How a good belt can help or hide your flaws 

As we age most of us can use a little more help defining our waists and disguising the added pounds that appear around the midsection despite all of our best efforts. While adding a belt can seem counterintuitive — you want me to call attention to my waist? — belts actually can be the perfect tool in your fashion arsenal.

Start with what’s comfortable

Elastic white belt on woman wearing pink leotardEven when we want to look nice, it’s generally true that we won’t wear anything if it makes us uncomfortable. That goes doubly for belts that are too restrictive. If you’re sensitive to this kind of thing, look for a belt that has an elastic component to it, like these. That way it’ll stretch with your movement, and you won’t feel desperate to take it off halfway through your day. 

Also, make sure that you are wearing the right size belt. If you need to use the last hole to buckle the belt, you likely need a longer length.

Use it to create shape

obi-style gold belt over polka dot dressAs long-time advocates of tunics and other flowy styles, adding a belt can really elevate the look by adding some shape to your body. A wider belt will look best as it will work like a mini-corset to hold you in while adding a pop of definition. Obi-style belts like this one are all the rage right now, which is perfect for two reasons: one, they’re basically one-size-fits-all; and two, the vertical line created by the dangling tie pieces will have a slimming effect. Alternatively, you can go for a wide belt with a statement buckle, which might be less comfortable in the long run, but just as fashion-forward.

When belting over a tunic, dress, or blazer, the key is placement. Wear the belt up high around the smallest part of your waist. This will emphasize any of the curves that you’re supposed to have while minimizing the appearance of the curves that are less flattering. If it’s a belt that ties instead of buckles, wear the knot off to the side to draw the eye away from the tummy. 

Use it to create a waist 

Belt over jacket for shapeMenopause’s ability to rob women of whatever waist they may have had in their younger years is real. If you’ve become more of an apple shape over the last few years, belts can help recreate the illusion of a waist.

Wearing a medium to narrow width belt in a darker color than the garments you’re wearing can create the optical effect of a narrowing where there might not be one. (Just don’t go too skinny, or else it risks getting, shall we say, overwhelmed.) This can also be done by going monotone: wear one in a color matching your outfit, and it will add definition without drawing attention.

Woman wearing open cardigan with belt underneathYou can also play with layers to create a waist: wear a colorful or eye-grabbing belt underneath an open jacket or sweater. Teaming a belt with tops and bottoms that have a little volume can create the illusion of a waist as well. Instead of the cinching effect, you’re essentially using positive space in order to create the negative.

Update the classics

Lest we forget: belts were designed to hold up pants. If you like the look of a tucked-in shirt, a belt is necessary to complete the look. But this doesn’t have to be boring, or worse, unflattering. 

Neon yellow skinny belt with white dressPlaying with color is a great way to use one to elevate an outfit. Many places even make “reversible” belts in two tones, so you can save money and add versatility to your wardrobe. Don’t be afraid to play with styles, either. A t-shirt and jeans combo can be made to look like two completely different outfits if styled right: a low-slung belt over the hips is more casual or edgy, while a dainty belt with a looped closure creates a more feminine look. 

And finally, belts are wonderful tools to hide aspects of articles of clothing that don’t fit quite right anymore. They can hold up the pants that fit better when you had a perkier derriere, or they can even hide the fact that you have to undo the button closure after a big meal. As Mariah Carey would say: when in doubt, belt it.

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