How to style a belt…and where to find them for all shapes and sizes

Belts, let’s talk about them! Over the past few years, I’ve had more questions about my belt wearing than almost anything else. I feel like so many women don’t know what to do with a belt. I’d go as far as to say there is a hefty percentage of the population that is “style scared” of even trying a belt in their wardrobes. Meanwhile, I’m wearing any single one I can get my hands on that fits. And yes, it is an issue at times, finding a belt that will fit around this waist. It isn’t always the easiest. Belts are traditionally a style story for a certain size women. They are often used to create a waist for some or to accentuate a waist for others. But most of those waists are teeny tiny and perfectly hourglass. Well, here’s something to blow your mind… a lot of those women look better and more hourglass because of the belt… not the body underneath it! Belts truly are for every shape and size. So here’s a guide on how to buy them, how to wear them and where to shop for the best ones now for all sizes.

How to shop for belts: tips & tricks from years of shopping

First of all, let me tell you that the size chart is your best friend when shopping for belts. I often times CAN fit into the size large in a place like Ralph Lauren. But I wouldn’t know that, if I wasn’t looking at the measurements in their size chart, while also knowing exactly what size my waist is! I cannot encourage you enough to get out the tape measure and arm yourself with the knowledge of your measurements. There is no shame there, guys. Just do it! Measure in two places – your waist and your hips (the place where you like the waistband on your pants to sit).

For me, my waist is the smallest part of my body, so belts are a lot easier to shop for in that arena. I usually end up buying belts for my waist that are meant to be hip slung on the average customer of the brand. But, I just wear it a little higher and no one is any the wiser. For hip belts, this is where I have the biggest problem and why I have so very few. I will say that I believe most people don’t shop belts because they try them on at the hip, not the waist, and they don’t fit, ending the shopping excitement before it’s even had a chance to get started. Big mistake! Most women in fashion, that use belts as accessories, are wearing them at the waist! The hip belts are more practical items in your wardrobe or would have been big hits back in the 90s, when women were all wearing lowrise jeans. Thank goodness we grew out of that!

Ok, one more trick for fit, that can help when shopping. Get yourself a tool to cut your own belt holes! There is an official tool for this, but I’ve found using a screwdriver can work if you don’t mind working the leather a bit to make a hole. I buy a lot of my belts second hand and half of them require a bit of “adjusting.” I once fell in love with a brown leather belt in a vintage shop in California and it was perfect in every way, only when I wrapped it around my waist it was long enough but the belt holes were about six inches from being able to fasten. So, I bought it anyway, cut my own hole to make it work and I’ve never had one person say anything other than, “my God, that belt is amazing.” As with everything in fashion, as long as you can get it to fit you right, people will take very little notice of anything else. Who cares if there are about five inches of leather left out with no holes? No one is going to notice! Get over it. Buy the belt and customise it a bit.

A few simple style tips for different shapes and sizes.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me what to do if they have no waist or they have a tummy. Well, here’s my first bit of advice…layer. I know wearing a belt will be out of your comfort zone, so I want you to ease into this. Wear a base layer – a tee, a thin sweater or a button down shirt (I find this is the best thing to use as the bottom of the shirt can fan out of the bottom of the belt) and place a belt around your waist. Then, layer a blazer or a chunky cardigan over the combo. This way the belt is acting as what I like to call a “peek” accessory. My second piece of advice would be to start by belting a dress that has a fuller skirt. So you’re belting at the waist and the skirt fans out from the bottom of the belt, just like the shirt trick above.

The big debate… skinny or wide belts? Which to go for?

Well, the quick answer is that it really is to taste. I have a pretty simple rule for this that I follow every time. I basically decide on skinny or wide based on how much I want the belt to stick out in the outfit. If I’m just wearing it to accentuate my waist or to give the dress a bit of shape, I’ll go skinny. If I want a real statement and feel like the outfit needs a big leg up, I’ll find the biggest belt that the outfit can carry. Again, this requires a lot of experimenting on your part. I rarely put on a belt and go with it. When I’m accessorising with a belt, I’ll put on at least two or three (sometimes as many as ten) before I find the perfect match. It’s like choosing shoes or jewellery. Sometimes you have to play a bit with what works and what doesn’t. Don’t get frustrated. Just keep trying!

Looking for inspiration?

One of the easiest ways to find inspiration on how to wear is to look at the models wearing the belts when you’re shopping. I’ll mention this a few times below in the shopping section. But, I can’t highlight this enough as a resource. Professional stylists put together outfits on sites like Net-a-Porter, where they are more or less styling things as you would see in a magazine. So you’re getting “how to wear” advice for free, just by looking. I would also encourage you to pay more attention to the way in which belts are portrayed in magazines, on influencers, even people on the street. Once you train yourself to start looking out for them I think you will be very surprised by just how many woman use belts as their secret tool to outfit success time and again.

Belts, for me, are the ultimate accessory. They can jazz up an outfit and change it instantly, faster than anything else in your wardrobe. I’m basically on a mission to get as many people as possible to try this trend on for size! So…. without further ado, this is every place I am constantly looking for belts. There’s something here for every price point. But, let me also say that vintage stores, charity shops and local fashion shops also have great belts. Oh, and check out the men’s selection of belts! Always! Sometimes they have better belts than are on offer for women and come in larger sizes. It’s just all about learning to look in every direction for belts and trying absolutely everything on. And then… if you need some style ideas for how to wear them, you know who to come to! Always happy to help! 

Where to shop:

Please note affiliate links are used in this post.

Mackenzie & George

I don’t even remember how I discovered this amazing brand, but it was a dream discover. They create the most beautiful belts that are reasonably priced and that I can wear on both my waist and hips! Yes, they cater to so many sizes. I am pretty sure, at this point, I nearly have the full collection and wear them almost daily. So, I give this the golden seal of approval. You can do no wrong ordering from this brand. Please check them out. And remember, the size chart is your best friend!

Chico’s

I feel like I’m letting you in on one of my biggest belt finds of the decade. Chico’s a shop in the USA that I used to think was very “old lady” when I was a kid. I always saw the older ladies in the mall going in there and coming out with big kaftan like tops. Then one year when I was home for the summer from London, I went in after seeing a bracelet in the window that looked like it belonged in a YSL window. The rest, as they say, is history. I am a Chico’s accessory fanatic! It started (and continues) with the jewellery, but the belts are out of this world. I cannot recommend this enough to EVERYONE! I have A LOT of Chico’s belts… a lot and I don’t think I’ve paid over $60 for a one of them. They don’t have a huge amount in stock at the moment, but I think that has more to do with being in between seasons. Keep this one on your radar.

Ralph Lauren

I’ll just come right out and say it. About 75% of my belts are Ralph Lauren. In my experience, Ralph is the king of classic, timeless belts that are worth every single penny. I have never made an RL belt purchase that I have regretted. And, if you’ve followed FFG for a long time, you will have see a Ralph Lauren belt featured at least once a week. After looking on the website today, I found there are belts from £50 to £500+ and some of the lower priced ones are some seriously stylish steals. So, check them out. And again, check the measurements. I think you’d be surprised by how many of these belts can be worn by women who wear up to a size 20 – on the waist!

Net-a-Porter

If you’re looking for full on investment and some serious artistry with belts, head over to Net right now. They always have a stellar offering, from timeless staples to amazing showpieces. I get seriously in trouble here. The Alaia belts are my undoing. Thankfully, however, so few fit my waist, or I’d have a big credit card problem. This is also an excellent site to explore for style ideas. Even if you buy nothing at all, it’s like a free styling service. Click on over and check to see how they are styling their belts on models. Examine which garments they are pairing together or how they are layering different textures with the belts.

 

Mango / Violeta by Mango

Mango has been a hidden gem for me for belt discovery over the years. They are always very trend led and very moderately priced. I can fit into a Mango medium at times, but mainly wear a large or an XL in Violeta (the plus size range) for hip slinging belts. You can find some really beautiful seasonal beauties here. And if you’re not sure about the trend just yet, this is an easy price point to dip your toes in safely and not break the bank.

Anthropologie 

Anthropologie has a great moderately priced offering for belts. They are, well, what you would expect from Anthropologie. I’m sure I don’t need to give you a brand run down on this one. But, here are a few things you might not already know. The brand does carry Bridal belts! Big plus point. Truly, these are so beautiful! I bought one to wear on a red carpet once and I absolutely adore how chic it looks. In the USA, they also carry some belts in plus size!

Nordstrom

Nordstrom is a bit of a one stop shop for those looking for both inexpensive and designer belts. From Gucci that comes in at around $400 to in house bits for $40, you’re more or less spoilt for choice here. Just remember…. look at the size charts! I love that they do show you on the mannequin where exactly the belt is intended to born, waist or hip. But remember, this is switchable! It does not dictate how you need to wear the belt. But, it can be a good showcase for those of you that are just getting comfortable with incorporating belts.

Matches Fashion

Matches has one of the best edits for belts going. These are truly pieces of art and I want nearly every single thing they feature. Some are moderately priced, others may require a few months (or years) of saving. But, all are worth exploring. Again, some absolutely amazing styling tips to be found here for those looking! Ps. there’s even a lobster belt for the taking at the moment… I think you know what’s about to happen! Eeek!

 

So, that’s it for now, but I’ll be updating this as and when I discover new belt brands…. so keep an eye out and bookmark for further updates! Or sign up to the FFG newsletter (top of the page to the right)… coming soon, for regular updates on these and other posts! 

 

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