I read a piece in a magazine the other day in which Donatella Versace stated that for a woman, showing off your waist would always be more advantageous than concealing it. As much as I admire Donatella and would love to be able to purchase Versace on a regular basis, I had to disagree.
Some women just look better hiding their waists. Some women are built in a way that defining their waist makes their body appear visually less appealing (proportionately speaking). I'll use myself as an example. I have a very long rise (the area between the waist and the crotch), making my torso longer than it should be and my legs shorter than they should be (based on ideal vertical proportions).
Showing off my waist does absolutely nothing for my appearance -- it just accentuates my natural flaws. Add this to the fact that I have an S-curve in my spine that creates an indent on only one side of my waist and I look quite odd indeed.
Luckily, over the years I've learned how to work with it. I've learned that if I have to belt at my waist, doing it with a super wide belt, where you don't really know where my waist sits, is much more flattering. I've also learned that concealing or bypassing my waist altogether and belting or focusing on my hips is much more visually appealing. Doing so also breaks up the length of my rise and my torso.
Women who have a rounder body shape, where the torso is often quite full and most of the volume is carried in the tummy and bust area, also benefit from concealing their waist. Women with these types of bodies would do best focusing on lengthening their torso and drawing attention to their typically leaner legs.
So you see, sometimes the rules or recommendations that you see in magazines or on the web don't always ring true (for everyone). Most of the time, these types of statements are directed to a general audience, which is perfectly understandable. Everyone's circumstances are different and there's no way to cover every single scenario.
So how do you know when to follow the suggestions or disregard them? The answer lies in knowing yourself -- your body, your style, your lifestyle and your preferences. You have to be truly in tune with what works for you.
If you aren't sure what works for you, that's OK. It took years for me to figure out what worked for me and what didn't. If you need some help determining your body shape, how to dress for it and what works best for you, don't be afraid to ask. There are so many books and how-to guides on the subject and many stylists and consultants that would be willing to give you a hand.
Most importantly, don't be afraid to try different things, question what you read or hear and really look at and study yourself in the mirror. Ideally, your view of yourself and your instinct should be the ultimate guide.