On Wearing Belts, and Style Rules

Are you a fan of wearing belts at the waist?  I’m a relative newcomer to any waist emphasis – I’m short waisted, have a large high hip, and my waist is about a size larger than the rest of me – and most style rules say that figure type should avoid belts, or at least stick to skinny black ones!

For the Biba Burda Dress that I finished recently, I felt it really did need a belt.  Although it is wearable without one, it is a bit slouchy:  

When I started this dress two years ago, I owned one belt.  Since then I have acquired several belts from op-shops – nothing remarkable, yet enough to toy with:


And I’ve discovered I like wearing belts!  They remind me that there is a waist hiding under those layers, and I instantly feel more pulled together.  I am sure my new-found waist awareness has improved my posture too!

I admit that wearing a belt doesn’t always work for me.  It depends on what else I am wearing, and even my mood.  I take the mirror test – if it feels good wear it, if it feels bad don’t – as simple as that!

Which brings me to style rules, of which I have a love/hate relationship.  Firstly, their primary emphasis seems to be on looking slimmer or disguising your true body shape, and I see a lot of people with fabulous bodies obsessing over what amounts to a minimal difference in appearance.  Second, rules like this kinda make me yawn and my eyes glaze over – and my instinct is to try the opposite!  I can see in some cases they are useful guidelines, but more often I see them being limiting and restrictive.

Take the case that my figure type should avoid belts. Well, exactly who is this stranger that said I should try to make my waist look narrower and lower on my torso than it is?  In other words, try to be something I am not?  Or worse – try to be somebody else!  This is what I dislike most about style rules – the idea of sameness, ubiquity, clonesville.  The idea of difference is far worthier of celebration.  I believe in wearing what you love and what feels good, because that is your character and personality revealing itself.  It is you.

Readers, what are your thoughts – are style rules a help or a hindrance?  Do you let them dictate what you wear, or do you make up your own mind?  Do share!

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35 thoughts on “On Wearing Belts, and Style Rules

  1. Your comment has really got me thinking. I have avoided things over the years because they were not the best for my figure. Now looking at you in that gorgeous dress with a belt and I am totally bowled over. You look fantastic! This post has made me wonder about what stylists are telling us. It is clear that they are not always right!

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  2. I came to the same kind of conclusion as you a couple of years ago. I've got smallish hips and a larger waist by comparison and didn't think a belt would do me any favours. I was completely wrong – a belt pulls me in at the waist and makes everything seem more in proportion. These days I wear them a lot. I've gradually stopped paying attention to the style 'rules' over the years (maybe we just get more confident and less tolerant of people telling us what to do as we get older?!) and now wear whatever makes me look and more importantly FEEL good. I'm completely with you on the mirror test and use that as my reference point every day! Great post Sherry and I still love your Biba dress, which incidentally looks FAB with a belt! x

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  3. Great post!
    You look fab in the belt. Your waist looks slim and trim with it on , not at all like it is one size bigger than the rest of you. How silly it would be to obsess over a non-problem and miss out on wearing belts and looking great in them.
    Thanks for reminding us all to TRY things before giving up!

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  4. Eh wear what looks good on you-irrespective of what 'the rules' say. And what you're wearing up there looks good on you so carpe diem baby. I like the green belt btw and I think that dress looks fab with and without a belt. Maybe a macrame/ crochet one for the real superseventies look?

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  5. This dress looks much nicer on you with the belt. As for your waist being one size larger, I think most women these days don't have the wasp waist that women of two generations ago had. Perhaps they were all wearing corsets!

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  6. Your dress is super cute, and the belt compliments it perfectly. I am short waisted, and I never wear a belt unless it is to hold my jeans up. Even then the belt is covered by my top. I also hardly ever wear a dress, and would never wear a dress with a belt, but your pretty one make me rethink it all!

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  7. I wear what I like and sometimes it is just sloppy and not very (not at all more like it) fashionable. I have come to the conclusion that I have no style – by that I mean probably that I don't follow rules – but I do have my own. I like tops to fall at my hip bone, I don't like some skirts/dresses without high heels, I like maxis with flats and cardis I also like to fall on my waist. These are my rules for me and I find it gives a sense of balance. Some things just look wrong.
    Your dress with belt looks right! It is very nice as do your boots and your very lovely tights!

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  8. I was briefly giddy when people wore belts up almost empire level a few years ago- since thats wear my hips put them anyway?! I think you look great with or without the belst on this one.

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  9. I don't follow any rules, apart from the mirror rule if you think it looks good in the mirror than go with it. Am only 5ft 1″ and I hate the rule “don't wear big bold prints”. I love big bold prints they suit my complexion and personality, so poo poo to that rule lol.

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  10. I think style rules are good guidelines to start with, but I am all for breaking them if you decide that you don't like them. They can be helpful when you have no idea how to dress yourself.

    I think that dress looks much better with the belt! Then again, there are very few dresses I wear that *don't* look better with a belt.

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  11. Love the dress both ways but more with the belt. I am quite short and fairly evenly proportioned, but if anything shorter up top. My waist has never been as small as I think it should/could be, and now at 43 it's definitely bigger! And yet I like belts, I like the extra bit of detail/texture/color with a dress. So I've started to feel as you describe: if I want to look the tallest/thinnest/most conventionally tasteful, I should probably skip the belt or make it tiny and in the same fabric and color as the dress. But sometimes I just like a different look with a particular dress or occasion, and I'm okay with looking plumper yet more interesting. I rather detest the makeover shows. In expunging bad fashion choices, the stylists seem to always replace them with banal and conventional choices based solely on ideas about what is “flattering”. In so doing, all individuality and even flair is lost.

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  12. It's better with a belt. I would go for similar shade but I'm traditional like that;) my rule for style is generally if I feel good in it. Normally it works though I maybe be less audacious. So do what feels good for you

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  13. I think it's a lovely, casual look w/o the belt, and a more put-together look with. They both look good, imho; just different looks.

    Great post – I've never been much for following style rules, except that I know my short legs look better when I do anything that helps elongate them. Too bad I don't love wearing heels ;-D

    Go belted! You rock the look!

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  14. The idea is to approximate an “ideal”; there is a definite mathematical proportion that our eyes find pleasing; it was talked about in “The da Vinci Code'. Thus all this “tweaking” to make thick short waists appear smaller and longer, and to make hips appear more rounded, etc. is all based on the attempt to make one's proportions appraoximate this “ideal”. This is what Leonardo daVinci's “man of Vitruvius” was based on-except this is the “female version”.

    It is up to the individual to accentuate and conceal whatever features please them or displease them, respectively; in fact, the time has never been better for those who so to attempt such endeavours to their heart's content; one can't really look any more ridiculous than some of the offerings being fobbed off on us on the runways these days!

    That being said, I think the belt with the dress looks GREAT. It's got just the right amount of drape in just the right places.

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  15. I think the belt looks great and really suits you. I hate style 'rules' and take no notice of most of them. If I like the way something looks I'll wear it. I'm rather petite and the style rules dictate that I should stay away from bold prints and wear solid colours only but I love bold prints and very rarely wear solid colours.

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  16. I think the dress looks great on you with a belt. As you say, it shows that you do have a waist. I don't wear belts all that often but I do like to have some waist definition. Belts are a new thing for me too and I only wear them with jeans or tops that aren't close fitting. Usually, I try to make sure my clothes are fitted at the waist so that a belt isn't needed. I've got boobs and hips and I'm not all that tall, so if I don't have any waist definition I end up looking like a big block.

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  17. I think you're actually following the style 'rule' that makes the most sense to me, which is to bring the garment in at your narrowest (or near your narrowest) point. The belted version looks great!

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  18. I like your dress with the belt, but wish to see it with the teal belt. I think it was a case of not liking the color of the belt you were wearing. I wasn't aware of the “figure flaws” from which you suffer. No, can't see what you are talking about. This dress might hide all of them, but I still don't see them. Otherwise, I say accessorize with teal tights and belt and those nice boots.

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  19. I'm a huge belt fan, especially (actually, only) at the waist. There's a belt to suit all body types I think, and they have a really great balancing effect on your outfit. Obviously not all outfits are improved with the belt, but this burda dress definitely is. You look lovely with the belt!

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  20. Such a good point!
    I like belts at the waist. In fact, I wear them with nearly all my sort-of-50's-inspired clothes. And I like the look of yours with that dress. Obviously, not every outfit looks better with a belt, but dresses with waistseams often do.

    About style rules, I'm with you, I really don't like the way they seem to push everyone to the same look. I think the best thing for it, is to experiment with different looks and shapes and hopefully find those things which suit your own look and personality.
    (for example, I like to emphasize my comparatively wide hips instead of hiding them because they are what makes my figure sort of feminine)

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  21. I don´t believe in rules, and follow none.Just my instint and my eye.
    Would Picasso be Picasso if he would have followed the rules???
    Nice dress, and I love belts.
    Great to have found your blog.
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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  22. I think style rules can be a really helpful jumping-off point for people who are intimidated by dressing themselves or haven't developed an eye. But obviously neither is true of you! Basically, it can make sense to follow a recipe precisely until you know how to cook. That said, I thought a belt was supposed to create a waist. Anyway, I much prefer that dress on you with the belt. It looks great! –Jessie

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  23. I love the dress WITH belt! And I've been pondering belts all week. I've never been a great at accessorizing. Earrings, necklaces, sure. But I just never bother to buy lots of different belts and other doodads. In fact, my husband bought me a gift a few years ago, a lovely belt, and I've worn it once because I don't know if works on me. Was planning to posit the interwebs this week 🙂 As for rules – they're made to be broken. Wear what makes you feel great. (Which I suppose is an answer to my own belt question!)

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  24. I had the good fortune to ask Tim Gunn ( American fashion expert ) a question after a fashion show. I asked if there is any circumstance that a mid-calf length works on a skirt. He adamantly insisted mid-calf truncated the leg in a most unattractive way. I am 5'11'' and i decided to sew a mid-calf length skirt anyways and it looks great. I get loads of compliments.
    Moral of my story is perhaps fashion rules are not universal because every body is different.

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  25. I love wearing belts with dresses. For me, it often helps make the dress just look better, more fitted. And as far as style rules, I think one just has to try things out find what works for themselves.

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