I like to introduce you to new contributor Cynthia Bowman, who will contribute articles on style and fashion for 40+Style.
A belt is one of the hardest working items in your closet. It’s fashionable and most importantly, accents your curves when worn properly. With so many options available, the most important advice on what belt to choose comes down to what’s most flattering on you.
When should you wear a belt?
As often as you’d like! A good rule of thumb is to help break up the transition between a loose top and tight bottom (or the opposite), when you want to hide waistline imperfections or when you want to accentuate your waist. Add a belt to define your curves under layers including a top and jacket or cardigan.
Gone are the days of matching the belt to the shoes and handbag. In fact, a belt works best when it stands on its own, drawing attention to the waist it cinches so well. Because we’re all different, the most important advice is to try different ways of wearing a belt until you like what you see.
If you don’t normally wear belts, they make take some getting used to at first. If you’re comfort minded, start off with a stretchy or elastic belt. And always buy a belt that fits you properly — not too tight or so long that you have to use the last notch in the belt to wear it well.
Where to Wear a Belt on Your Body
On the Waist
Find the narrowest part of your torso. That’s your waistline and the spot you want to accentuate.
Some ideas on how to wear a belt on the waist include:
- With a flowy long skirt
- A belt over a cardigan (dressier skinny belt version vs. chunkier wide belt for a more casual look)
- With a form fitting skirt or cocktail dress
- To cinch a bulky fall or winter jacket
- Naomi Watts wore a black skinny belt to add contrast to a tailored suit (below)
Belt Worn at the Hips:
When trying a low-slung belt at the hips, medium or wider belts work best. Try wearing a hip belt with:
- A maxi dress
- Layered over a casual boyfriend sweater look
- To dress up jeans and a t-shirt
- With a short, summery dress
Sitting Closer to the Ribs:
Wearing a belt just above the waist line elongates your legs and accents your bust. With a loose or flowy bottomed dress, wearing a belt closer to the ribs also hides small belly flaws.
This is one of the trickier looks to pull off since the ribcage expands and contracts, causing a high belt worn too tight to constrict breathing or slip down your torso. A stretchy or fabric belt is more comfortable worn high. Belt loops are helpful to keep the belt in place, or add a bit of double stick tape to the inside of the belt to keep the high belt in place. Just be sure the fabric you’re adhering the tape to isn’t fragile, like some silks can be.
How and why to wear a high waist belt:
- To accent the bust
- To lengthen legs paired with a flirty, loose or A-line dress
- The latest Japanese style Obi belts are great touches to try for this look. They’re also the most comfortable, thanks to a little stretch
- Michelle Obama is a big fan of wearing a high waisted belt
What Belt Looks Best by Body Type
Are you ready to rock a belt yet? Here’s more advice on what type of belt to select, according to body type:
If You’re Tall and Straight
- Wide belts create the illusion of hips and curves
- Lower skinny belts add to hip volume
- Try high contrast by using a belt in a different color or a patterned belt
If You’re Petite
- Match the belt color to the pants or skirt to lengthen the legs
- Select a thin or medium belt so it doesn’t overpower your frame
- Hip belts hide if you’re short-waisted or to create the illusion of being curvier than you are
How to Wear a Belt if You’re Curvy
If you’re curvy, you’re lucky! Of all the body shapes, you can create the most impact with a belt. Show off your sexy, feminine figure by selecting:
- Belts with stretch that cinch the waist and define your silhouette
- Belts in dark colors to visually slim your figure
- Wear belts at the narrowest part of your waist to create an hourglass figure
- When sporting a wide, high belt, keep the belt 2 inches lower than your bustline if you’re busty
With the variety of belts including leather, elastic, woven or a combo of all, as long as you’re conscious of what belt is most flattering on you, wear any style or color. Belts with some elastic are comfortable because they cinch your waist while still managing to move with you.
Some of our favorite belts include:
Try different belts with a variety of outfits to find your signature look. The latest trends involve knotting a belt in a unique way, choosing metallics, or wearing a high contrast belt in a complementary color.
See a belt as a great accessory to accentuate your shape in ways that other accessories can’t. It’s okay to take risks with bold belts, in the end, whether you wear a belt for fashion or function, you can’t go wrong. Have fun accessorizing — belts create a look that’s one of a kind, just like you.
Tell us, what’s your favorite way to wear a belt?
Cynthia Bowman is a former fashion stylist and current zen fashionista blogging about looking stylish while traveling with 2 kids, a dog and husband in tow. She currently lives in San Sebastian, Spain.