How To Wear Belts (Fall and Winter Edition)

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We have been promising, for quite some time, to do an article about belts.  We've received numerous questions and comments about types of belts, belts and body types, and what to wear with belts. So it's time.  Time for some belt-love.

While I'd love to give you a few simple rules for rocking the belt…it's just not that easy.  Even different body types (curvy, pear, boyish) can have so many variations on a theme that coming up with a set of rules for belts is almost impossible.  Whether or not a belt looks good often has more to do with the distance between your ribs and your hip bones and what else you are wearing, than a rule that says, "short moms shouldn't wear belts" (because many of you can).

Instead, I offer up a belt exercise, a selection of cute belts, and loads of inspiration.  So if you want to rock the belt (and you should – it's a great way to make an outfit instantly stylish), here's how to get started:

The Process

1.  Get Your Belt "Starter Pack"

You need, at a minimum, the following belts: a skinny belt, a long boyfriend belt (or use your husband's), and a wide belt that fits at your actual waist.  Waist = the narrowest part, i.e. somewhere under your rib cage, not down by your hips.

If you are really anxious to get started, and really don't want to run out and get the starter pack…you can always find a long scarf and fold it (length-wise) to approximate a skinny belt, boyfriend belt, or wide belt.  The idea is to use something to get an idea of proportion.  Once you  have a better idea of what you like, go find yourself a real belt.

Or, just start with one of the Forever 21 belts, below.  They probably won't last more than a few wearings, but they are all under $5.  Seriously.

2.  Try 'Em On

There's a million different ways to wear a belt.  I'll show you some fabulous pics for inspiration …but honestly?  The only way you'll know if you can pull off a belt is to try it.  Several different ways.  Several times.

Don't be afraid to tie your belt on.  Yes, tie.  As in knotted.  You can just experiment with this, or try either The Daybook's tutorial, or You Look Fab's article.

3.  Take It For a Spin

Sometimes, when a look is new, it's hard to adjust.  So before you try and immediately reject all belts…take one for a test drive.  Run an errand.  See how you feel.  Ask your husband.  Ask someone who finds the female form sexy.  Unlike, say, harem pants, belts are usually well-liked by the male community since they show off your shape.  Guys are typically pretty honest…unless, of course, they are scared.  Perhaps asking your brother is a better option.

4.  Get a Real Belt

If you've started with my Forever21 starter pack (or just a scarf) and are now a belt convert, you're going to need a real belt.  Belts are easy to come by either at thrift stores (they don't usually smell), Etsy, or the usual big-box retailers.  Here are a few I'm loving:


The Inspiration….


(photo credits: Vanessa Jackman, Kendi Everyday, The Daybook, See You in Sweeden)

Belts help define your waist.  And whether your sweater is fitted, loose, or chunky, the women above all show cool ways of rocking the belt over a sweater.  I especially love Kendi's idea (top right) of using your husband's sweater.

(photo credits: Kendi Everyday, Academic Chic, Kenzo Lookbook, Selective Potential, Nana Stars, Fashion For the Economically Challenged)

There are a million different ways to wear a belt and a cardigan.  Over, under, right at the waist, slightly above (Kenzo lookbook), slightly below (like Academic Chic).  One of the reason the belt is so popular is due in part to the flattering nature, but also because it makes any outfit so much more interesting.


(photo credits: If You Seek Style, Jestem Kasia, The Daybook, Sidewalk Ready, District of Chic, For the Love)

Like a cardigan, belts look cute belted both over or under jackets.  Also notice that for all of these looks (cardigans, also)…varying belt widths can be used.  So just play around, and see what works best for you!


Now I'm gonna go tie one on.  (snort)








About Author

Shana founded The Mom Edit in 2008. She lives with the love of her life (his name's Mike) and their two crazy boys in downtown Philadelphia. She loves a good styling challenge (her engineering side shows eventually), appreciates kindness, and usually picks scotch over wine, sneakers over stilettos, and denim-underwear, always.

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  1. Yay, my first belt post! (‘Cause I know you wrote it just for me.) 😉
    I need to get that starter pack – may have to get to my local thrift store. Can you give a good range on how much extra length you should have in the “long boyfriend belt”? My husband has only one belt and he uses it everyday and unfortunately, it’s probably way too long (shhhh).

  2. Yeah, I love wearing skinny belts at my natural waist. I feel so put together. Thanks for the inspiration to wear one with a cardigan tomorrow at playgroup.

  3. I’m wearing a belt over my blazer today!
    One other note: DO NOT look at the size of the belt. Clothing manufacturers are crazy. Buy them at least 1 size up, if not 2–if you want to tie it, you’re going to need even more length than that! For example, I’m a solid medium…but I know to buy XL belts and tights! For jean belts, I usually end up in the men’s section anyway.
    Great basic tutorial, S. Belts are one of the quickest ways to make an outfit both more figure-flattering and more current. It’s a win, either way!

  4. Great post! I can have a waist again! How do you feel about the matching-sweatery-belt-like ties that come with so many cardigans (mostly from Target) these days? Do I replace with a belt, or wear the tie? And, if I wear the tie, how do I tie it? In a bow, a knot…?

  5. A belted cardigan has been the outfit that has gotten me the most compliments post-partum! Hides the things that need hiding, accentuates the smallest thing I have going! Love it!

  6. I have really come to love belts, even convinced my husband that they don’t look “weird” over a sweater. 🙂 Turns out, I have kind of a long torso for my 5’3 body, so wide ones work well for me. BUT I have found they do require a little extra thought in terms of nursing-wear. The shirt/dress I choose either has to button up or be big enough in the neck to pull down. It can be tricky! I didn’t enjoy the day I had to keep taking off my belt every time my son wanted to nurse. But the outfit looked SO good, I couldn’t leave the belt at home. Thanks for your blog, it’s the best.

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