModCloth this Spring. Vasil created a cafe-ready style by pairing it with our Victorian Boho Blouse, but you could try it with a basic tee to keep the look simple, yet stylish. Do you have a style term you’d like brought to light? Let us know! Thanks for reading, and as always, happy shopping!


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  1. Avatar
    Freya 02/04/2009 at 11:26 pm #

    I never understood quite what “empire-line” meant. This is a great idea for a series!

  2. Avatar
    Diana 02/05/2009 at 11:56 am #

    I’m not a fan of paper-bag waists. They’re just not attractive, no matter how you cut it. I love belting dresses to accencuate the waist, but for some reason this style, as you say, “features extra fabric at the waist” aka bulk. I can understand wanting to add volume to the hips or bust to make for a more voluptuous shape, but who has *ever* thought: Gee, I wish my waist were bigger? Sorry, but I’ll be sitting this trend out!

  3. Avatar
    Lindsay 02/05/2009 at 10:04 pm #

    Freya – good idea! Empire cut will be next week’s post!

    Diana – I know exactly what you mean, it can be a tough sell. I’ve found that styled with a simple and fitted shirt, a paper bag waist can be slimming. The waist seems smaller in comparison, if that makes sense. I’m not a woman with small hips by any means – it’s all in how you style it.
    But waiting this one out from the sideline, I feel the same way about other styles. For instance, jumpers. They’re so cute this Spring but its something I could never get to work for me. To each their own!

  4. Avatar
    Angela 02/06/2009 at 8:15 am #

    I’ll be looking for more of these posts, I like the idea! Cute skirt too!

  5. Avatar
    handbags 01/20/2010 at 2:56 am #

    It was all over designer collections, but didn’t filter down to mainstream. I don’t think a short person with the rest of the goods will pull off this look. The paper-bag waistband needs a long torso so that the impact of a defined waistline is achieved.

  6. Avatar
    Alexander Wang 04/20/2010 at 10:07 am #

    I never understood quite what “empire-line” meant. This is a great idea for a series!

  7. Avatar
    cat 03/12/2011 at 1:56 pm #

    i really like the paper bag waist look even though some people hate it. i picked out quite a few pieces i found online that i thought looked really cool.


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