Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How to accessorize with belts

Back in the business-casual shopping-diet days, I stumbled across the most obvious accessory ever: the belt. Before then, I only had one belt, and it was only ever paired with jeans. One of my first non-clothing purchases on my shopping diet (because what else do you do when you start a shopping diet but...go shop), was a red-orange skinny belt, and it has become quite the closet workhorse. I've since added to my collection, which now includes a range of colors and widths, and today I'm sharing some tips and examples for accessorizing with belts.

Create shape
Proportion is a delicate balance (and there are certainly many right balances). I'm a big believer in making your clothes fit you instead of the other way around, and belts are an easy way to do that when the balance is just slightly off from what you're going for. I like to add a belt to an otherwise loosey-goosey outfit or cinch a top to offset a straight skirt or flowy trousers.

Add color
My wardrobe is not all that interesting color wise (though that's something I'm working on), and especially with my love of neutral sheath and shift dresses, belts are an easy way to add color.

Fill belt loops
This never used to bother me before, but nowadays, when I have exposed belt loops, I have to fill them. They just look so lonely when they're empty. If you're not a tucker, this probably isn't an issue for you, but I like to tuck, and a belt is often the difference to keep the look clean.

Icing on the cake
Much like Portlandians like to put a bird on it, it's become common to just put a belt on it. No belt loops? No waistband? No problem. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

To belt or not to belt?
Sometimes a belt isn't a make-it-or-break-it item. It's purely optional, such as with decoration, or can create different shapes depending on your mood. Here are some examples of like outfits or pieces styled with and without belts.

When belts go bad
I'm embarrassed to admit it, but every one of these outfits had at least an entire workday of wear. What can I say...sometimes you gotta live with a decision for 8 hours before you realize you look absolutely ridiculous. We all have these moments, right? (Right?!?)

Tips for accessorizing with belts
  • Too many layers or too loose of layers under the belt can cause bunching. Not pretty (see outtakes above).
  • Consider where you wear your belts and plan their length accordingly. Belts that will fit on your waist (for shape or decoration) probably won't fit in your belt loops.  
  • I equate belts with purses...check out the fabric/textile, the width/capacity and the accessories (studs, patterns, buckle type, etc). 
  • As a baby step, try adding a belt on top of an existing waist seam or in place of a corresponding/built-in belt.
  • If you don't have belt loops in your skirt or pants but want your fabric belt to stay put, use a safety pin in the center of the back of the belt (I like to put it vertically so it's slightly less noticeable).
  • Loose ends? Knot them around the buckle or use some fashion tape to keep the ends from flapping (just make sure to keep extra tape handy in case the adhesive wears out, for example if you make frequent restroom stops or are on a shopping trip that requires disrobing).  
  • Belts are one of the cheapest accessories, so go crazy! Thrift stores usually have a treasure trove of belts for $1 or less. The majority of my belts have come from thrift or vintage stores or swaps. The rest I bought on sale for $10 or less.
How do you rock a belt? What are your best tips for belting?


  1. Wow, what a great post! I love that you can show outfits with and without belts for the contrast! I've added belts to my collection, but I mainly wear them all the same way - over a cardigan to give shape. I have many cardigans, so this works out. But I would like to also wear belts in the belt loop... I think. I am definitely not a tucker, so that is probably where the issue stems. :) Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Caroline! Even when I don't tuck, I sometimes wear belts with my pants and do a front tuck (this is mainly casual, though). Let me know if you start tucking and how the belt exploring works out!

  2. I love all these outfit shots. I have quite a few belts--tons of colors, textures, and widths. I'm not a "tucker" because I'm very short-waisted so you'll never see my empty belt loops. I think I most like belts in a bright color at my natural waistline.

  3. Love this roundup. I went through a serious belt phase but have kind of cut back now that I'm working from home - but I used to do them with dresses and cardigans almost daily. This is inspiring me to try to work my belt collection into everyday life a little better! I have started actually using belt loops sometimes too... Novel idea! :)

  4. this is a fantastic post and reminds me of how inspirational your business casual outfits were (and still are, obviously). thanks for taking the time to put this together! i am especially drawn to the belted teal blue cardigan over pants, what a streamlined look.

  5. Thank you so much for these pictures included! I just started at a bank and am needing conservative yet fashionable outfit ideas that don't require me to overhaul my closet and break my bank!

  6. Hello Angeline, awesome post. I was wondering how you keep your leather belts in place on top of tops and dresses without belt loops. Please can you help me?

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