What Belting Can Do for You

Even after years of deployment, I still feel like a bit of a newbie to the world of belting. Therefore, I will quite happily refer you to Audi’s fabulous guest post on how to break into belting for a comprehensive guide to wearing these amazingly versatile accessories. It’s gospel, as far as I’m concerned.

But I realized that a refresher on how belts can be worn and how they affect your proportions could be beneficial. And I’m such a visual learner myself, I figured some photographic examples might help!


The most obvious use, in many ways, but well worth mentioning. Cinching draws attention to your waist, and if that’s your goal, belts can help you get there.


If you’ve tucked in your shirt and the waistline of your skirt or pants falls ABOVE your natural waist, belting an inch or so below can draw the eye back down.

Hip-slung belts aren’t fabulous on my bod, but they are a great way to bring they eye even further down. If you want to create balance in your figure by making your hips appear larger, a low belt will help!


Alternately, if you’d rather give the appearance of a high or empire waist, belting above your natural waist is just the thing.


Although many belts are neutral, it’s easy enough to hunt down colorful ones, and they are a simple, fun way to add color to your ensemble. Even muted tones that contrast the rest of your outfit can add interest.


Belts are no cure-all. Ill-fitting clothes will always fit ill, no matter how beautifully belted. But a shirt, dress, or skirt that is just a bit loose around the waist can be adjusted easily with the addition of a belt. The dress pictured above is a great example from my closet: Too loose on its own, perfect when belted.


Don’t go thinking that self-belts must be worn, or that waist detailing must be shown. If an item of clothing sports waistline detailing that you loathe, belt over it! This dress is darling, but has a weird flappy bit at the waist. I’ll be belting it from this day forward.


It’s kind of amazing how this optical illusion works. Even if you’ve got on a boxy or loose outer layer, belting your inner layer will make your waist appear more defined. MAGICAL.

Are you a fan of belts? How do you wear yours? Do you use them to adjust proportions or fit? Are you prone to belting above or below your natural waist? Anything else you’d like to know about how belting works?

  • Charlie

    I love belts! For colour, more details, waist definition… Just love them! I have quite wide hips, so tend to belt at my waist or just a bit above. Also love clothes that are a bit loose, but I usually belt them at the waist to create shape or to just simply add colour to a neutral piece, or to tie a colourful piece to other accessories with black, brown or nude belts.

  • Lady Smaggle

    Thanks for this post! I find belting so hit and miss… well done!

  • Betherann

    Great post — I never knew all the possibilities of belting! I'm a little nervous to try myself, but I'll have to be bold, especially come winter/sweater weather. I fount the last tip particularly helpful as I would never have considered belting underneath layers. Thank you! (Also, love the ankle tat!)

  • Cubicle Chic

    This is a great post! I love the variety of outfits and it's really a great visual summary of how to wear belts. You also look lovely in your black dress and muted belt!

    – Meredith

  • Rosie Unknown

    I adore belts. I tend towards wider belts, over and under my clothing but always fairly close to my natural waist. After reading this though, I think I have to do some serious experimentation.

  • Erin

    Ooo, belting! Belts are actually my #1 priority at the moment! I'm trying to work my way into belting. And that sentence sounded majorly weird…As a VERY curvy girl, I KNOW that I can get belts to do great things for me. Once I work out how to work it all. And get belts that fit me and look cute.


  • La Historiadora de Moda

    Oh, belts! Now you've made me want to go unpack instead of sitting here drinking coffee and reading blogs!

  • sallymandy/bluekimonostudio

    Thanks for this great post. I'm inspired now to try belts again. I used to wear them all the time…unfortunately, something happened to my waist when I hit about 43–it went away! It happens to the women in my family. I'm not sure belting won't just emphasize that, but it's worth a try.

    BTW, Sal, I've linked your post to my Twitter page.


  • Little Miss Plump

    I like belts for defining my waist, but I have a question: how can I avoid highlighting my 'shelf' above my hips? I'm an hour glass, but with a bit of extra above my hips, and so by belting and defining my waist I feel that I highlight my extra bits there. I sometimes belt under layers, but can I belt over layers too?

    PS: I love your blog and find all your tips so helpful!

  • Laura

    Perfect timing! I'm wearing a belt with a skirt/t-shirt today I was a little uneasy about, I did it anyway!
    I'm new to the whole belting thing other than my jeans, I find it intimidating.

    Question, I love the look of skinny belts but whenever I wear them at my waist I feel like my hips look gargantuan! Any way around that? Or do I have to swear off skinny belts forever? (We have similar body shape if that helps)

  • Anne

    I find wearing belts difficult. I got a low bust and therefore, a short waist. And wide hips. The only place I think I can comfortably place the belt is above my waist IF I'm wearing a dress. Everywhere else the belt only accents the shortness of my waist or the wideness of my hips. Going sans belt is almost always the most flattering look for me.

  • Sal

    sallymandy: Thanks, lady!

    Little Miss Plump: For sure. Try different placements for the belt … cinching above your natural waistline may move the belt away from the area above your hips. You can also try softer belts – stretchy ones, fabric, scarves as belts. Belts with some give won't subdivide your torso as much as stiff plastic, leather, and metal ones.

    Laura: Just like Little Miss Plump, it may benefit you to scoot that belt upward a bit, above your natural waist. Higher on your body, the belt won't highlight the contrast between waist and hips as much. If you still think skinny belts make your hips look wide … I'd say either swear them off, or get comfy with some wide-hip ensembles so you can wear a belt style you adore! 😉

  • Future Lint

    I always struggle with belting – I think it's because I don't have a very defined waist. Yet somehow I own like 100 belts, so perhaps I'll pull a few out and experiment with these styles!

  • Trudy Callan
  • Casey

    Belts are a staple in my closet! Although I tend to go through phases with them, and often turn to wearing them once the weather cools down (heat & humidity tend to make my waist swell a bit, so being really restricted around my mid section to be uncomfortable during the summer!). I really need to get some more brightly colored belts though; most of mine are the basic brown/black/white variety.

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

  • Cynthia

    I am still learning to belt street clothes, and I don't own enough belts. And I'm finding that super-lightweight belts annoy me with their moving-aroundness, so I either need heavy ones with a good drape, or elasticy ones. A belt that carries about 5 pounds of metal or beads and rests on the hipbones is de rigeur for belly dance, so I'm pretty sure I know how I developed that belt preference.

  • Faith J.

    Great post! I'm not a big belter, but this gives me some new ideas. Where can I buy good belts (in person not online)? What are good belt brands? It seems most of the stores I visit only have rocker-jean-metal kinds of belts.


  • Cupboard Love

    Someday, when I once again regain my waist, I fully intend to take your advice to heart. Unfortunately, right now I'm rather apple shaped, so all the cinching in the world won't help define my waist.

  • Sal

    Faith J.: I get nearly ALL of my belts from thrift stores. There's great variety of sizes and materials, and everything is so cheap, you can experiment with a huge variety of styles!

  • maryeb

    I'm a fan of belts now! Thanks for the inspiration. I definitely need to buy a greater variety.

  • Erin

    I just want to know, where did you get the amazing belts in photos 2 and 5? Kimono style? Is that what they are called? Where they thrifted as well?

  • lisa

    This is a great concise summary of what belting can do for you! Love the illustrated examples too. :-) So many of this fall's lookbooks feature long leather belts that, once buckled, have a lot of length that's then knotted and tucked in. I'd love to find a long men's leather belt and try experimenting with that look.

  • Sal

    Erin: I have thrifted obis in the past, but neither of those were thrift finds.

    The rose-colored belt is from fab Etsy seller elizabethkelly. Her shop is here.

    The olive one is from a little shop in Stillwater, MN, called Collaborations Boutique. http://www.yelp.com/biz/collaborations-boutique-stillwater

  • Cass

    Sadly, belting has only ever done one thing for me: turned me into a squat, waistless column. I have a short waist and giant boobs and a belly pouch and long legs, and when I put a belt on, it's like I am nothing but bosom and butt. It's uncanny.

    I like the look on others, though!

  • Kat Astrophe

    I have never been able to figure out how to deal with belts. I have an ample bosom and hips for my size, and a teeny little waist, so you'd think that belting would emphasize my proportions in an attractive way.

    But no. Every time I belt anything, I end up looking like I'm wearing a corset, or like I was drawn by a horny comic-book artist. I guess there can be such a thing as too much emphasis on a waistline. The low-slung hip belt is a little more OK, but tends to give me more of a pear shape than I actually possess.

    Is there anything for me to do, or am I destined to continue my belt-free existence?

  • Frances Joy

    It took me forever to try belting – I thought it just didn't work for me, but after Audi's guest post here, I started to try it, and I've been amazed with the results. I'll have to do a bit more experimenting with belts after this post.

  • Sal

    Kat Astrophe: It's definitely possible that you and belts will be sworn enemies for life, but I recommend doing a little experiment first.

    Put on a fairly plain dress and grab a scarf that fits around your waist. Roll it tight and skinny. Then roll it to the width of two fingers. Then three or four fingers. Find out which WIDTH suits you. (I'm guessing skinny or mid.)

    Then try skinny, mid, and wide just below your bust, between your bust and natural waist, at your natural waist, and two fingers below your natural waist. Find out which PLACEMENT suits you.

    The answer may be "none and none," but many women who struggle with belting aren't taking both belt width and belt placement into consideration when they attempt to belt, so I always recommend this little experiment. Good luck!

  • Audi

    These are great examples you've posted here. You know I'm a belt devotee!

  • kirstyb

    i love wearing belts! xxx

  • CompassRose

    I am unfortunately on Kat Astrophe's side of the room, except for the "horny" part; no matter what I do with a belt, I look costumed by Goth Steampunk International. I mean… it's a fine look, for what it is, and it suits me, if you like Victorian Weird, but… Narrow belts never suit me. They just make me look podgy and pinched in the middle. As for hip belts, while I DO wear them, I shouldn't; they suffer from the same problem as dropped 20s style waists, in lending me the width of my widest point (my 18" shoulders — with a jut of butt — not so good).

    The really frustrating thing is that I'm too short-bodied to look good in a belt unless the item is already very nicely fitted. Otherwise, "hey look! I'm a snowman!" And if the thing's already very nicely fitted, it probably looks objectively better without the belt than with – the joys of being five-three.

    Where do you find nice thrifted belts? I don't think I've ever seen such an animal. I see horrendously tacky remnants of trends from two years ago, purchased originally at Claire's for ten dollars, and possibly-once-nice belts from the backs of dead people's closets that are cracked all to heck. Mind you, my local thrifts are all terrible for shoes, too. It must be a thing.

    I do want a Norwegian Wood harness, though. I would like that.

  • Megan Mae

    I love belts! I wear them quite frequently and my collection is expanding all the time.

  • Rad_in_Broolyn

    I'm a late joiner to team belt, but since then I haven't gone back! I don't always like to define my waist but I do enjoy it most of the time.
    You're looking lovely and hourglassy in these beautiful photos

  • madam0wl, a.k.a Sandra

    Yay, I like belts too (pretty much all of mine are thrifted). Has really only been the last 4 years or so when I started wearing them the most though. Have you ever challenged yourself to NOT wear belts for a while, like the ladies at academichic did last year? Off to your search box…

  • pamie

    Your outfits look great with the belting! You're right, it really defines your waist and brings more interest to the outfit.

    But belting has never worked for me, I feel it emphasizes my waist in the wrong way. I've got a petite body with skinny arms and legs, but quite a thick waist and wide hips – very apple shaped. Belting seems to make my waist look EVEN thicker! I've tried skinny belts and wide belts, all with the same result. (Because of all the experimenting, i've now got a drawer full of belts that I do not use. sigh.)

    Any ideas? Appreciate it!

  • Esti

    My absolute favorite way to use belts is (as in your fourth picture), to keep multiple layers in place. Wind or just plain walking can wreak havoc with a well-layered outfit, but not if you belt it. Particularly helpful when wearing long cardis with high-waisted skirts, which is one of my favorite looks.

  • Dana

    Sally, you have the cutest waistline and great proportions. It would be criminal not to wear belts. Very cute outfits!

    I have trouble with belts. I'm short-waisted and my waist isn't well defined, so often belts simply make my waist look wider. I'm never one to give up, so I experiment from time to time, and I also believe there are no absolutes in design.

    Black belts well cinched work as do hip belts.

  • Emma at Daily Clothes Fix

    I love this Sal. I particularly love the last skirt.

    I normally belt on my natural waist. Apart from your suggestions here, I would say belts are great for adding detail (even if it's the same colour, it can add texture) and to bring colours to new parts of an outfit, like the dangling ends of my belt in today's outfit (inspired by yours truly).

  • Art Decade

    Ugh. I am so jealous of some of these dresses, shoes, and belts. Beautiful!

  • attygirl

    Thanks so much! I have adopted belt-wearing a la the First Lady, and get lots of compliments. This is such a helpful post, since I really have no idea what I’m doing or why, except that it seems to be working.

  • http://iamarefinedyounglady.blogspot.com/ Laura

    This post changed my life. I’m not kidding.

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  • Elizabeth Kelly

    Hi Sal,

    This is such a GREAT feature! So helpful – people ask me all the time about choosing belts, now I think I’ll just refer them to your fab article!

    Bye for now,

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  • Kate

    Great advice, great blog!
    And I really love the 4th photo – that look and that green suit you perfectly!