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Should Women Wear Belts?

Aug 21, 2023Aug 21, 2023

In today's age of athleisure and smart casual, putting on a belt can feel redundant. If your pants already fit, why bother?

When was the last time you put on a belt? Sure, you probably own jeans and maybe a few trousers that feature belt loops, but those details seem more like decoration than necessity. However, if you’d like to add a bit of polish to your outfit, a belt could be just the thing you need.

If you’re definitely not a belt-wearer, opt for trousers and other pants without belt loops for a sleeker look. But if you want to give yourself the option to accessorize with belts in a feminine way, keep reading.

We all remember when the Gucci belt (or its knockoffs) was a coveted fashion staple. But designer belts are a relatively new development. Like many items of clothing that are popular among modern women, belts have traditionally been worn by men (other examples being blazers, trousers, and – surprise! – high heels). For thousands of years, men have used belts to keep up their breeches or to carry tools.

Did you know that what many people commonly refer to as a belt is actually a girdle? According to Gentleman's Gazette, a belt is used to keep up your pants, while a girdle is worn at the waist to cinch your clothes in (c’mon Vogue, the title of this article should technically be "Statement Girdles Are Having a Moment").

Of course, these days, we often refer to girdles as shapewear. For the purposes of this article, I’ll use the word belt to refer to both belts and girdles.

Have you ever put on a belt with slacks and a button-down shirt only to feel like a middle school boy heading to his show choir concert? It's not you; it's the belt.

A cheap-looking belt can kill an outfit, while a quality belt worn correctly can enhance it. Although great belts can be made of a variety of materials, leather is a staple you should definitely have in your closet. You can identify quality leather by its unique smell, soft feel, and flexibility, according to Popov Leather. A quality belt can last years and even decades, and leather belts even develop that sought-after patina. But you don't have to break the bank. Loft, J. Crew, and Gap all offer basic leather options for under $50.

Loft Double Keeper Belt in Cognac, $44.50

Whether you work from home, a coffee shop, or an office, there are some basic belts that you’ll want in your life. Style influencer Lydia Jane Tomlinson (who is the queen of polished accessories) recommends every woman have at least three belts: a brown crocodile belt, a slim black belt with either gold or silver hardware, and a standard black belt.

If you want to emulate Lydia Jane's style, opt for belt hardware that isn't too trendy or logo-heavy. Simple designs and neutral colors are best.

Lydia Jane tends to wear belts at her natural waist, but your best belt placement can depend on your height and body type. For example, if you’re petite, you may look best in a thin belt that blends in with the rest of your outfit. If you’re tall, you may look best in wider belts that match your longer silhouette. And if you’re boyish, curvy, or something in between, there's a perfect belt for you, according to this PureWow breakdown.

Milla Croc-Embossed Leather Belt, $165

J. Crew Skinny Italian leather belt, $49.50

Banana Republic Montagne Leather Belt, $59.50

Now that you know the basics of belting, let's put them into practice! These stylish women will give you ideas for how to wear a belt with items you already own.

Scroll through the Instagram of Olympia Gayot, J. Crew's head of women's design, and you’ll notice she's wearing a black belt in many of her photos. She appears to have one medium-size black belt and one skinny black belt. Sometimes the belt is the focal point of an outfit, like this denim-on-denim look; other times, the belt blends into an outfit with lots of metallic interest, like this monochrome moment.

If you’re wanting to keep your belt collection minimal, then Olympia's your girl. She incorporates the same belts into both winter and summer looks, including this très chic shorts look. If you want a versatile belt that can both blend in and stand out, check out this plaited option from J. Crew, available in a variety of colors. And if you want more of Olympia's style, head to the Olympia's Picks section of J. Crew's website.

J. Crew Plaited Italian leather belt, $79.50

TikToker @Shannbailee has an impressive collection of statement belts to pair with dresses. She mostly opts for faux leather belts in rich browns. If you have a dress with a waist tie, swap it out for a belt for a more elevated look. You might find it flatters your figure more too!

Try experimenting with statement belts of all widths and find what's comfortable and complements your waist. And if you have a dress that's too large in the waist but fits otherwise, a statement belt can stand in for a trip to the tailor – no one will be able to tell.

Elizabeth Wide Leather Waist Belt, $80

Wearing your belt inside your belt loops is so last year. Okay, I’m kidding, but influencer Elizabeth Fortmeyer isn't afraid to color outside the lines (or belt loops). Take a page out of her book and cinch your blazer with an oversized belt, or let a metallic belt drape around your waist for an edgy look.

When she's not breaking belt rules, Elizabeth is often wearing a medium-width black or brown belt for both casual and business casual outfits.

Anthropologie Chunky Chain Belt, $70

A good belt can be dressed up or down, as demonstrated by TikToker @Siangg13. She uses the same chunky brown belt to complete outfits from a T-shirt and jeans to a silky floral dress.

If you want to get the most bang for your buck, opt for belts that pair with both your favorite pair of jeans and your favorite special occasion dress. You won't regret it.

Belts: They’re an accessory we don't often think about, but when we do, they make a world of difference. Next time you feel like your outfit is missing something, add a belt, and you may find everything comes together.

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