Whew. I’m so glad you’re still reading. After my pantyhose-burning tirade, I was afraid I’d lost you. So if it’s okay, I’m just going to continue being all bossypants and issue another edict:
Belts. You should try them.
Unlike most of my fashion proclamations, I don’t take a hard line on this one. I know. Shocking. The thing is, belts are optional, most of the time, and wearing them well is largely the result of experimenting. There are few hard and fast rules. There are, however, guidelines. (Aren’t there always?) But first, a story.
The day I bought my first ADA belt, my life changed forever. The tired peasant dresses and shapeless tee shirt dresses in my closet took on new life. Suddenly, after months of hanging there, all forlorn, they were cute again.
I wanted to apologize to all the shapeless shifts I had ever rejected: “It’s not you, it’s me. I didn’t know how to wear you.” Fortunately, they agreed to stick around, and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
The magic is that a belt gave this short-waisted short girl a waistline. Which is pretty miraculous, when you’ve spent half your life wishing for one. This, my friends, is the power of a belt. (Also, it can totally disguise the two donuts you had at 10:30 last night because, well, fried dough is awesome and you didn’t want them to go to waste.)
How Do You Wear a Belt?
Carefully. Belts are one of the most transformative things you can add to your wardrobe, and the most misunderstood. Here, a few tips to start…
1. Switch it Out
More often than not, it’s a good idea to toss the belt that comes with a self belted dress, and replace it with a proper belt.
2. Make it Pop
A belt in a contrasting color or a print adds impact to an otherwise simple look, like a solid color dress or a top and jeans. Or use it to mix prints. A floral dress looks adorable with a thin leopard belt, for example.
3. It’s a Wrap
Belts that are adjustable are so versatile and easy to wear. Look for elasticized and wrap style belts. Conventional buckled belts don’t need to be limiting, either. Buckle the belt first, then tie a knot with the end and loop it through.
4. Balance the Bust
If you are blessed with a large bust, a wide belt worn directly underneath it will overemphasize it and make you look top heavy.
5. Whittle the Waist
You can transform a large, overly billowy dress or top with a well-placed belt. It will subtract pounds. I promise! A belted style will almost always be more flattering, unless you’re very tall and very willowy, or the dress is pretty short.
6. Add Definition
Belt where you want definition. A belt over an already snug dress doesn’t accomplish much, and can even add inches, but a belt over something loose and flowy, or to create a line between a flowy top/fitted bottom, or flowy bottom/fitted top, works beautifully.
7. Add Sparkle
Substitute a belt for jewelry. A metallic belt, embellished belt, or even a belt with gold hardware can serve the same purpose as jewelry, and should count as one of the accessories in your look.
Where do I belt?
It depends. Comforting, I know, but it’s true. In general:
If you have a long torso:
You probably wear your tops tucked in. A medium to wide belt helps break up that long line and makes your body more proportional.
If you have a short torso:
You probably wear your tops out and a little long. Wear your belts a little low on the waist, or at the hips, for maximum flattery.
4 Belts Every Woman Needs
A great waist-cincher, this is the belt to reach for when you want to highlight a small waist and works well over a pretty dress or flowy top.
Easily adjustable, this style can be worn a number of ways and works well over tunics and dresses.
A slim belt in a neutral is an essential for wearing with jeans and pants, but also for replacing the belt on your favorite dress. Note: The most versatile neutral belt is one with a buckle of the same color, so you don’t have to worry about mixing metals. They’re a little challenging to find (Talbots sometimes has them) but are worth looking for!
A belt in a bold color or a leopard print is a fun way to add interest to everyday looks.
Always remember that you have a horizontal frame (torso width, bust width), and also a vertical frame (torso length, leg length, etc.). My cardinal rule: Don’t put anything where you don’t want someone to look. Any detail, belts included, will draw attention to that area. (Just another reason not to pierce my belly button.)
Finding a flattering belt, and its proper placement, is largely trial and error, so don’t be afraid to take some time in the dressing room to test out a few options. A picture is more revealing than a mirror, in many cases, so take a few while you are in there. Or ask a trusted friend to come along. Not the friend who tells you that you look good in everything. An honest one who gives solid fashion advice and whose hair always looks perfect, even in 100% humidity. Oh, okay, I’ll come. Thanks for asking.