ALL those wide, waist-cinching belts that have been the absolute rage in recent seasons?
Keep them. The "proper lady" is fall fashion's poster girl, and the waist-watching that began more than a year ago is only intensifying. And that's great news for a trend that's flattering on so many figures. Few elements tie a look together more swiftly than a belt, and a wide band provides the perfect structural finish to most any silhouette.
Just check out that cool princess of polish Gwen Stefani at the recent Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards. From the red carpet to the stage, the standout element amid all the outfit changes was her flattering, waist-level white belt. Well, that and her signature ruby kisser.
"A belt is a great focal point," says Andrea Lieberman, creative consultant on Stefani's L.A.M.B. line, as well as a past consultant on P. Diddy's Sean John and Jennifer Lopez's Sweetface brands. The celebrated stylist has also collaborated on all three singers' personal looks — including Stefani's white belt.
"I have a whole slew of wide belts in my own closet," Lieberman says. She's not shy about statement-making accessories and also designs her own line of bold jewelry for Mouawad. "I have a great collection of wide vintage Hermès belts in every version imaginable — crocodile, brown leather, black patent leather. For me, a wide belt is a classic because it's a great finishing piece. I've even used some of my belts over bathing suits in a photo shoot."
In real life, a belt gives shape to all those shapeless shirts and shifts that the other side of the fashion divide is touting, those baby doll silhouettes that tend to convey the appearance of having a bun in the oven. By contrast, a belt locked around the waist of a dress, grandfather cardigan or light trench looks smart, modern and — gasp — grown up.
For Lieberman and her clients, that makes all the difference in their sophisticated style. With just 30 hours to see Stefani off to Shanghai, Lieberman sneaked in a break to explain how wearing wide belts is really a cinch.
Time for the hourglass
"Right now, proportions are completely changing. Waists are rising on jeans and trousers. Dresses and coats are going from a straight shape to an A-line or a kind of hourglass silhouette. In fact, the roomy volume of a lot of upcoming styles looks best when it's reined in with a belt. There's an interest in the waist that is all about embracing curves and really defining that area of the body."
Find your inner va-va-voom
"Don't think that because you're not some skinny model, you can't work this. There's a tendency among larger women to wear an oversized sack as if that's some sort of camouflage. But that only looks like you're trying to hide something. Find your waist! Embrace your curves! This trend is for you. A belt that defines your waist can actually make you slimmer."
Biggest isn't always better
"The super-wide bands that almost resemble corsets or obis aren't necessarily the right choice for everyone. They might look great on a longer torso, but if you're short-waisted or top-heavy (and especially if you're both) go with a slightly narrower band under 3 inches. Many of the belts out now are a bit narrower than last year's styles, so there are more options."
It's all in the accent
"A key accessory can update a look or a whole wardrobe. For summer, a black patent or flat leather belt is perfect with an old white cotton dress. If you can expand your selection, a pale gray, white or nude belt, especially in patent, is also beautiful. I love an all-tonal outfit. But the great thing about a belt is it can express a vivacious personality or give the right edge. Metallics are such a trend this year, and doing it as a belt is a modern and accessible way to go. It can also be a way to get into color — red, hot pink and yellow — with your black or white clothes. Fendi did a lot of great neons and, hey, if you're young or can carry it off, live it up."
"No matter how wide a belt is, never wear it too tight and never wear it on the last hole. It should hook at around the third hole, allowing for enough excess band so it doesn't look like it's too short in length. Resist the overly decorative belts out there too. Stay away from too many studs or anything too elaborate. If you want interest, consider a skinny belt or band wrapped around your waist a few times to give the sense of width. But keep it polished."
"It's worth investing in a phenomenal version that will keep looking good years from now when the trend inevitably returns. I'm all about the classics, so a quality black leather or patent belt is a good buy."